T praised for response to Women’s March
Also: E-ZPass update, DOT staffing levels fall
TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY STEPHANIE POLLACK and members of the MBTA’s oversight board on Monday praised the authority and the state’s commuter rail operator for their response to the huge crowds that took public transit to the Women’s March on Saturday.
Pollack said early estimates of how many people would participate in the march had been in the 40,000 to 70,000 range, but those numbers ratcheted up dramatically on Friday as organizers said many more people would be coming. The estimates rose to 80,000 and then 100,000, but nowhere near the 175,000 that many believe ultimately participated.
The T ran into problems in the morning as people started heading for the march from outlying areas and were unable to find space on crowded trains and buses. Pollack said passenger traffic was so heavy at the Green Line’s Riverside Station that many trains departed the station full and were unable to pick up additional passengers heading into town.
Many passengers were not regular T customers, so stations became congested as riders struggled to purchase passes. To avoid backups, the T allowed many passengers to board trains without paying fares.
Overall, Pollack was very pleased, as were members of the Fiscal and Management Control Board. “We got tons of very, very positive feedback,” Pollack said. “I see this as another example of the T’s growing resiliency.”
E-ZPass accounts for 86% of transactions
State transportation officials said on Monday that more than 100 million electronic toll transactions had been processed since toll booths on the Massachusetts Turnpike were removed Oct. 28 and 86 percent of them were done via E-ZPass.
Thomas Tinlin, the state’s highway administrator, said the 86 percent figure was 1 percentage point higher than what his agency had set as a goal. He said he wants to see the percentage of E-ZPass transactions keep going up.
Customers who use E-ZPass to pay tolls receive a reduced rate. E-ZPass transponders are free, and Tinlin said the 3 millionth transponder was issued on Nov. 11.
State officials said toll revenue is not expected to be a great this year. Down $16.6 million trending upward.
The removal of the toll booths has speeded up traffic considerably on the Massachusetts Turnpike. One study, comparing weekday morning travel times on the Turnpike from I-495 to South Boston showed that travel times fell by 12 minutes after the toll booths came down.
Even with the reduced travel times, state officials on Monday cut their estimate of Turnpike toll revenues this fiscal year by $16.6 million. The original budget for fiscal 2017 estimated toll revenues of $427.8 million, but that was cut to $411.2 million on Monday.
DOT employee levels down
State officials on Monday released figures indicating non-toll employment at the transportation agency was 3,693 at the end of fiscal 2015, which compared to 3,472 as of Dec. 31, halfway through fiscal 2017.The biggest reductions came in the highway division, (141 fewer workers), planning and enterprise (40), and the Registry of Motor Vehicles (38).
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said employee counts are down because the agency in some cases is finding more efficient ways to do the work. “The job is getting done,” she said.