The governor's MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board released its first formal report today and the news could be better: The T's daily spending is rising faster than anticipated income and it continues to fall farther and farther behind on things such as track and train maintenance.
The MBTA's operating budget (including debt service) is unsustainable, with expenses increasing at nearly three times the rate of revenue growth. Left unaddressed, the structural operating deficit of the MBTA will reach $427 million in FY2020.
Annual capital spending on deferred maintenance and capital investment – the "state of good repair" backlog - has historically fallen substantially below the $472 million annual spending needed to prevent the SGR backlog from growing greater. That backlog has risen to $7.3 billion, reflecting both this prolonged underspending as well improvements in the SGR data base. The SGR backlog does not, however, account for inflation. Other non-SGR needs, including safety and security, better accessibility, and improved capacity and modernization, add further pressure to the capital budget.
Still, the board found some glimmers of good news: The T is budgeted to spend $1 billion on capital projects in the current fiscal year, and the capital backlog will shrink once the T begins rolling out those new Red and Orange Line trains from China, since they should be in a "state of good repair" when they're delivered.
Also, commuter-rail performance is up and and lots of track and third-rail "resiliency" work on the Red and Orange Lines - along with the stockpiling of train motors - this summer should help stave off the paralyzing problems the lines suffered in the past winter.
The board said the T can ameliorate some of its financial problems through more aggressive monitoring of employee sick leave - in part by hiring an outside contractor to oversee employee leave - and by ramping up efforts to bring in additional income through advertising and real-estate deals, parking fees and private partnerships to subsidize particular stations.
The board added it's now paying close attention to figuring out what to do about the Green Line extension to Medford, the estimated cost for which has now ballooned to $3 billion.