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MBTA was paying for service for 553 cell phones nobody was using

MBTA officials say a deep look at their invoices - enough of them to fill a Red Line train waist high in paper - has identified a number of ways the perpetually cash-strapped system can save some money.

Among the savings announced today: $650,000 over two years by canceling service on 553 phones nobody was using, reducing the authority's overall monthly minutes and eliminating global calling, caller name ID and other services.

In total, the T announced $11 million in savings over the next two years - $8 million by reducing janitorial services.

Other ways to save: Renegotiate office-supply contracts (including buying HP printer cartridges in bulk), teaming up with other state agencies to buy diesel fuel and closing bank accounts to consolidate T money into fewer accounts that will mean more interest..

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but one wonders...how much would be saved on office supplies and IT equipment and support if the underlying business processes were simplified.

This is an honest question, not a troll, but how many forms need to be filed and signed or clicked through and approved for a bus driver to take a vacation, or a broken door on a subway car to be flagged for maintenance and repaired?

This here is the easy fat to cut, and credit goes to the folks at the MBTA for going through the work to identify it and seek remediation, but I worry that the temptation will be to do more of the same and not take a hard look at the way things are done on the grounds that things have always been done that way.

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Although I share your sentiment, of course things will continue to be done the way they are on grounds they always have been. This is Boston! See Storrow Drive for examples of other absurdities. Thank you.

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It's always tough to fix things in big organizations, especially when they don't have the skills in-house to move things forward. Making a generational shift in technology, for example, often means you'll have a big jump in costs short-term before any longer term savings kick in. And the budgets don't allow that, even when it's likely to be better long term.

It ends up being easier to wait, especially if you are in a system where leaders are changed with the change in officeholders.

It hurts all kinds of organizations, but government entities suffer the most.

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Heads should roll for this wasteful use of commuter's money, it must be criminal, please some one start an investigation this is fucking ridiculous. But they want to hike fares like WTF.

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Kind of odd that they have a whole slide on how to save $200K on office supplies and toner cartridges but no details on the purported $8.1M savings by "Exercise performance based clauses in cleaning contract". Seems like an awfully big chunk of change that does't get explained.

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Yeah, and if they cut a bunch of janitors, who is going to be left to sweep that under the rug?

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Now if they would only do something about the 553 fare cheaters who refuse to pay at Quincy station every morning.

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I have seen the same thing on the Green Line. It is a very antiquated system where crowds of people get on the train where the doors open on the rear cars. Only a few go up to the front to pay their fare. Revenue is lost every single day. Why?

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Because having everyone pay at the front door would make the Green Line so slow that they'd lose more riders than extra fares they collect.

The good news is that the T will be implementing a new fare payment system in the next few years, which will include card readers at all Green Line doors, and enforcement officers spot checking that people have paid (and a large fine if they have not.)

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To really make it efficient, we should use the system used in many European cities where people with passes don't need to do anything but have them on their person (and show them when the enforcement people come through, of course). Removes the bottleneck of the card scanner.

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really, it would. the biggest problem is all the employees that would be laid off.

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Response from T a few months ago (paraphrasing) saying it would cost the same as it would recover the money from fare evaders. This is a ridiculous that the public should be outraged at. It means the T doesn't care if you pay because they don't see it as a priority, so don't buy a pass for a month and see if their attitude changes with zero income while having the same cost. They will start to care.

1. Hire more T police. 186 total on the force is laughable.

2. Hire people to fine fare evaders. Tickets are between $100 to $600 per event. Are you telling me a person getting say $30 p/hour wouldn't recoup their salary in the first 5 minutes at park Street, downtown crossing or anywhere in Boston at rush hour.

3. In new York city you fare evade you get arrested. Boston could follow the lead. You want to privitize something then start there with a service that doesn't already exist.

Cut backs when it has been underfunded for 60 years is fraud from the people as the T is a public service.

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Most of them probably have monthly passes anyway.

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Is the T really so clean that they can cut Janitorial services?

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I'm shocked....shocked!

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Deval would have never found this.

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has become much worsefrom the period of Deval, onwards; why?

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I can only assume that the Deval was in the details.

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$11 million in total savings, $8 million of which will come from cutting janitorial services? Because the stations and trains are clean enough? Because you don't see rats on the Green Line tracks and platforms early AM and late PM? Because you never stick to the floors of the train cars? Cut personnel and salaries and benefits at the top, not the bottom.

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It is an insult to everyone who uses the T that 30% of MBTA employees make over 100K yet they are cutting service, raising fares and laying off the people who clean the mess others make. The rich get richer and everyone else gets screwed.

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For less than a reasonable wage?

So much for all your progressive posturing.

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I am sure there are people working at the MBTA that deserve those 100K+ wages, maybe even more. We've all worked at places where 1 employee does a kick ass job and produces that work of two people.

..and we have been at places where another is lazy and should be fired.

Unions don't allow for that.

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I'm not insulted by it! I don't see any reason that some employees can't make more than 100k. I also like the idea of someone doing the work of two other people--driving two buses at the same time would be so badass!

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get fired for this???

Oh I know...Union Contract.

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Don't blame a front-line workers' union for not doing managerial and professional positions' jobs. Think!

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"It's not my responsibility" or "It's not in my job description."

What a way to work as a team towards one goal.

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I'm not sure you understand how unions work in a large organization... the carmen's union doesn't have member employees responsible for looking at bills and spreadsheets in it.

I have managed unionized staff, and if operational procedures are lacking, that's a management issue to be resolved. You don't blame all staff for not having team attitude.

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I don't think anyone is blaming the front line workers for all of the T's problems. Certainly management is lacking in many ways. However, the union is also a big problem. There's plenty of blame to go around, and I don't think any group of T workers is totally blameless.

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GRAND OPPORTUNITY TO UNION BASH! LET'S GO!!!!!!

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I kind of doubt that.

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Don't worry, heads will roll! MBTA is firing 553 people who don't actually work there.

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To be expected, wonder what the lost productivity in the private sector is from employee dashing to social medias when at the grindstone of the economy when they should be focused on making widgets ,.....

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When your funding is tax-payer dollars who cares how inefficient, fraudulent and mismanaged operations are! The MBTA has nothing to lose!

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To state the obvious: Every item in Adam's piece is an example of MBTA management ineptitude: excessive numbers of cell phones and unneeded features, poor practices in purchasing office supplies and fuel, and (the biggie) unneeded janitorial services. Maybe 'ineptitude' should be 'malfeasance'.

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Seriously, I would love to know.

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Two MTBA General Managers (Ms. Scott and Mr. Shortsleeve) both determined that the T was buying more janitorial services than are needed. That's part of their job.

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There's obviously PLENTY of unmet need for janitorial services. I'm not criticizing the workers who do the janitorial work -- I'm sure the vast majority work very hard at a very unpleasant job for relatively meager wages. But if anything, the problem would seem to be mis-allocated janitorial services, or insufficient janitorial services, or contracted-and-paid-for-but-unprovided janitorial services, rather than "unneeded janitorial services." All of which should be blamed on management, including the two General Managers you name. I'm not trying to be a nitpicking dick, but I think there's a big difference.

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Now, can they boot all the six figure union station walkers and flashlight wavers?

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Awesome; the T will be even dirtier than it is!

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This T station is just too clean. They must have too many janitors.

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The janitorial savings likely has more to do with poorly written contracts with redundancies in purchasing rather than straight up labor.

I wouldn't have put it past the MBTA to have been buying tons of cleaning supplies which were thrown out with each new delivery.

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The FMCB report says: 1.7m x 10m, or 17 m^2.

The actual size is 69.5' x 10', or 20m x 3 m, or 60m. The whole thing about waist height is bunk. It would only fill a Red Line car one foot deep.

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My cell phone bill is so hard to understand that I might be paying for 533 phones, too.

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But try T-Mobile -- great service all around, and even I can understand their bills!

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T-Mobile??? You sure?

When we moved back into Boston from the other side of the river my phone didn't work - at all. Even in my home. I called T Mobile and let them know this. Their answer "our phones don't work everywhere. You may be in a bad spot" My answer "I live in the city of Boston. How could your phones not work in the city?" Their response was still "our phones don't work everywhere."

We then asked for them to cut our contract and waive the fee since we literally couldn't dial 911 if we had to (it only had one month left on it). The refused to do it without us paying the $300 fee, They did not care that I had zero service. So we waited a month & xcld it.

We get a call several weeks later from T Mobile asking our opinion them and how they get us to come back. We told them they could offer us a million dollars and we still wouldn't go with them. Worst service ever.

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How long ago was this? T-Mobile just rolled out band12 (700mhz) in most areas in New England in the early spring. 700mhz provides far better coverage in many spots where T-Mobile's standard band19 (1900mhz) and band 21 (2100mhz) do not . Band12 has far better range and building permeation.

Plus T-Mobile hasn't had contracts in well over 2 years :-) (unless you were in a Jump plan or subsidized your phone from T-mobile)

However as far as their 'attitude' you got. I've experienced that too (as a 12+ year Tmo customer). I've had issues in my town, and I kinda get told "yeah we know but we're not going to fix it". (the tower in my town is over sold). However, with T-mobile it's a trade off. Now they are offering unlimited data along with their "Music Freedom" and free video streaming. And it does work well elsewhere (especially on the cape now, where there was no service before.. zooooooooom). I just use Wifi calling at home to supplement the bad coverage. (and it does work, the internet is just sloooow at home via the cellular connection)

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To be fair it was a long time ago. Bust they cut me deep:)

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...and apparently it has! :-)

But if the previous response is right and your bad experience was a long time ago, I'd encourage you to take another look. I've been with them for a couple of years now and have never had a problem. I like the no contract deal, and I think the free unlimited streaming of music and video via the Binge On and Music Choice programs is TERRIFIC. I even got a free share of stock through one of their recent "Uncarrier" promotions (actually, I think that's a permanent perk, but not sure).

I will say that, within the last couple of weeks, I've heard rumblings about changes in their pricing structure that are supposed to go in effect for new accounts in the near future. I haven't paid much attention since I'd be grandfathered in with my current setup, but there seems to be quite a bit of angst about the changes.

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Now I'm not sticking up for the T, and I'm guessing they are using Verizon Wireless. (just a guess). I've managed a large VZW account (2000+ line account), and it's a pain in the ass to manage. Their enterprise tools are horrible (the website is), and unless you keep your own records on how many lines you have, it's very hard to know what's active and what should be shut off. And as far as bills. You get this large fedex box in the mail (the paper copy). And of course, it's detailed calling (it's a serious waste of paper), so forget about going thru the paper copy line by line. And my account manager was horrible, he only came around when he wanted to sell me new devices, and was pretty useless at everything else.

My account.. I know we had tons of lines we were paying for that either didn't have a device attached or were from employees who left (and the device was sitting in a drawer somewhere). And I'm sure if I went line by line, I'd find more too. So it can happen.

But not sticking up for the T, but sometimes the bills just get paid without much review. But 27k a month in savings isn't all that much. The FCMB is just being bean counters now and counting every penny. In short, a big deal for nothing. Yet, clean stations aren't important?

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Their auditing technique seems quite sloppy from what was said on NECN. Apparently they just called the numbers and closed whatever didn't answer, and there was no explanation about finding and getting back the handsets. It seems to me the possibility exists that at least some of the devices could actually be fixed for data, hence nobody would answer. If that's true I just hope they were not being used for applications that affect safety.

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