T notes: Tight timeline for RTA panel

Red-Blue numbers don’t add up

STATE OFFICIALS ARE COUNTING on a yet-to-be-formed task force to develop performance metrics and best practices for the 15 regional transit authorities by November 1, less than a month-and-a-half away.

The Legislature approved $88 million for the regional transit authorities in the fiscal 2019 budget. Of the total appropriation, $82 million is being distributed to all 15 authorities under an existing formula. The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority will receive $2 million and the Worcester Regional Authority $400,000 to offset expected operating deficits this year. The nearly $4 million remaining in the appropriation will be handed out as innovation grants to help the authorities achieve the best practices outlined by the task force.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the agreements the authorities will have to sign to receive the additional funds should lead to service and financial improvements. For example, the regional transit authorities as a group receive only 14 percent of their revenue from fares, which officials on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board dismissed as ridiculously low. The Cape Ann Transportation Authority hasn’t raised fares in 15 years, according to a presentation to the MassDOT board.

Joe Sullivan, a member of the MassDOT board and the mayor of Braintree, said he was surprised to learn that ridership at the transit authorities fell 10 percent over the last two years.  He said the task force needs to develop operating standards for the regional transit authorities and the state needs to make sure the agencies adhere to them.

“There maybe needs to be some tough love,” he said.

Blue-Red numbers don’t add up

Population and economic growth has far surpassed expectations in areas that might be served by a transit connection between the Blue and Red Lines, but the increase in activity has not led to a corresponding increase in trips between the two lines, according to a presentation by the manager of long-range planning for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Since 2010, when the T last did a feasibility study of connecting the Blue and Red Lines, the populations of East Boston, Cambridge, and Revere have all increased at a rapid pace. At Logan Airport, the number of passengers increased 32 percent, rising from 27.4 million in 2010 to 36.2 million in 2016. Development in the three communities has also exploded.

But Scott Hamwey, the manager of long-range planning, said all the growth has not led to greater use of the subway system. He said the number of riders using the Blue Line to get to and from Logan has increased from 1.04 million to 1.07 million over the six years, a gain of only 2.5 percent. He said trips connecting between the Red and Blue Lines are currently fairly small – about 2.6 percent of average weekday trips destined for the Red Line stations between Charles/MGH and Alewife originate on the Blue Line.

Hamwey also suggested the travel time savings of connecting the Blue and Red Lines at Charles/MGH were minimal, although his estimates didn’t seem to conform with the experience of most passengers. He estimated it would take someone just 11 minutes to travel between the Blue Line at Government Center Station to the Red Line at Charles/MGH, even though that trip would require traveling from Government Center to Park on the Green Line and then from Park to Charles/MGH on the Red. Hamwey said the same trip would take 7.5 minutes if a rider could take the Blue Line directly to Charles/MGH on the Blue Line.

Hamwey noted that his estimates were based on travel during peak periods “when all service is operating as scheduled.”

Mattison issues warning on parcel

Allston resident Harry Mattison told the MassDOT board on Monday that a key parcel of land needed to connect parts of Allston currently separated by the Massachusetts Turnpike was purchased by a developer earlier this month.

Mattison, chair of the advocacy committee of the Charles River Conservancy, said 79 Ashford Street is important to the Allston Landing development and the ability of the proposed West Station to knit the area together with a north-south bus route. He urged the MassDOT board to “take action” before the route is blocked.

Records on file at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds indicate 79 Ashford St. was purchased on September 5 by Allston Development LLC and Ashford Street Realty Trust 76 for nearly $7 million.

Total tab for Longfellow: $305.5m

State highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver said the total cost of the rebuild of the Longfellow Bridge was $305.5 million, including extra work orders of $16.6 million and a settlement of nearly $24 million with the contractors.

The original bid on the project was $255 million, and it was supposed to be completed by November 2016. Including contingencies for overruns and other unexpected events, state officials said the cost would not exceed $303.7 million.

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.

Gulliver said the final price tag ended up being a bit higher, largely because the rebuild turned out to be a lot more complicated than originally envisioned. It also took a lot longer than planned, with final completion scheduled for December 1. The bridge opened to vehicle traffic on May 31.

The contractors on the project were the construction companies JF White, Skanska, and Consigli.