T notes: GLT is the next big thing

Patriots parade; productivity push in repair shops

FIRST CAME GLX, and now there’s GLT.

The MBTA each year compiles a capital spending plan for the next five years. The current plan, which runs from fiscal 2019 through fiscal 2023, calls for roughly $8 billion in spending, with the Green Line extension (often dubbed GLX) to Somerville and Medford accounting for roughly $1.2 billion of the total.

The agency is now starting to put together the budget for fiscal 2020 through fiscal 2024, and T officials say it will follow the same broad themes as the previous plan except for the addition of a Green Line Transformation, or GLT, program. The GLT program is similar to the upgrades being made to the Red and Orange lines, with investments in new vehicles, upgrades to infrastructure and facilities, and new technology.

T officials said a large portion of the cost of the GLT program – an estimated $836 million, according to a presentation to the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday – will come from reallocating money set aside but no longer needed for the current capital spending program.

The T is struggling to increase its capital investments. Its target for fiscal 2018 was $942 million, but the actual spending level was $875 million. The target for the current fiscal year is about $1 billion, an amount that will continue to ramp up in coming years.

The sources of the roughly $8 billion needed for the fiscal 2020-2024 capital spending plan include the federal government (45 percent), MBTA bonds (29 percent), state funds (15 percent), legislative appropriations (9 percent), and third party reimbursements (2 percent). Despite uncertainty in Washington, MBTA officials expect federal funds to keep flowing at roughly their current rate.

Patriots parade

MBTA officials are gearing up for big crowds at Tuesday’s New England Patriots parade, and urging fans to ride public transit and plan ahead. For details on MBTA bus, subway, and commuter rail service on Tuesday, click here.

Productivity push at the MBTA

MBTA officials say they are seeing much greater worker productivity at the agency’s Southampton bus maintenance garage, but it’s unclear how much savings the initiative will generate.

Kat Benesh, the T’s chief of operations strategy, policy & oversight, told the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday that the cost per mile at the garage has fallen from $6.12 in December 2017 to $5.58 in December 2018, a drop of 54 cents, or 9 percent. Benesh said bus fleet and staffing levels have remained stable even as the mileage has increased from roughly 160,000 miles per month to about 200,000 miles per month.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Part of the productivity effort is focused on creating standard repair times for most bus work and sticking to them. Benesh said compliance with standard repair times averaged 80 percent in the three-month period from October to December. But she said the mean miles between failure has continued to hover in the 8,000 range, below the goal of 12,500 miles.

Similar productivity efforts at maintenance facilities at Riverside on the Green Line and in Everett have had less success, according to Benesh’s presentation.

The T is counting on $30 million in budget savings in fiscal 2019 from the productivity initiative. Benesh said the T is on track to reach that goal, but it was unclear from her presentation whether the agency would actually cut costs by that amount or merely keep costs from rising. At the Southampton garage, for example, Benesh’s presentation described the “annualized cost avoidance/savings” as somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million.