MBTA misses capital spending mark

Also: A little zip; private-public partnership in Kendall

THE MBTA, WHICH has struggled to spend money to bring the system up to a state of good repair, will increase expenditures on capital projects to update the system but will still fall tens of millions short in meeting its target of $750 million.

Joanna Aalto, head of the T’s capital program oversight, said the agency has spent just under $500 million on buses, trains, subway cars, and other projects so far this year, and will dole out about another $175 million before the end of the year.

But while that’s an increase of 25-35 percent over last year, it still falls short of the agency’s goal to increase spending by nearly 60 percent.

She said the agency is on target to double its spending on revenue vehicles to about $310 million while awarding contracts for nonvehicle projects for another $300 million by the end of the year.

According to Aalto’s figures, which she presented to members of the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday, the T has spent more than $173 million on buses, more than $50 million on subway cars, and $16.4 million on improving commuter rail equipment.

But though the agency is upping its spending on commuter rail, the board expressed its frustration to chief operating officer Jeffrey Gonneville about the continued efforts by T officials to prop up Keolis, the operator of the system.

Gonneville said Keolis canceled just one train last week because of a shortage of operational locomotives but told board members the company still only met its mandate of having 67 locomotives available each day. The company was one or two locomotives short each day except Friday, though Gonneville said as of Monday, they had 69 locomotives available for service.

But he also said coach availability continued to be an issue as a number remained out of service. Keolis was down 10 to 15 cars each day form the contractually mandated 370 coaches it is required to provide, he said.

Board member Steve Poftak said something needed to be done to get Keolis to live up to its obligations without T officials constantly bailing it out by assuming repair responsibilities.

“At some point we need to have a discussion on root causes,” said Poftak. “This cuts across coaches of all ages, all manufacturers.”

Board member Brian Lang said he was “irked” by Keolis’s approach to its responsibilities.

“It kind of irks me that we have a renowned rail operator, a multimillion corporation come in and make certain promises and we’re stuck fixing their mess,” he said. “There are now extra costs for the T we expected Keolis to be responsible for.”

ZIPCAR FOR T OFFICIALS

Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve told board members the MBTA was entering into a pilot program with Zipcar to replace nonrevenue vehicles at the agency and cut its fleet of cars that officials drive.

Shortsleeve said beginning Monday, the T would begin renting 26 cars on an as-needed basis from the hourly rental company to gauge whether it would be a cost-effective way to reduce its 150-car fleet of cars that produce no money for the agency.

“If this works, we’ll be reducing the number of non-revenue vehicles we use,” he said.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP AT KENDALL

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

MBTA officials said they’ve reached an agreement with Cambridge and a private developer to start a fund that will be used for transportation improvements in the Kendall Square area and, if successful, potentially expand it to other growing areas along T routes.

Boston Properties, which has developed much of the Kendall Square area, has agreed to seed the fund with $6 million and projects will be determined by a group representing the MBTA, the city of Cambridge, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and representatives from local business groups. The fund would also seek contributions from other businesses that would benefit from improved transit options in the area.

  • CharlieBakersFish

    Is this the same Joanna Aalto who was in charge of the Umass Building Authority?. If so she is the person who created the mess over at UMASS BOSTON! Look at their failing building program and the current garage fiasco! Now she’s in charge of all the building projects at the MTA? Boy are they in trouble!

  • Mhmjjj2012

    It’s way past time for the Fiscal and Management Control Board to discuss “root causes.” There were no good old days. The previous commuter rail operator received bonuses for its poor performance while Keolis gets bashed. These problems didn’t start with Keolis. They’ve been there all along. It’s just Keolis came along in July 2014…six months before an unprecedented snowy winter..and had to pick up all the pieces. And yet, the FMCB already told Keolis its contract would not be renewed. That’s means Keolis won’t reap the reward of operating the well maintained fleet its charged to make happen. I’m thoroughly disgusted with what’s going on at the MBTA but thanks to the FMCB, MBTA’s leadership, Governor Charlie Baker, Transportation Secretary Pollack and the state legislature…I’m not just blaming the entire MBTA…there’s plenty of blame to go around.