OPMI is proud to release the first-ever MBTA Service Delivery Policy Annual Report.
The MBTA’s Service Delivery Policy (SDP) is a public document that states the MBTA’s objectives for delivering quality transit service to riders and sets standards for how success in this is measured. The Service Delivery Policy Annual Report is a newly developed document that contains an evaluation of the service the MBTA delivered to its riders in the Fall of 2021. The purpose of this report is to share the results of the SDP evaluation with the public and strengthen the MBTA’s accountability and transparency with its riders.
The MBTA considers several key aspects of service in this evaluation, including when transit service is available, how often it comes, what geographic areas have access to service, whether stations and service are accessible, how reliable the service is, and how crowded service is. The SDP is a rider-focused document and evaluates each of these service objectives from the rider perspective for all modes, including subway (Red Line, Blue Line, Orange Line, Green Line), bus, Commuter Rail, ferry, and the RIDE. Most standards also incorporate equity checks, evaluating whether the MBTA met it service standards for all riders, for riders of color, and for low-income riders.
Performance from Fall 2019 to Fall 2021 varied between measures, with small improvements in some measures and small decreases in others. Differences were primarily due to changes in service, ridership, and operator availability during the pandemic. For example, Span and Frequency decreased for low-ridership Commuter Buses with less scheduled service, and Service Operated for bus decreased due to operator shortages. Meanwhile, Frequency for Commuter Rail improved with the new regional rail schedule and Comfort for bus passengers improved with lower ridership. All SDP measures in Fall 2021 demonstrated equal or better performance for low-income riders and riders of color compared to overall.
Notably, bus performance for all mode-specific SDP measures is consistently lower than rapid transit, Commuter Rail, and ferry performance. Lack of dedicated right-of-way for most buses makes Reliability differences more expected (though transit priority investments can help mitigate this), and bus operator shortages during the pandemic may partially account for performance gaps in scheduled service measures (e.g. Span and Frequency). However, the multi-year trend points to a general need for increased investment in bus service, which the MBTA is doing in several ways through the Bus Network Redesign, modernizing bus facilities, and investing in transit priority.
The MBTA is continually using these metrics to make small tweaks to enhance performance while also planning for larger improvements. The MBTA uses these metrics to ensure service is meeting the standards set out in the SDP and help in conversations about how to best allocate resources to improve service into the future.