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Back on Track: An Action Plan to Transform the MBTA

On April 8, 2015, Governor Charlie Baker released a detailed report compiled by the Governor's Special Panel to review the MBTA and outlined a plan of action to reform and improve the MBTA. The panel’s recommendations include creating a five-member Fiscal and Management Control Board, as well as the creation of one, five and 20 year spending plans after the group uncovered massive structural and management failures.

“Massachusetts deserves a reliable, well-managed, cost effective transportation system, and this in-depth report offers a plan of action to responsibly pursue organizational and operational reforms to reach this goal,” said Governor Baker. “Thanks to the hard work of the panel members, we have action items to improve service reliability, correct the failures that would bankrupt the MBTA if left unchecked and rescue the transportation system our economy relies upon.”

From a press conference at the State House, the Baker Administration and members of the panel announced a summary of key findings and proposed recommendations for short and long term reforms centered on a fiscal management control board:

Key Findings:

  • Unsustainable Operating Budget: The MBTA would be insolvent if not for continuing and increasing subsidies due to a severe imbalance between costs and revenue.
  • Chronic Capital Underinvestment: The MBTA has not spent the capital funds already available to it, resulting in chronic underinvestment in the aging fleet and infrastructure.
  • Bottleneck Project Delivery: The MBTA struggles to get projects completed.
  • Ineffective Workplace Practices: The MBTA is ineffective at managing work due to weak workplace practices and chronic absenteeism.
  • Shortsighted Expansion Program: MassDOT and the MBTA lack a long-range expansion strategy shaped around the physical and financial capacity of the MBTA and future needs for regional transit.
  • Organizational Instability: The MBTA is hampered by frequent leadership changes, vacancies, and looming attrition.
  • Lack of Customer Focus: The MBTA is not organized to operate as a customer-oriented business.
  • Flawed Contracting Process: The MBTA’s procurement and contract management is inefficient.
  • Lack of Accountability: The Commonwealth provides more than half of the MBTA operating budget and additional funding for capital projects, but the MBTA is not accountable to the Governor or the Legislature.


After considering a range of scenarios, the panel recommends creating a Fiscal and Management Control Board to enforce new oversight and management support, and increase accountability over a 3-5 year time frame. The goals will target governance, finance, agency structure and operations through recommended executive and legislative actions that embrace transparency and develop stability in order to earn public trust.

  • New Fiscal and Management Oversight: Replace the current MassDOT Board with a five-member Fiscal and Management Control Board, with three members appointed by the Governor and one each nominated by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President. The Governor appoints a Chief Administrative Officer to lead the T, who reports to the Control Board.
  • Capture Revenue Opportunities: Significantly increase MBTA self-generated revenue from fares, advertising and real estate, as well as through grants and federal programs.
  • Budget Firewall: Build a firewall between the operating and capital budgets - construct one, five and twenty year plans for each.
  • Capital Planning: Create a dedicated state-funded capital program to modernize vehicles and infrastructure and pause construction spending for system expansion (except for federally funded projects) until such a plan is in place.
  • Customer Service: Create customer-oriented performance management and strengthen communications.
  • Update System Routes: Rationalize and reform system routes, including buses.

The MBTA special panel chaired by Katie Lapp, Executive Vice President for Harvard University and former Executive Director and CEO for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Brian McMorrow of Massport, and includes Jane Garvey, a national leader in transportation policy, Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez, the Derek C. Bok Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy at Harvard University, Joseph Sullivan, the Mayor of Braintree and former Chair of the Joint House-Senate Transportation Committee, and Robert Gittens, the Vice President of Public Affairs at Northeastern University.

The panel met 18 times over six weeks to review past studies, with MBTA staff, MassDOT leadership, transit advocates and labor representatives in order to benchmark the MBTA against peer agencies and analyze performance through objective analysis. The panel synthesized recent MBTA studies, conducted a performance review, examined the MBTA’s core functions and compared results with other transit operations to assess the status of the system’s governance, finances, and capital planning. 

Back On Track: An Action Plan to Transform the MBTA  
An Act for a Reliable, Sustainable MBTA 
Governor and Lieutenant Governor Letter to Legislature 05-14-2015

Overview of the Methodology Used by the Panel

 MBTA Panel - Methodological Approach

Presentations Made to the Panel by MassDOT and MBTA Staff

MBTA 101
MBTA Capital and Operating Budgets
MBTA Capital Program
MBTA Legislative History
MBTA - MassDOT Expansion Program 
MBTA Procurement
MBTA Workforce

Supplemental Materials Provided to the Panel by MassDOT and MBTA Staff

2012 MBTA Annual Report
2013 MassDOT Annual Report
2014 MBTA Budget Recommendation
2014-2018 MBTA Capital Investment Program
AIC with Job Codes
APTA MBTA Extreme Weather Peer Review Scope
APTA MBTA Extreme Weather Review
Boston MPO Funding Pie Chart
Chelsea Receivership Legislation
CLF Presentation to MBTA Caucus February 2015
December 2014 MBTA Headcount
DOL - FMLA RFI 2007 - Transit Impacts
EA Monthly Tracking by AIC Jan, Feb, FYTD15
EOHED Guidebook on Public Finance for Infrastructure
Farebox Comparisons by Mode - 2011-2013
FY15 MBTA Budget Breakdown By Agency Area
FY16 MBTA Budget Update February 2015
General Manager Monthly Report January 2015 Draft Final
General Manager Monthly Report February 2015 Final
General Manager Monthly Report March 2015
GM Presentation 3-9-15
HR Reports
January 2015 MBTA Headcount
Keolis Recovery Plan - 02-25-2015
Lawrence Legislation
MAPC Value Capture Memo
MBTA Bond Payment Schedules
MBTA Decision Support Tool Overview
MBTA Efficiencies and Cost Savings Memo June 2011
MBTA Employee Availability FY13 - FY14
MBTA Official Statement 2014 Series A Sales Tax Bonds
MBTA Performance Data December 2014
MBTA Performance Data January 2015
MBTA Performance Data February 2015
MBTA Ridership and Service Statistics 2014
MBTA Top Level Org Chart
Monthly Tracking by AIC, FY13
Monthly Tracking by AIC, FY14
MTA Reinvention Commission - 2014
Overview of Capital Needs
Paratransit Budget Memo FY2016
Position Control 2-28-15
Regional Transportation Ballot Initiatives
Springfield Legislation
Transportation Asset Management Briefing March 2015
Vacation Sick Holiday Plans by Union

Public Comments Submitted to the Panel

A Better City - Bus Fleet Report
A Better City - Bus Priority Report
A Better City - Comment Letter
A Better City - Expansion Handout
A Better City - Impacts of Winter Weather
A Better City - Life Sciences Report
A Better City - Surface Transportation Optimization
American Society of Civil Engineers - Comment Letter
Boston Chamber of Commerce - Comment Letter
Judge Patrick King - Comment Letter
Metropolitan Area Planning Council - Comment Letter
Responses to Stakeholder Request for Input
Transportation for Massachusetts - Comment Letter

Further Analysis Prepared After Completion of Panel Report

Absenteeism Categories
Capital Slides
DOL Fact Sheet 28H
Dropped Trips by Month CY14-15
Employee Availability Supplemental Materials
FMLA Distribution Usage FY14
FMLA Distribution Usage FY14
FY2014 Dropped Trips Summary - Bus and Heavy Rail
MBTA Capital Program Charts 
Panel Report FAQs - 2009 + 2013 Reforms 
Panel Report FAQs - Farebox Recovery
Panel Report FAQs - Fiscal & Management Control Board 
Panel Report FAQs - MBTA Absenteeism with Chart 
Panel Report FAQs - MBTA Capital Program
Panel Report FAQs - MBTA Funding

Background Reference Materials

2010 SGR Roundtable
ABC Position Paper on 2012 Fare Increase
Advisory Board on 2012 Fare Increase
Advisory Board Report on MBTA FY12 Budget
Advisory Board Report on MBTA FY13 Budget
Advisory Board Report on MBTA FY14 Budget
Advisory Board Report on MBTA FY15 Budget
Blue Ribbon Summit on Transit Finance
Born Broke
D'Alessandro Report
Derailed by Expansion
EO530 Paratransit Report - Final
FTA Asset Management Presentation
Hub and Spoke
Keeping on Track - Progress Report #1
KPMG Phase II MARTA Audit Final Draft
MassDOT & MBTA HR Audit Report FINAL
Maxed - Out
MTF - The End of Its Line - Report
Pioneer on MBTA Bus Maintenance Costs
Pioneer on Receivership Models
Staying on Track
Survey of State Funding for Public Transportation 2013
TFC Report
The Role of Governance in Transit - Eno Foundation
The Route to Growth
Transportation Governance and Finance - 50 State Review

Other Links

NTD - National Transit Database 

To request a document in an alternate format or for more information about the Governor’s Special Panel to Review the MBTA, please contact Michael Verseckes at

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