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Ok, so on with the recap of today's incredibly long (five hours!) #MBTA board meeting. As always, these are done from my handwritten notes taken at the meeting, so if I missed someone's name, sorry, them's the breaks.
Directors @BrianLang123 and @BrianShortsleev were absent to start the meeting; Lang joined at 2pm. Present for the whole meeting were chairman Aiello, vice-chair @MonicaTibbitsN, director Kornegay, and secretary @Steph_Pollack.
In a departure from usual practice, the meeting started with a presentation from Toronto's MetroLynx, an agency of the provincial government. They are in the process of a redesign and refranchising of the GO commuter rail network.
I didn't take notes during the presentation, which took about an hour; I'd recommend anyone interested to watch the first hour of the meeting at mbta.com/events/2019-09…; it's well worth your while.
I note in particular the discussion about contract structure, which is an important question the MBTA will soon need to consider itself, as the Keolis contract expires in 2022. I've suggested to my state rep, @JackLewis, that any legal barriers to this structure be removed.
(There are other structures, which the Toronto folks didn't choose, that might be more appropriate, but we should not foreclose the possibility of a long-term concession with substantial risk sharing and private capital investment like what they settled on.)
After the Toronto presentation, the board moved on to public comment, which took about two hours, including a whole raft of politicians — mostly mayors and state legislators.
First up was the mayor of Lynn. He supports the "Indigo Line" proposal for frequent service on the Fairmount Line, and a proposal to pilot a similar service on the Eastern Route at least as far as Lynn. He notes that the service is underutilized in Lynn.
This is attributable to the very high fares ($7 each way, vs. $2 on the bus) and inbound trains already being full when they reach Lynn. Lynn is building 2000 units of housing and needs more frequency, an actual rapid transit service.
Finally, the mayor complains that the one-year evaluation period is inadequate to pilot water transportation services: it has historically taken much more time to develop passenger demand for these services, so a Lynn ferry in year 1 shouldn't be compared to Hingham in year 30.
Next up is state senator Brendan Creighton, who made many of the same points as the mayor. He introduced two state reps from Lynn, one of whom notes that there has been "Blue Line to Lynn" talk, but no action, for 50 years.
Somerville mayor @JoeCurtatone speaks next. He says the traffic crisis gives no room for incrementalism: only "bold, systemic change and investment" will do. Unlike other commenters, he has a slide deck loaded in the MassDOT computer system.
Most of the rest of Curtatone's talk is about how the city has partnered with the T to improve bus service, including the new busway on Broadway in Winter Hill, to be completed this year. (Later on, Sec. Pollack notes this is the first bus lane converted from general traffic.)
Curtatone talks about other bus improvements, like stop consolidation and signal timing changes, that the city has undertaken. He notes that high durability pavement markings are superior to constantly repainting bus and bike reservations.
Attleboro rep. Jim Huckens speaks on the deplorable condition of the pedestrian overpass at South Attleboro commuter rail station. He notes the potential to double parking capacity (lot currently fills at 7:30) with private Investment if appropriate steps are taken.
Final elected official is the mayor of Beverly. He supports the Lynn mayor's comments. Notes Beverly's position as a commuter-rail suburb (it has five stations and traffic disruptions from crossing gates). Beverly's new master plan embraces TOD.
The city supports transit expansion and transformation. Mayor notes that our GHG goals can't take a back seat, questions long-term investments in diesel.
Finally, at 12:48, the first actual public commenter, Rosa Bentley of Mass Senior Action, who is accompanied by a group of people from the organization. She addresses paratransit service improvements and inclusion of The Ride in studies of low-income concessionary fares.
Regular commenter Louise Baxter of the T Riders Union discusses bus service changes and the need for affordable commuter rail.
Former secretary of transportation Fred Salvucci speaks about real estate strategy. "Don't sell anything", he says; service improvements will require more land, not less. Also says there's a need for a "mobility management program" during the coming decade of Pike construction.
John Case is the owner of a property in Rhode Island adjacent to the South Attleboro station. He has permits to construct a 300+ space parking lot, but needs the footbridge fixed so that his customers can access the station safely.
Jeremy Thompson of the 495 business partnership supports the purchase of bilevel coaches, says it's needed as mitigation for Pike construction, both Allston and the 495 interchange.
Catherine Carlson of @ABetterCity expresses concern about the bilevel coach procurement inhibiting needed modernization of the commuter rail service. I am up next, and I put it much more strongly, "throwing good money after bad".
I note that this type of equipment was obsolete by the time the MBTA acquired the commuter rail service from the bankrupt railroads in the 1970s.
I also express exasperation at the MBTA's secrecy with meeting materials, leaving the public unable to make informed comment on the proposals, since the agenda only gives the subject matter and not the substance of the procurement to be approved.
(I've asked my state rep to see if the bill authorizing the permanent replacement board that succeeds the FMCB can require materials to be made available at least one business day before the meeting, unless the board declares an emergency.)
Stacy Thompson of Livable Streets introduces "64 Hours: Closing the Bus Equity Gap", a report the group is releasing today. She notes that network redesigns with service increases are more successful. The report finds that the T needs a 20% larger fleet to meet service standards.
Julia Wallace of Livable Streets and ITDP asks the authority to recognize the cities that have made substantial progress on improving bus service, specifically calling out Everett for its leadership on BRT.
@cdempc of @T4MASS notes that "buses are the unsung workhorse" of transportation, but that trailing 7 day on-time performance is down to 66%, which is unacceptable. Infrastructure is key to improving bus service.
Natick resident Josh Ostroff says that investment decisions must be informed by a long-term strategy, "can't afford to box yourself in", but seems to support the bilevel procurement.
Two speakers from Boston Center for Independent Living talk about accessibility. They endorse including The Ride in low-income fare study. Shelters are benches are important to disabled bus riders, who may not be able to stand waiting for the bus.
The second BCIL speaker raises some issues with bus operator training, buses not stopping, not waiting for disabled pax to get seated, not knowing how to operate wheelchair lifts.
Marilyn McNabb speaks about The Ride, but I didn't understand her comment.
A speaker from the @MassSierraClub wants electric buses. Says the timeline for conversion is much too long, wants to stop all new diesel procurement. Says there is enough experience in Mass and elsewhere to proceed with BEB now.
@scribblesonnapk asks why, given clear toxic waste problems and limited battery recycling markets, more consideration isn't bring given to trolleybuses.
I don't understand my notes about what Jim White said. He supports procurement of … something. Sorry, Jim, please follow up if you see this.
A speaker from @MASSPIRG also wants electric buses. Emphasizes health benefits for MBTA maintenance employees as well as communities that host bus garages. Final public speaker is Mel Miles from the T Riders Union. She says we need more buses.
Miles notes the climate crisis, says world-class transit is a necessity. "Public transit is a public good and a human right." Also asks for documents to be released in time for public comment.
At 13:44, chairman Aiello declares public comment closed and we move on to the formal business of the board, starting with the presentation from general manager @spoftak. Poftak starts with a backgrounder on the bilevel procurement.
He goes says they negotiated "expedited delivery" from Hyundai-Rotem, a sole source contract, forgoing federal funding. The 80 coaches include 16 required to start the South Coast Rail phase 1 service, to be delivered by 12/2022.
Poftak says this order is to address short-term capacity crunch, is not a long-term commitment to the technology. He doesn't say where the coaches will be built, since Rotem closed their factory — but since it's all state money, maybe Korea?
Pollack reiterates desire to increase capacity, since they're apparently incapable of running more frequent trains, raising speed limits, or taking any of the other interim steps discussed in the @transitmatters report.a
Aiello asks about FRA crashworthiness standards, sounds as if he's unaware of the reforms enacted last year. Poftak goes on to summarize the most recent weekend work and talks about #RailSafetyWeek and the MBTA Rail Rodeo. Doesn't mention a site visit to Orient Heights carhouse.
After the usual agenda bashing and three quick votes to approve minutes of past meetings, director Brian Lang arrives; it's now 14:00. The board considers a series of contracts for "dedicated" paratransit service.
The staff conducted an evaluation of 12 different combinations of proposals from 4 vendors, and chose a combination of two existing contractors and one new entrant (MV Transportation, which already operates fixed-route transit for three RTAs and paratransit in NYC).
Total of the three contracts is $504m for five years, with two one-year add-on options totaling $210m. All three are of course approved by the board.
Richard Henderson, newly hired chief of real estate, now presents the outline of a strategic plan for MBTA real estate. The authority owns 6,177 acres, of which 92% is utilized daily either by transit operations or by customers.
Most remaining parcels are small and hard to dispose of — the big land sales have already happened. On the revenue side, half of the T's recurring revenue comes from leases and licenses to telecom carriers, much of it mobile phone infrastructure.
The goal is to increase recurring revenue to $20m annually by FY23, helping to fulfill the legislative mandate to maximize own-source revenue. Aiello expresses concern about the relationship between RE assets and operational needs of future services.
Capacity for overburdened ops staff to evaluate RE needs 10 years out is not there; likelihood of mistakes in RE development if a strategic view is not integrated from the start. Kornegay: money is great but policy is important.
Pollack discusses structural factors that make it difficult to integrate service strategy with RE activity, suggests T can change internal processes to better reflect future needs. (Ed.: The board needs to actually decided to implement those future service expansions!)
Pollack also says RE needs to collaborate with legal dept if there's any question about statutory authority to do the most advantageous deals, thinks the enabling legislation is more flexible than Henderson suggests. Board may need to make formal determinations for some things.
Pollack also says RE should collaborate with the Metro Mayors Coalition on facilities siting, notes specifically Everett's offer to help site a new bus facility.
Kat Benesh gets up to present an update on the Better Bus Project now that the first set of (cost-neutral) service changes have gone into effect. (This happened with the fall rating on 9/1.) Also added 27 of the 45 new bus operators, to better match staffing to schedules.
She thinks the team's communications strategy has been effective at preempting complaints resulting from the schedule changes. Next set of 17 changes, with most of the remaining BBP route proposals, go into effect with winter rating on 12/22.
Some changes are still on hold because they have municipal or private dependencies that are not expected to be resolved by the end of this construction season. The remaining 18 new drivers will start 12/22 as well.
Kornegay asks how complaints are being counted and why start next changes so close to holidays. Gonneville answers: it was decided to split up changes because of operational burden of so many changes at once. 12/22 is the next opportunity for drivers to pick work schedules.
MTN asks if there is a central repository of complaints. Benesh: no, need to do survey research to properly judge customer satisfaction, want to wait until all changes are in place. MTN skeptical that complaints are adequately captured and presented to management.
Wes Edwards has a few slides on municipal bus infrastructure, primarily dedicated bus lanes. Aiello thinks the proposed figures are "timid", the authority has $1bn of capital funds available now, no reason to wait for new bond bill to make good on his $50m muni grant program.
Some colloquy here between Edwards, Aiello, and Pollack. Aiello says bus riders always get the short end of the stick. Wants next presentation to include a set of eligibility rules they can go to munis with.
MTN is highly critical: what is taking so long? Not clear how we accomplish actual improvements to bus service. Frustrated that nothing seems to be changing.
There's a discussion about delivery capacity mismatches between the T and cities. Most bus priority projects so far in Boston because BTD has hired a team to do bus priority. Smaller cities do not have resources to design or execute.
Pollack notes that there is state training for designers doing state funded road projects to support MBTA and RTA buses. MassDOT Highway Division supports muni road projects so maybe they have a role to play here.
A short presentation next from Bus Network Redesign on the metrics they are using and how they are integrating commercial trip-making data to identify transportation demand the T is not currently serving.
They are integrating equity considerations explicitly in the planning process, say this goes beyond the usual Title VI requirements.
Evan Rowe discusses bus shelters and amenities. Bids are due 9/26, they hope to award a contract this winter. Joe Pavao talks about bus facilities, starting with a refresher on current limitations and state of repair.
Pavao says they are working to onboard staff for bus garage and maintenance facilities planning, and are hiring a PM/engineering firm to oversee interim facility modifications and develop conceptual plans for the remainder.
Pollack asks if the facilities can be standardized so we don't waste money on separate design contracts for all 11 garages. Pavao says this contract only takes designs to 30% stage but they will inevitably be site specific.
Next up are a bunch of contracts related to buses and rolling stock, all presented by head of vehicle engineering Bill Wolfgang. First is an overview on the status of the bus fleet. The first of the 176 new hybrid buses are being delivered now.
Pollack notes that the different names being given to the same set of buses are confusing and would the staff please stick with one in public communication.
Wolfgang says the current test fleet of five battery buses have been averaging 125 miles of range over the summer, which is bad enough, but these all have electric heat so winter is expected to be even worse.
Wolfgang says they're investigating with the bus manufacturers availability of battery buses with combustion (fossil fuel) heating. (Ed.: sigh. They really don't get it, do they?)
MBTA is looking to increase Silver Line fleet size. Option for 45 "extended range" hybrids from New Flyer, else battery, so they can start ripping down trolleybus wire. Technology decision to be made next summer. Massport will fund 50% of cost for SL1/3.
Pollack says need to schedule a conversation about fleet size. (Of course this is going to depend a lot on BEB range if they're really committed to destroying the trolleybus network, small as it is.)
Next item is a professional services contract with Jacobs Engineering to support all bus overhaul procurements for the next ten years. Board approves at $10.6m.
The first thing for Jacobs to oversee is overhaul of 25 NFI hybrid buses (the first hybrids in the fleet) that were purchased in 2010. They need battery replacement. Contract awarded to Northeastern Bus Rebuilders for $16.8m.
Now comes the procurement of more lemons from Hyundai-Rotem. New coaches will replace 62 single-level MBB coaches, the oldest in the fleet, as well as two retired bilevels (crash damaged?). The remaining 16 of the total order of 80 are fleet expansion to support South Coast Rail.
As I mentioned above, this is a sole-source procurement, so it's not eligible for federal funding. The state is providing "extra" bond cap (which should have been used for something more forward looking, sigh) to make up for the lost federal subsidies.
Total contract value is $279m, or about $3.5m per unit. This is of course accompanied by a professional services contract, because the T is unable to manage its own rolling stock procurement and delivery process.
The engineering/project management contract is to WSP USA, and will support future rolling stock deliveries over ten years, not just the Rotem bilevels. Board approves.
Finally, *finally*, the last item on the public agenda is Evan Rowe with a new outdoor advertising contract. It's for 15 years with Outfront Media, the existing contractor. The T is guaranteed an annual $3.37m plus 25% of the message rotation time for public service messages.
The board then goes into executive session and I finally get to eat "lunch" (a donut).
@threadreaderapp please unroll
Sorry, wrong Jack Lewis! Correct tag was @RepJackLewis! (And by the way, Jack, your state email is full.)
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