T notes: Paratransit costs run $16m over budget

T notes: Paratransit costs run $16m over budget

New early-morning buses being added; derailment’s cause still unknown

THE BOTCHED ROLLOUT of an MBTA initiative to better manage rides for passengers with disabilities will save the T only $1 million this fiscal year rather than the $17 million originally forecast, officials disclosed on Monday.

It was one example of several initiatives that are yielding less cost-savings in fiscal 2018 than expected. “There were some successes, but not a lot of successes,” said T General Manager Luis Ramirez.

The T had been operating three call centers for customers with disabilities and wanted to consolidate them into one to provide efficiencies.  The T hired a contractor called Global Contact Services in 2016 to operate the centralized call center, but it quickly became apparent the North Carolina-based company was not up to the job. Only two of the three calls centers ended up being consolidated and customers complained about chronic poor service.

The T agreed in December to part ways with Global (CommonWealth reported the partnership was over in November) while keeping the company on until a new operator could be found. Officials said on Monday that the so-called RIDE contract will be $16 million over budget this year, $3 million more than what the T estimated in late December.

Brian Shortsleeve, a member of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, asked whether T staff had been pursuing several other initiatives to save money on paratransit service that had been outlined last year. Jeffrey Gonneville, the T’s deputy general manager, replied that T staff had not pursued the other initiatives because they were focused on the “crisis” with Global, which has still not been replaced yet.

Shortsleeve suggested T officials should hire additional staff to pursue the other savings initiatives while a replacement for Global is found. “We should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said.

The MBTA had mixed results on a number of other initiatives to pare back costs in fiscal 2018. Officials said commuter rail costs will rise $16 million in fiscal 2018 instead of falling by $5 million. Commuter rail revenues, however, are expected to rise by close to $5 million.

T officials said reforms implemented at several of the agency’s bus repair garages will yield $8 million in savings, but savings at other garages will miss their targets. The T brought in a private company last year to provide in-station customer service, expecting to save $6 million. Actual savings turned out to be $2 million, in part because the customer service agents were rolled out to more stations quicker than expected. It also took longer than expected to shift existing T-employed customer service agents to jobs driving buses and subways.

More early buses

Starting April 1, the MBTA is adding early morning buses on 10 overcrowded routes on weekdays and weekends.

In most cases, another run will be added to relieve congestion on what is currently the first run of the day. The 19 bus, for example, currently makes its first inbound trip from Dorchester at 6:08 a.m. with an average of 71 passengers, 24 more than can be seated. To relieve that congestion, another bus will start its first run at 5:50 a.m.

The other weekday routes where earlier service is being added include the 16, 31, 32, 65, 70, 104, 109, and 455. On Saturdays, earlier runs will be added to the 109, 117, and 455 routes. On Sundays, earlier runs will be added to the 31, 1098, and 455 routes.

T officials said they hired a firm to develop a marketing strategy for the pilot service.

Derailment’s cause still unknown

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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.

MBTA officials still haven’t determined the cause of the derailment of a Red Line train near Andrew Station on February 21. T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the investigation is continuing.

The derailment occurred at 9:20 a.m. The last car of the train derailed entering Andrew Station and then rerailed itself, but the incident knocked out the electrified third rail in the area. Service was not fully restored until 5:21 p.m.