WGBH News Focus: The MBTA

Demand Could Outpace Supply on the T

By Jordan Weinstein

June 14, 2012
BOSTON — A new report from a leading land-use think tank warns that by the end of the decade, Boston’s subways could grow so packed that trains would roll past waiting commuters, unable to accommodate more riders.
The study from the Urban Land Institute finds that surging T ridership and booming construction around transit stations are poised to overwhelm the MBTA, potentially limiting future development and slowing the regional economy. Stephanie Pollack, the lead author of the study and a professor at Northeastern University, said the problem for the T is money.


"More riders would normally be a good news story," she said. "The problem is that the MBTA has serious financial problems and so the investments the T needs to make in order to accommodate those riders, they can't afford."
The MBTA shoulders the biggest debt burden of any transit agency in the nation.

In order to afford new cars to accommodate the increase in ridership, the researchers said Massachusetts has to provide help.
"We're talking about a billion-dollar investment just for the Red Line and the Orange Line cars. So we need to find resources that the Commonwealth would provide in order to let the T start the process of buying those new cars," Pollack said.
She added that replacing cars dating to the 1960s and power systems a century old is about more than safety and aesthetics: The Orange Line has trouble keeping enough balky cars in service to meet demand while the Green Line’s electrical system and fleet cannot support the number of three-car trolleys that ridership otherwise dictates.


About WGBH News Focus: The MBTA

Love it, like it or lump it, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority touches nearly everyone's lives in eastern Mass. And it's in financial crisis, with newly announced fare hikes not enough to cover next year's projected $100 million budget deficit. WGBH News features special focus coverage of the tracks and troubles of our public transit system.

About the Author
Jordan Weinstein Jordan Weinstein
Jordan Weinstein is a news anchor for NPR's All Things Considered on WGBH, 89.7 FM in Boston.

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The Fare and Service Plan

On July 1, the T will introduce fare increases and service cuts to cover a $159 million budget gap for the next fiscal year. Read the plan on mbta.com.


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