Last week, the engine on one of Boston’s Orange Line trains overheated and ignited some trash, filling traincars with smoke. Passengers broke windows to escape. Three people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
The scare focused attention on long-standing maintenance problems for the T: It’s underfunded, upkeep is falling behind, and the quality of service is suffering. Orange Line trains, many of which are three decades old, were in line for replacement later this year. Not soon enough to prevent last week’s meltdown.
“The problem we have is a problem of literally decades of disinvestment,” former Massachusetts DOT director Jim Aloisi told Streetsblog.
But state and local support for the MBTA is far below what peer agencies receive, according to TransitCenter, leaving the agency at the whim of federal funding sources. Compared to New York’s MTA, for example, the share of the agency’s capital budget that comes from federal sources is nearly two-thirds higher. If state and local support for MBTA capital expenses were proportional to the MTA, it would add $3 billion to the agency’s five-year capital budget.