Gov. Charlie Baker once had the foresight to tackle the T’s problems head-on. Where is that energy, now?  

A derailment and a bloody escalator malfunction last week, a report predicting “fiscal calamity” for the agency, a BU professor’s deadly fall from a rusting staircase at the JFK/UMass Red Line station two weeks before and a troubling Green Line crash this summer have thrust the MBTA’s true state of slow decay back into public view after Baker and state legislators have spent months studiously sidestepping the topic. 

Baker’s praiseworthy Fiscal and Management Control Board expired – with ample advance notice – months ago. The FMCB was vital in helping T leadership make a serious dent in reforming the agency and moving modernization and repair projects forward. But the agency is still far from perfect, and the drumbeat of bad news shows that, for all his skills, giving General Manager Steve Poftak carte blanche isn’t working. 

But naming a replacement oversight board – however belatedly – won’t be enough. The T needs a stable source of revenue to fund its operations, and a separate, equally stable one to fund its capital expenditures. The agency faces a $500 million operating deficit by fiscal year 2026, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation warned in mid-September, thanks to a fiscal structure that relies too heavily on farebox revenue out of a misguided sense that public goods must pay for themselves. On the capital side of the house, the picture is even bleaker: a “capital sources cliff” in fiscal year 2025 when the T has to make at least $20 billion in repairs, maintenance and climate change investments by 2031. This is not the kind of money we can hope our compromised Congress will dole out in due course – we need to find much of it here in Massachusetts. 

It’s not like Baker, House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka are unfamiliar with the T’s problems. As Livable Streets Coalition Executive Director Stacy Thompson pointed out at a State House press conference last week, 30 reports have been published over the last 20 years detailing the agency’s lack of stable funding, lack of sufficient oversight and safety concerns.  

Our political leaders must understand every incident on the T ripples outward to hurt residents and businesses everywhere. A power problem that sidelines part of the Blue Line – sadly, a regular occurrence – means buses get pulled from many routes north of downtown Boston, including some of the system’s busiest, making thousands of bus riders late to work or meals with family and friends, or to pick their children up from school. 

It’s time Beacon Hill stopped dodging responsibility for setting the T up for success at a time when we all need it – urban essential workers, car drivers trapped in our region’s horrible traffic and everyone hoping we can lower carbon emissions before global warming puts Boston and other coastal communities physically under water. 

Letters to the editor of 300 words or less may be submitted via email at with the subject line “Letter to the Editor,” or mailed to the offices of The Warren Group. Submission is not a guarantee of publication.  

T Needs Revenue and Leadership

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min