Saturday, May 18, 2024

Boston magazine is using this image to illustrate a story called “T is For Trouble.”

Every car in use on the MBTA’s orange line is “outdated,” 27 maintenance projects deemed critical for safety two years ago are still unfunded and the T — already $8.6 billion in debt — has a roughly $3 billion backlog of maintenance projects.

That’s all according to “T is For Trouble,” an article by Jason Schwartz featured in the upcoming issue of Boston magazine.

The feature makes the argument that the more the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority spends on debt service, the less it can spend keeping the system safe and reliable, and it shows how the state got into this mess and even suggests solutions.

The possibilities include charges to universities (Chicago got schools to buy $100-per-student semester passes) and extracting fees from hospitals and businesses that benefit most from public transit.

General Manager Richard Davey also wants out from the $1.7 billion in debt handed it from the Big Dig.

“If we could take those [commitments] off our books, that saves about $110 million per year in debt service,” Davey told Schwartz. “Next year, I’ve got about a $110 million deficit.”

That’s not likely to happen, though, which means Davey will instead have to get tougher on fare dodgers and charge more from suburban drivers who park and ride to work.

Will it work?

Not when “to say that the MBTA is in debt is like saying it snowed here in 1978,” Schwartz writes.

By the way, the orange line is by far the worst in terms of outdated passenger cars, Schwartz says. As might be obvious to riders, the green line is the next worst, with 43 percent of its cars deemed outdated; the red line is 34 percent outdated; and the blue line, only 16 percent.