Improving Our Transportation System

At the end of October, my colleagues and I sent a letter to MassDOT urging the agency to address the frequent delays and cancellations by the commuter rail and subway lines that have made it increasingly difficult for commuters to travel to and from work. In the letter, we requested that MassDOT provide a comprehensive plan to address the many shortfalls of the public transit system, provide an explanation for the forgiveness of Keolis fines despite substandard service, and to immediately reevaluate its eight-year, $2.7 billion contract with Keolis.

This week, we received a response from MassDOT, which affirmed the need for significant improvements to the public transit system. Currently, MassDOT is working with Keolis to develop a performance improvement plan, which MassDOT believes will allow them to more closely monitor operations. Keolis has compiled a commuter rail performance report, which was submitted as part of the MaasDOT response, which contains plans and timelines for system improvements, such as increasing the number of available locomotives and coaches. Through the implementation of this plan, MassDOT and Keolis hope to provide safer, more reliable service for commuters.

In our initial letter, we also raised concerns with the state’s forgiveness of over $800,000 in Keolis fines for deficient service during February and March of 2015 without disclosing the decision to the public. According to MassDOT’s letter of response, the decision to forego additional fines for February and March was required by the Force Majeure Clause of Keolis’s contract, which excuses any “failure or delay” caused by “severe weather.” MassDOT also notes its plan to release this information to the public in the future.

While I am surprised that the contract even contemplated a waiver of fines in the event that Keolis fails to provide adequate service due to inclement weather, I will continue to urge MassDOT to reevaluate its contract to ensure greater consistency and transparency when measuring commuter rail performance and assessing penalties.

Going forward, it is important that you continue to inform me of your experiences on the commuter rail and subway. With the winter months quickly approaching, I am determined to do everything I can to ensure safe and efficient public transit service. It is my priority to hold MassDOT accountable and I will continue to strongly advocate for greater reliability and transparency to improve our overall transportation system.