MBTA sets a $2b budget, but head of advisory board says new revenue sources are still needed
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority finalized a budget of more than $2 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, while a representative of the cities and towns served by the T called for more revenue for the transit system.
The $2.06 billion budget is about $49 million larger than last year’s spending plan, but it includes a deficit of about $36 million. The MBTA is expecting the Legislature to step forward with $127 million in stopgap funding, some of which would be used for repair and maintenance work.
Meanwhile, an official who represents municipalities served by the T called on the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board to identify new sources of funding that would provide long-term financial stability.
Paul Regan, executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, said the financial pressures will only mount as the T moves to improve or expand service.
“At the end of the day, the MBTA does not have enough revenue to run either the service we have or the service we want,,” Regan said.
Regan called on the control board, which was created as a temporary oversight body after the MBTA’s winter shutdowns of 2015, to identify new funding sources before it is disbanded. That is scheduled for 2020.
Under Governor Charlie Baker, the T has focused on increasing revenue from advertising and real estate, plus cost-cutting.
But Joseph Aiello, chairman of the control board, said officials plan to take a “deep dive” later this year into the MBTA’s financial stability, as well as how it should be governed after 2020. The board may include some results from those initiatives in its annual report, due in December, he said.
Meanwhile, the MBTA is still waiting on a few financial maneuvers to get it through the next fiscal year. One is a plan to boost parking revenue by $7 million. Officials are considering multiple options, which could include raising the prices at busy lots but lowering them at less-crowded ones, or charging different rates at different times of the day or week.
The T is also still waiting for the Legislature to approve its plan pay some workers from outside of its operating budget, saving a projected $27 million. There’s no guarantee the Legislature will agree, and a decision may not come until summer.
Control board member Brian Lang said the T risks having to cut funding elsewhere if the Legislature balks. “It’s not a threat, it’s a fact, that we’re going to have to make hard decisions,” Lang said.
The MBTA’s general manager, Luis Ramirez, said he is not worried that the budget relies on several plans that have not been finalized.
“While there is always a concern you are not going to hit everything that you plan for, you also have to build a budget that you can build contingencies around,” he said.