T parking data raises lots of questions

Shortsleeve shifts oversight in management shakeup

PARKING REVENUE at a number of major MBTA lots jumped dramatically in March and April after the transit authority began investigating receipt discrepancies. The numbers suggest the loss of parking revenue may be bigger and more widespread than earlier believed.

Brian Shortsleeve, the MBTA’s chief administrator, also disclosed on Wednesday that he is putting a new team together to oversee parking, advertising, concessions, and other T and Department of Transportation operations that generate $127 million in annual revenue. Responsibility for both MBTA and Department of Transportation parking operations, which generate $44 million annually, will be handled by Bryan Gubbins, director of real estate for MassDOT. An MBTA spokesman said Ronald Ross, the T’s former director of parking, remains at the agency.

The parking problem surfaced initially in February when daily revenue reports at MBTA lots didn’t match up with actual vehicle counts conducted by the agency. Conflicting stories emerged as the MBTA’s parking lot operator, LAZ Parking Ltd., and then the Transit Police and an outside auditor began investigating. The problem was first described as being confined to one lot, then three, then back to two. T officials said on May 16 they were still trying to get a handle on the revenue losses, but felt they weren’t huge.

But parking revenue data obtained from the MBTA suggest the problem may be bigger than earlier believed. At the North Quincy Station parking lot, for example, revenues averaged $56,561 a month over the 10-month period between May 2015 and February 2016. In March and April, after the parking investigation began and LAZ fired two employees “for not following proper procedures,” revenues averaged $87,151, an increase of $30,590, or 54 percent.

At the Lechmere parking facility, revenues averaged $33,008 a month between May and February, but then averaged $52,613 in March and April, an increase of $19,605, or 59 percent.

T parking chart

MBTA officials initially said the parking revenue discrepancies they uncovered were confined to the North Quincy facility. Then they added Lechmere and Riverside to the list, but then withdrew Riverside after it was determined there was no revenue loss there.

But parking data obtained by CommonWealth suggests average revenue at Riverside did bump up by $35,775, or 43 percent, during March and April compared to the previous eight months. There were also fairly substantial revenue increases of 20 to 32 percent at the Oak Grove, Sullivan, and Wellington parking facilities in March and April. The increase in average monthly revenue at Wellington was $30,191.

For all MBTA parking lots, average monthly revenue increased more than $430,000, or 12.5 percent, during March and April compared to the previous 10 months.

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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.

It’s unclear what caused the spikes in income, but MBTA officials are trying to determine if the higher numbers in March and April were an aberration or reflect revenue that should have been coming in to the authority all along.  Joe Pesaturo, the MBTA’s spokesman, declined to speculate. “Both the audit and the police investigation continue,” he said in an email.

T officials have been cautious in describing the situation, referring to “parking discrepancies” rather than parking thefts. John Englander, the MBTA’s legal counsel, said the agency’s contract with LAZ requires the parking lot operator to pay twice the amount of any discrepancies that turn up, plus any applicable fines.