MBTA CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER JEFF GONNEVILLE rightly takes pride in the work he and his fellow MBTA employees perform every day, keeping our aging public transportation moving as best they can. I have always and consistently applauded the men and women who drive buses, conduct trains, manage the operations center, and perform the countless other often thankless tasks that come with public service.
The issue I brought attention to is one that people are experiencing every day. The data, and the experience of people who use the system, demonstrate pretty clearly that shutdown of service at night is rarely (if ever) on schedule. Whether the reason is late E-Line trains or other late trains), the problem is costing the MBTA precious funds that could be usefully deployed elsewhere.
I do not know how the T arrived at its $500,000 annual cost number because Gonneville offers no backup for that. Ari Ofsevit’s analysis, which I used to inform my article, is very specific about how the “range of $2.7 to $3.8 million” annual cost was arrived at, using MBTA baseline cost figures as reported to the Federal Transit Administration. So, with respect, I stand by the $2.7 million to $3.8 million cost for the evening shutdown delays.
There is a final and larger point to be made here. Those of us who rely on public transportation won’t really care much about the back-and-forth of whether the cost of the shutdown is $500,000 or $2 million or $3 million. What we really care about is public transportation that responds to our needs. My article was intended to cast more light on the continued lack of overnight service, and the plan we have developed in collaboration with the T for a 24/7 transit service in Greater Boston. That service comes at a fraction of the cost of the old late night service, and is far more expansive in scope and coverage. I was making the point that operational efficiencies might well help defray the cost of important initiatives like overnight service.
As I said in my article, we all want the MBTA to succeed. Our difference of opinion on the cost of the evening shutdown is not a difference of principle. I respect, and share solidarity with, T employees who care deeply about the services they provide, and when I point out areas that might benefit from improvement, I do so in that spirit.
James Aloisi is a former state secretary of transportation and a principal at the Pemberton Square Group.