Out-of-Control Transit Costs in Boston or Attack on Public Services?

The public Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's bus costs are out of control, according to the ALEC-affiliated Pioneer Institute's 2013 report on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's (MBTA) bus maintenance costs.
Ellen Dannin
April 24, 2014
An MBTA bus heads to Salem Depot through snowy conditions.
David Moisan / Flickr

ALEC affiliate Pioneer Institute is targeting both Massachusetts Sen. Marc Pacheco and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. They must be doing something right.

Rumors that the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's bus costs are out of control have reached a fever pitch lately, thanks to claims by Greg Sullivan, current Pioneer Institute Research Director and former Massachusetts Inspector General, and the circulation of the ALEC-affiliated Pioneer Institute's 2013 report on the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority's (MBTA) bus maintenance costs. Even Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has been attacked as part of this manufactured controversy.

The Pioneer Institute - an affiliate of the far-right State Policy Network - marshals its statistical "evidence" in a way that shows accurate fact-finding is not its goal.

Pioneer Wants to Take Us for a Ride

According to Pioneer, the "MBTA's bus maintenance cost per mile was fourth highest of 379 US bus transit agencies as measured in maintenance cost per bus mile traveled." Pioneer's 13-page document presents its case mainly by comparing the MBTA's costs per mile with the costs of 19 other bus companies.

According to the US Department of Transportation's 2012 National Transit Database - Transit Profiles: Top 50 Agencies, Boston's MBTA is one of the top 50 transit systems in the United States. So it is fair to assume that Pioneer's comparison of the MBTA with 19 transit systems would have to include only other Top 50 transit systems.

Pioneer's list of 20 transit systems included eight non-Top 50 transit systems and also included eight transit systems in areas where it never snows.

According to Craig Hughes, secretary-treasurer and organizer of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 264, size matters when it comes to transportation systems because size leads to greater complexity. Read more here

 

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April 28, 2014