Are we there yet?The Sad State of the MBTA

The Spotlight: Between rising fares and budget increases, Boston’s public transportation system doesn’t seem like it should be short on cash. But the T has shown no signs of being able to deploy its finances appropriately to be able to fix the issues that continue to plague travelers. Is it time to answer with our wallets... and take Bridj or Uber instead?

Know how it feels like the trains are always delayed?
Well, it’s because they pretty much are.

On-time rates


In September, both red and orange lines were far from meeting the MBTA’s on-time goal during peak hours.

Source: MBTA

Although you may do a little better on the blue or silver lines, where (for the same week), on-time rates hover in the mid 80% range.

Blue Line
On Time Rate

Silver Line
On Time Rate

Source: MBTA

Wonder about the green line? Yeah, us too. Unfortunately the MBTA is currently reporting 0 data about green line performance.

Are there any improvements in sight?
Well, the T’s budget has grown 44% in the last 8 years.

MBTA single-ride fare

And, the MBTA continues fare hikes to bring more money into the system.

Source: Boston Magazine

And not just a little bit more money, either. In fact, the price of a one-way subway ticket has increased by 110% since 2000.

Source: Boston Magazine

Yet even with these fare hikes and budget increases, the MBTA still projects that its annual operating deficit will more than double to almost $430 million by 2020 at it’s current pace.


So where’s all this money going? Well, certainly not to maintenance.
The cost to bring the T to a state of good repair is estimated to be more than $7 billion.


Yet despite all this, it’s a shock to see that the ridership on the T is still increasing.

Ridership on the T

Sources: Service and Infrastructure Profile: July, 2005, Ridership and Service Statistics: Eleventh Edition 2007, Thirteenth Edition 2010 and Fourteenth Edition 2014

No wonder we’re starting to see new commuter upstarts like Bridj enter the market!