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MBTA boss: We secretly cut schedules to cut costs

Associated Press | 3/11/2009, 11:20 a.m.


The practice left customers expecting rides that either arrived late or not at all.

Daniel Grabauskas, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, told the Boston Herald for Saturday editions he has moved to end what he calls “hidden service cuts.” But he added that customers were lied to for years so the T could claim to operate at a level of service it was not delivering.

“We were not telling the truth to our customers before when we were not delivering the service that was scheduled,” Grabauskas said. “But we began to remedy that when I came on two years ago, and I know we’ve improved service.”

Grabauskas, who was hired as general manager in May 2005, said he agreed to talk about the hidden service cuts because of a need for more truth in the agency’s budgeting.

The worst of the problem came in fiscal years 2005 and 2006, when the MBTA was cutting more than 3,000 trips a month, Grabauskas said. That’s a small portion of the T’s 600,000 monthly bus and subway trips, but it still meant commuters were relying on incorrect schedules.

Records for the current fiscal year show that between 1,000 and 1,800 bus trips are being dropped monthly, and about 80 per month are being dropped on the four subway lines.

Grabauskas attributed the improvement to the hiring of about 300 employees across bus, subway and maintenance divisions. Management kept staffing artificially low in 2004 and 2005 so the agency could keep upfront costs down, he said. That low staffing meant there were not enough employees to operate its bus and subway lines, he said.

“I had one very [senior] person say to me, ‘We knew we were dropping bus trips, so we’d go to the communities where we were dropping trips out of garages — and we would lie to people,’” Grabauskas said.

Grabauskas’ disclosure comes amid continuing financial troubles for the T. The agency is facing $75 million dollar deficit in the next fiscal year, in part because of its heavy debt.

State Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, said MBTA riders are paying for the continual overburdening of the transit system. Lawmakers recently committed the T to new services such as the Silver Line bus route and the Greenbush commuter rail to the South Shore.

“I’m not surprised whatsoever the agency is having service problems after undergoing a massive over-expansion when it was already broke,” Hedlund said.

(Associated Press)