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Maybe if we held bake sales at every T stop ...

The MBTA said today that if we want the entire subway and commuter-rail system to be up to snuff, it'll cost nearly $24.5 billion - yes, with a 'b'. The T emphasizes that doesn't say anything about safety but that that's what would be needed to bring all those trains and buses up to a "state of good repair," you know, tracks that don't crack, pantographs that don't fry, doors that don't fail to work, no more slow zones, trains that are younger than your grandfather, etc., etc., etc.

The tally is up $14.5 billion from the last time the T compiled this sort of list, back in 2019. The T blames/explains - oh, and says the final number might not be quite as bad as it seems, but let's not kid ourselves:

  • A more robust, comprehensive, and data-driven inventory approach that significantly increases the total asset count from approximately 59,000 to nearly 83,700. For example, the MBTA’s power asset count significantly increased from 4,959 in the 2019 to 14,514 in 2023 because the previous inventory did not include certain cables, overhead catenary, the South Boston power station, emergency generators, or high voltage yards. A more sophisticated inventory of these assets is now included in the 2023 CNAI;
  • Significant infrastructure and construction cost increases driven by inflation and supply chain challenges;
  • The continued aging of the MBTA’s assets faster than they are being replaced due to years of underinvestment; and
  • The length of time for capital investments to show improvements and be reflected in the CNAI. Many capital projects underway now are in varying planning, design, and construction phases. The rehabilitation or replacement of those assets will be reflected in future iterations of the CNAI and SGR Index. Additionally, the cutoff for data to be included in this year’s CNAI was in 2021 and some major investments since that time were not captured in this iteration of the CNAI.

The T says this is where the money would go, if it had it all at once:

  • Facilities: $6.4 billion (35% of assets)
  • Rolling Stock: $2.4 billion (55% of assets)
  • Equipment: $52 million (28% of assets)
  • Structures: $5.3 billion (22% of assets)
  • Signals – CR: $1.3 billion (80% of assets)
  • Signals – Transit: $753 million (53% of assets)
  • Track – CR: $1.2 billion (9% of assets)
  • Track – Transit: $2.0 billion (89% of assets)
  • Power: $5.1 billion (76% of assets)


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If the state paid attention to the D'Allesandro report.

Heck of a job by our previous Harvard trained governors. Can't wait to see what the cost will be when this Harvard alumnus takes the stroll out the front doors in 2027 or 2031.


Why are you letting the Carmen's Union off the hook?

You forgot to address the ineptitude and graft of the legislature.


to achieve "up to snuff," how much more for the vaunted "World Class™?"

Oh, and if we need to rip a bunch of things up anyway, how much more to standardize red, orange, and blue lines on one type of train so future updates would cost less?


Only the cost of a ticket to Montreal. Their system is world class...unless you want air conditioning in the summer...otherwise excellent! At least its all underground.


That $24b would be about $5b. We can’t build train systems at reasonable prices. We just not good at it and our labor costs are absurd.

Sometimes the grass isnt greener.

Ask any Montrealer and they will tell you its not all croissants and poutine.

Yup its underground, but its because it snows so much there! (that whole wind tunnel effect in the winter from the St Lawrence Seaway really curns up those seaway effect snow)

On a couple of lines, the rolling stock is as old as the Red Line Pullman's (so 1969). Much of it is original when the line opened in the late 60s and early 70s. Those also are the rubber tire based stock too! Is it better maintained, possibly? But being so old, it still breaks down often. (and much like the T, they are replacing it now and in coming years)

Many of the stations have never been remodeled and retain their 1960s brutalist architecture. Yes its part of the charm, but with the original rolling stock, the system *feels* dated. I will give it this, it's clean.

The system is also not complete (the subway system), it was designed to have more lines but much like the mbta, it was met with NIMBYism and underfunding.

Yup they are building a new rail-based crosstown line (part of it opened recently.. a friend went and took a ride), but its gonna take years to build and some later phases are not funded yet. It too has also been met with NIMBYism too. At least Canadians are smart enough to see the benefit of the new line, but its been decades in the making.

The grass isn't always greener. I have lots of transit fan friend everywhere, and they can give you a laundry list of issues with their local system. Sometimes things aren't apparent until you live there and ride it daily for years. I have friends who love riding the T and think its great... until I talk :-)

Its all about perception folks. (I agree tho.. the T is awful compared to most systems!)


is my gold standard as of this year. Just watch your pockets.


Was just in Paris last weekend. I had fond memories of the Metro 10 years ago, but this time it was a nightmare we avoided.

Slow zones on the Metro actually reminded me of the T. And the fare boxes actually made me long for Boston. At least CharlieCard machines actually work and are easy to use; in the Paris Metro, we actually aborted one trip because the line was out the station - several machines didn’t work and the ones that did were so hard to use people took forever.

Yep, the grass is always greener.

I was there in May and every trip was hassle free. No ticket or station issues, trains every 5 mins or less, clean trains, etc.

Tunnel width, curves, platform offset from rails - those are all a function of size of the unit train car. Are the cars for different lines different width as well as length?
Go with the bigger cars (current Red Line), you might need to core out the tunnels for Blue & Orange in spots.
Go with the smaller cars (current Orange or Blue), you'd be chopping capacity off of the Red Line and you might have to retool all the platforms.


Would have to literally rebuild all the platforms because they have different heights. We'd have to rebuild everything to match whichever line is currently the smallest trains, because otherwise you'd be looking at redoing tunnels. The state is going to throw a fit about creating an accurate inventory of parts, you think they're going to go Sims City style and just start deleting things to get them all peak efficiency?

Perfect timing, Governor!


Thats what I said when she did the tax cut a few months ago.

I was like "uhh we got a failing transit system that could really use this $$$"


Until after the tax cut was safely passed


$1 Billion = $50,000 x 20,000. That's lots of brownies.


That's just a few brownies. Very very expensive brownies.


This is old news.... this 'state of repair' aka "we need money yesterday" has been going on with the MBTA for as long as I've lived in Boston (so 25 years). Each administration a report comes out like this, and with each administration nothing is done and the can gets kicked down a little bit further for the next administration to deal with.

No one wants to deal with this hot potato.. and hasn't for decades. And we wonder why the amount increases!?! When you don't do anything... uh things get worse.

Willing to bet that nothing is done and the can is yet kicked again down the road some.

The mbta is such a hot potato that any sort of real change (aka REAL funding) would be political suicide for most politicians and they know it. People who do not ride the T, do not want the money to go to "an agency with overpaid lazy workers" (their opinion, not mine), and will vote out anyone who does.

And then of course, we have to deal with Western Mass, whose reps always vote against this crap in the legislature because their constituents do not want to pay for something they do not use.

Hot potato.. hot potato...


I've given up our leadership to do anything about the T.

They've hired a competent fall guy. He'll ask for stuff, get nothing, and things will continue to get worse.

The problem isn't dollars, it's will. Nobody is willing to step up and deal with the problems at the T in any serious way.

Instead we get empty promises and nothing. I'm sick of it.

What a bunch of greedy corruption. I don't believe it. Where has all the money we gave you the past few years gone the past few years? Broken promises constantly.

Seems silly (and wasteful) to have multiple regional transit agencies plus the MBTA. Really time to make it all one system with one payment scheme. Maybe then we can get better transit everywhere across the state.

The transit agencies in MA apart from the MBTA are generally well run. Why bring them down with the T?

There's very little duplicate effects that could be cut by combining them. It would just increase the scope of the T and create more problems.


One transit agency for the entire state.

Yeah and how's NJ Transit working out for them? (I laugh as a former resident.) NJ Transit used to be in good shape until successive governors robbed them of funding. Heard that story before?

There isn't always economy of scale. Sometimes it's better to have smaller, separately run agencies with a narrow scope.


Ah, be fair - it wasn't ALL the fault of robbing them of funding. They did other things like park the trains at low ground near the beach for an incoming hurricane instead of inland high ground.
But, yeah - some was money.
They tried to hold train operator contracts down - lost some talent to other nearby railroads that were paying better and eventually had a lot of trouble with having sufficient personnel to cover service and fights over OT pay. That overlapped with the summer of hell repair schedule a few years ago and lots of trouble with canceled trains.
Also - they dragged their heels on Positive Train Control.
On the plus side, they haven't had much sleep apnea lately.

Oh!! Forgot to mention Trump being anti-Amtrak and anti-infrastructure in his term, which meant some impact on NJT.

Yes, NJ has one transit agency for the entire state - except when they don't.

In the case of NJ, it's not in-state regional agencies like MA. It's interstate agencies - PATCO between Camden/suburbs and Philadelphia, PATH between Newark/Harrison/Jersey City /Hoboken & NYC, and Metro-North (operating on some NJT tracks between Rockland County and Secaucus/Hoboken.
Also, NJ has private companies that run the commuter ferries and some commuter bus routes.

I'm sure the reaction of anyone who lives outside of 495 would be that all the money that currently goes to their regional transit agencies would be sucked into Boston, making their barely adequate service even more barebones.

There is an argument to be made that centralizing payment processing and fare collection could be useful. Not under the MBTA but establish a separate office under DOT, have it service fare machines, RFID cards, online payments, etc, for all the transit agencies across the state and allow the systems to all talk to each other.

Of course, increasingly mobile payments are going to make it all moot anyway.

in most of the state.

Transit equity anyone?

Wait. Let's fix the bad construction first. There are so many underground stations with deteriorating broken ceilings and deathtrap tunnels. What good are new trains if the infrastructure is dangerous.

Start by hitting up Alex Soros, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, etc., for a couple of billion each. A healthy MBTA promotes equity and helps save the planet.


"I didn't get rich by writing a bunch of checks."


Maybe Robert Kraft though...and while we are at it BPS is looking for 2 billion to rennovate or replace it's school buildings!


Maybe make long term MBTA infrastructure investment (10 years or more - with a stipulation that the money can’t go towards salaries) part of the deal for the Revs stadium in Everett the Krafts allllmoosst snuck through… if not for that pesky funding fight over emergency shelters that brought it into the sunlight.

For the next 10 years, impose a $350 special tax that each of the state's 7 million residents must pay. That's only $30 a month, a dollar a day.

Of course, people outside the T's service area might not think that wasn't fair. The MBTA service area roughly covers 1/2 the state population. So if only these people owed the tax, it would be $700/year, $2/day.

Another way to handle this is to impose a $2/sqft/year property tax to offices and homes within 1/4 mile of a mass transit stop. For every additional 1/4 mile, the tax decreases by 10 cents.


I’d fully support it. Unfortunately, most people just want the rich to pay so I doubt this would get any traction if really proposed.


I first did the calculations just out of curiosity as to what $24B equates to.

If the state is going to require high density near public transit, why not add special taxes to those units too? Isn't the expectation is that those residents are going to depend on the T?

The biggest question is how can basically every other transportation system outside of the US manage to spend So Much Less? America pays 10x per mile for new construction and upkeep compared to just about every other country. Something is seriously wrong and needs to change. Even with the "oldest subway in the world" it shouldn't cost billions just to keep what little we have running.


There is so much deferred maintenance , the T has been underfunded since I've been alive! Also how much of the Ts budget goes to retired workers pensions?

Brand new things cost 10x other countries and private industries and we get junk for the premium. And ongoing maintenance is way overpriced even for things that are too new to be considered "deferred".

My hunch is that there are so many well intentioned stipulations for government spending that don't actually make things better for anyone, they just raise costs.

You mean like requiring someone to build a brand new factory in Mass in order for us to buy trains from them? Resulting in investment in a factory that's going to be shutting down any minute and no new trains, when we could have bought them from an established company with a track record that's somewhere in the US?

Because if we are, you can actually look this up on your own. It's about 6%. Not nothing, but not backbreaking.


Not what it actually costs. The MBTA pension fund is massively underfunded. Latest numbers I can find are from 2021 where they calculated it was 53.6% funded! By 2038 it will be insolvent since the fund pays out $6 million more per month than it takes in.


Greedy hands off you Gordon Gecko wannabe.

Depends on what area outside of the US you're talking about.

European cities benefit from the fact a lot of them were leveled in WWII and so overall their systems were built to post-war standards, and the density and walkable lifestyles that already existed is a natural fit for encouraging everyday transit use (and thus, when the system breaks, EVERYONE gets mad). Regular ongoing care is always cheaper, long term, than emergency surgery.

In China, costs are kept low because the government is tyrannical and can just bulldoze whatever they want and don't have to worry about labor/safety issues. It's cheap to build when you aren't buying people out of their land and nobody can file a lawsuit to hold you up and you don't have to buy face masks to prevent asbestos poisoning.

Transit oriented units should be getting tax breaks, not higher taxes. We already subsidize car infrastructure development too much.

I notice there is nothing in here for hiring, training and inspection. We are also going to have spend some significant money on skilled people to /keep/ all of this in good shape, once we get it.

I note that the cost of trustworthy reliable craftspersons to conduct proper maintenance and repairs to specifications wasn't identified.

What about the cost of making it free?

That of course assumes nothing else changes like the fact they need $25B and that the pension fund is going insolvent.

Yet again I'm more and more impressed with Eng. This is a clear plan that is going to be massively unpopular and is a really, really tough sell. There's no political benefit whatsoever to roll out a plan with a 15 billion dollar price tag - which means it's being rolled out because it's NEEDED.

Now whether they'll get it, who knows. But unlike the years of the Baker admin, it feels like the people steering the ship finally actually care about transparency and uncovering the gaping wound beneath decades of layered bandaids. The inventory system issue in of itself is insane and I haven't seen that mentioned in earlier articles - somebody is finally doing digging here to lay everything on the table.

Today was shuttle day on the red line! T scumbags were charging to get on the red line before park, and then at JFK to continue. I politely mentioned it and some T hag did not like it much. Lucky me I have a monthly pass. Everyone else can sit and spin I reckon.

...if the impact of being saddled
with the debt of the "Big Dig"
is still adversely impacting the T?