March 29, 2017: MASCO CEO Testifies on MBTA Strategic Plan

The MBTA, in development of its Strategic Plan, invited MASCO to offer comments and insight. MASCO President and CEO Marilyn Swartz-Lloyd offered the following to the board regarding the T and the LMA:

"The effective staunching of escalating operating costs by $192 million in two years is very impressive. These activities have begun to restore the public’s faith in the MBTA system and the Fiscal and Management Control Board’s term should be extended through FY2020 in order to continue this rigorous forward momentum.

The plan is important to the Longwood Medical and Academic Area, MASCO and its 22 employers because we have continued to grow over the last 100 years. We will grow by over 6.5 million gsf and add another 12,000 jobs by 2030. This growth is on top of sustained growth over the last 15 years of over 5 million gsf and a current employee base of over 46,000. Every year our institutions hire an average of 800 people.

Our institutions are struggling to improve access, safety and connectivity for all modes required to serve the over 110,000 daily trips to the LMA today as well as serve future needs. We’ve moved half of our employees out of cars to MBTA buses, rapid transit and commuter rail to get to work. These commuters are not only doctors, nurses and researchers, but call center operators, child care workers and food service employees. Public transit has to be available and reliable in order for Longwood employers to continue encouraging employees not to drive. But trains have grown increasingly crowded. As a Green Line rider, I used to hope that I could get a seat on the train; now I hope that I can just get on the train. For one of the single most important economic assets in the Commonwealth, assuring Longwood’s future growth through additional transit is essential. 

We support the Vision, Mission and Values Statements in the Board’s plan, as well as your 10 guiding principles and top five priorities including:


  • Accelerating capital delivery spending to eliminate the State of Good Repair (SOGR) backlog in 15 years rather than 25 years. Ten years would be even better. SOGR needs to be attended to in a much timelier way in the future, so that the system never falls back into such a deep hole;
  • Having Automated Fare Collection in place by FY2020;
  • Driving operating costs down and increasing own source revenues by FY2021;
  • A comprehensive reinvention of the bus system, working with the City of Boston, with a focus on reliability, amenities and customer service; and
  • Completing a plan for fleet, facilities, and service for the core system to accommodate growth related to economic development. 

We have supported the expansion of new bus maintenance facilities so that you can improve bus services in the region. We have supported indexing additional sales taxes to inflation so that the MBTA can improve its performance. We have testified to keep fare increases down so services are affordable. Because of the Longwood Area’s reliance on MBTA bus, rapid transit and commuter rail, we offer the following suggestions for your consideration in the comprehensive fleet/facilities and service plan for the core system.

Green Line

As you know, the Longwood Area is particularly reliant upon reliable, high capacity Green Line services. We believe that more specific objectives and timelines for addressing Green Line issues would be helpful in the plan. Given that the Green Line is identified as the most used light rail transit line in the country and experiences the most derailments, what are the specific plans and timelines for safety improvements and vehicle procurement on the Green Line?  We understand the Federal requirements for improved safety on commuter rail lines, however when the Green Line carries nearly twice the number of passengers as commuter rail, it would seem that Green Line improvements should be next in line. While the Strategic Plan notes the development of procurement safeguards for the acquisition of new Green Line vehicles, there is no plan for their actual acquisition. What prioritization can be made to accelerate the acquisition of new Green Line cars to add capacity and to take advantage of safety and speed improvements?

Commuter Rail

LMA commuters are also heavily reliant on an improved Commuter Rail system. As you ‘rethink’ the commuter rail system and capacity improvements identified for commuter rail, we recommend that you go beyond “urban rail” and include suburb to city and reverse commute needs based on regional growth, and the demographic shifts due to housing affordability.

Core System Service Plan

In the comprehensive fleet/facilities and service plan for the core system we suggest that the plan more consistently enumerate specific objectives and timelines in each section and for each core service, including a completion date for the plan. The document states that core service capacity targets will be completed by the end of 2017. Have you considered how the plan will be impacted if the ridership growth exceeds the maximum capacity of the core system? For the bus system, it would be important to include objectives that relate to reliability and headways and a timeline for the creation of additional bus maintenance facilities. We are pleased to see the creation of additional bus maintenance facilities as referenced in the Strategic Plan.

Finally, we hope that the final Strategic Plan will be accompanied by a financial plan for the short and long term. The FMCB should not be afraid to say what funding is needed not only to fund SOGR but also new projects needed to support our economic growth.  We recognize that the Focus40 process will focus on new system needs through 2040 and that process is trailing the Strategic Plan process by several months. It will be important for FCMB to put a stake in the ground in the Strategic Plan on the financial planning and budget requirements for future system needs, beyond the short term and into the longer future term."