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The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is "gaining speed" in its plan to drive down costs and improve operations, according to the latest annual report from the agency's Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB).Although the MBTA's operating budget deficit was projected to reach $242 million in fiscal-year 2017, the actual deficit for the year was $30 million. That improvement stemmed from $37 million in internal cost controls and $30 million debt service savings, the report stated.The savings are going directly to system improvements, MBTA officials said in a press release. In addition, the FMCB's report noted that the agency has come a long way "institutionally and operationally" toward developing and implementing strategies for long- and short-term improvements.At the same time, the board recognizes that the daily realities of many T riders "do not necessarily align with this view of long-term progress," the report's authors wrote."Too many system users still experience T service that is late, inadequate, or otherwise unreliable. Fixing a system as complex and challenged as the T was never going to be quick or easy," the report stated.Still, the agency's fiscal discipline, leadership and other organizational changes have led to a "much improved" organization since the board was created in 2015, the report added.The report also noted the MBTA's progress on the Green Line extension project, which had been delayed due to cost overruns. The $2 billion light-rail project is now poised for construction, the report stated.In November, the MBTA selected a Fluor Corp.-led joint venture to serve as the design-build team for the extension. In addition, the report highlighted the MBTA's efforts to speed up track improvements on the existing Green Line. Crews replaced nearly 25,000 feet of track and helped reduced rail defects by 50 percent."We still have work to do, but we believe that our most important stakeholders — the people who use and pay for the T every day — will continue to experience steady improvements as the system becomes more reliable and capable of meeting this region’s current and future needs," said FMCB Chairman Joseph Aiello.To learn more about the MBTA's reform efforts over the last few years, read this feature from Progressive Railroading's February issue.
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