T notes: Commuter rail on-time performance takes dive
Pension fund urged to invest all its money with PRIM
THE ON-TIME PERFORMANCE of the commuter rail system took a sharp dive in late September and October, particularly on the Fitchburg, Franklin, and Providence lines.
According to statistics released at a meeting of the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday, the system as a whole was on-time (defined as within five minutes of the scheduled arrival time) 84.6 percent of the time in October, the lowest level in at least a year. The worst-performing line was the Franklin Line, with 79.2 percent on-time performance, followed by the Fitchburg and Providence lines, both at 80.2 percent.
Rob DiAdamo, the T’s executive director of commuter rail, blamed many of the problems on the Franklin Line on mechanical breakdowns. “Franklin has seen too many mechanical failures recently,” he said.
On the Fitchburg line, he said, the chief problem is slippery rail delays. Slipper rail is a phenomenon that occurs when wet leaves fall on the railroad tracks, reducing traction and forcing locomotives to slow down.
Control board urges more PRIM investment
The T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board unanimously approved a resolution on Monday calling on the MBTA Pension Fund to invest all of $1.6 billion with the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board.
Steve Poftak, the general manager of the T, reported that the MBTA Pension Fund on Friday voted to invest $25 million in a PRIM private equity fund, the second such investment the T fund has made with the much larger state fund.
Brian Shortsleeve, a member of the control board, said all of the MBTA Pension Fund’s money should be invested in PRIM because of PRIM’s superior investment returns and more professional management. He said the investment returns would bring greater stability to the pensions of T workers and reduce the amount of money the transit authority needs to set aside to cover its pension obligations.
At the end of last year, the MBTA’s pension fund liabilities topped $2.9 billion, more than twice the size of its assets.
Winter is comingState transportation and MBTA officials ran through their preparations for winter on Monday. For the most part it was standard stuff, but state Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said his agency this winter will be testing how best to remove snow from bike lanes using the bike lane over the Longfellow Bridge as a test case.
By the way, salt, the de-icer favored by the state Highway Department, is costing $50.02 a ton this winter.