The BLOG: Voices

MBTA still has room for improvement

On Saturday a week ago, some friends and I went to the Zac Brown Band concert at Fenway Park. My friends suggested that we take the Framingham/Worcester line of the Commuter Rail, as Yawkey station is less than 200 yards from the stadium. It seemed like an excellent idea, as we could ride in comfort and avoid the exorbitant parking fees around Fenway Park. So we boarded the train at 5:25 p.m., which was on time, and along with several hundred other people, we exited the train after a short ride of 25 minutes in good time to enjoy the atmosphere and get into the park.

The surprise on our trip was that no one took our tickets. It was a free ride. Everyone in our group had their mobile ticket app ready, but no conductor ever entered our car. It was a nice $6 gift for those of us on the train but the MBTA lost several thousand dollars in revenue from this oversight or MBTA inefficiency.

Some months ago, I went to a presentation given by MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve. He was appointed to this position by Governor Charlie Baker in July 2015 following the report of the Governor’s Special Panel, which was established to review the MBTA and outline a plan to reform and improve the MBTA. There is no question that Brian Shortsleeve and his team have accomplished a great deal over the past year. Absenteeism is down, rigorous budgeting has been introduced, costs have been cut significantly and service has improved. But clearly the MBTA has a ways to go.

After the wonderful Zac Brown Band concert ended, we made our way back to Yawkee station. Many in the sellout crowd gathered on the platform to wait for the 10:50 train out to the western suburbs. There were surely more than 1,000 people waiting. Right on time the train came though the Pru tunnel and arrived at Yawkey. There was barely enough room on the cars for the large crowd and a scramble to find seats ensued, but there were only a few who had to stand.

It was, indeed, the simplest, least expensive and most efficient way to go to a concert or a game at Fenway from the western suburbs. I would recommend that everyone use this mode of transportation to games and events at Fenway Park.

But, to my amazement, no tickets were collected going home. One of the avowed goals of the action plan to fix the MBTA is capture self-generated revenues from fares. The MBTA probably lost $10,000 in revenue on these two trips. Now $10,000 is not much in the scheme of things for the MBTA, but if conductors neglect to collect fares on hundreds or thousands of similar train rides, much revenue is being lost. Clearly still lots of room for improvement at the MBTA.

Robert Bradley

Robert Bradley

Robert Bradley is an investment advisor and entrepreneur. The views expressed in this column are his own and not those of his investment management firm. Read his past columns here.