Category Archives: MTA

Hogan Restructuring MTA

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, has fired Robert Smith, a Democratic appointee, as head of the Maryland Transit Administration. This move is part of a larger effort to restructure MTA in the face of problems of facing the agency:

The agency is a year late in producing a promised plan for improvements to its beleaguered Baltimore bus network, is facing a class-action lawsuit from transit riders with disabilities who use its Mobility service, and hasn’t met a state mandate that it provide 35 percent of its operating budget through fare revenue since 2005.

Ridership across all MTA transit modes — including local buses, light rail and MARC train service — was down in 2014, though it has rebounded some this year.

The Baltimore bus network has been a particular problem. MTA’s inadequate slow motion plan to improve buses is scheduled over 18 years. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Transportation Secretary plans to review the plan.

Smith explained that aging infrastructure is a big part of the challenges that MTA faces:

“It’s an aging system. The Metro itself is 30 years old. The light rail is at mid-life,” he said.

MTA Financial Fail

This one is going to cost us way more than Charlie’s proverbial nickel. The Baltimore Sun reports:

The Maryland Transit Administration failed to verify the accuracy of millions of dollars in contractor-submitted architectural and engineering costs for the Red and Purple light rail lines, according to a state audit released Monday.

The unverified labor bills from four contractor groups hired to work on the two pending transit lines, scheduled for Baltimore and the Washington suburbs, respectively, account for or relate to $232.8 million in overall costs under the multibillion-dollar projects, the audit found.

And we ought to be concerned that the accuracy of expenditures were not verified because:

The joint ventures were originally awarded contracts not to exceed $280 million, but the value of those contracts was increased in July 2013 to $547.1 million, the audit found.

The lack of checks on expenditures has led to waste such as:

• $10 million in overpayments to Mobility Paratransit Program vendors for fuel.

• Nearly $500,000 in payments of excise tax on fuel that the agency is exempt from paying.

This no worries attitude is especially shocking because one of the major firms involved in the project–Parsons Brinckerhoff–also played a key role in designing the fiasco known as the Silver Spring Transit Center.

Failing Disabled Marylanders

The audit further legitimated claims by disability rights advocates that MTA is failing them::

The audit also found the agency failed to properly oversee eligibility for its mobility program, something advocates for people with disabilities also alleged in a lawsuit recently filed against the agency.

MTA does not contest the audit’s results.

Accountability

Who in MTA is responsible? Will anyone be held accountable for this two-fold scandal–not just waste of public funds but failure even to keep track of how they are being spent?