Threat to MBTA Might Make Commuter Rail Better in Boston

I read a small article that may have a big ramification in the Springfield Republican when I was having my car serviced. It said that in Boston, the MBTA, the people who run the T, are facing a challenge from another company that wants to bid on running the bus and subway systems.

Ridership is down 17%, unlike in most other parts of the country where the hottest real estate markets are next to commuter train stations and other ways to avoid having to drive our own cars. In June 2014, Keolis a Spanish company that operates transit systems in Washington DC’s suburbs, will bid on taking over from MBTA. From a Boston Globe story about it:

“According to ridership records maintained by the American Public Transportation Association, between spring 2003 and the same period in 2013, average weekday ridership for the Massachusetts commuter rail fell by 12.5 percent — even though the populations of counties served grew between 2000 and 2010.

Gregory Sullivan, research director at the Pioneer Institute, a public policy research center, said the drop-off under MBCR’s management should serve as a red flag.

“It’s a very troubling and disturbing trend,” Sullivan said. “And I think much of the fault for that falls on the current operator.”

In New York City, transit ridership is up 15%, and many people complain that late trains and breakdowns have caused them to give up riding Boston’s system. It’s nice to think that a little competition might jolt the unionized MBTA into doing a better job. So far Keolis surveys of riders in Washington DC say that they’re happy with the change.