FOX UNDERCOVER - Considering it is billions in debt, the fact that the MBTA is wasting money to keep outside lights on during the day may seem like a drop in the bucket.
But it was enough to prompt concerned taxpayer Ken Foscaldo, of Westwood, to try and do the right thing,. He wrote in to the T to alert the appropriate authority that it was needlessly burning electricity at a bus turnaround lot in West Roxbury.
"I noticed about 5:15 or so the lights were on, and daylight savings at that time the sunset was about 8, 8:15," he recalled.
FOX Undercover's camera caught the same thing – pole-mounted lights at a lot on Spring Street coming on even earlier, at 4:45 p.m., hours before the summer sun set.
But after weeks of waiting for a response, Foscaldo was shocked when the T replied that it didn't own the lot despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Things changed after an inquiry from FOX Undercover, at least at the West Roxbury lot.
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo emailed Foscaldo personally, writing, "After FOX 25 contacted me, I looked into the complaint you filed with us. You were correct about the lights belonging to the MBTA, and I apologize that someone gave you information to the contrary. Our engineering and maintenance department has dispatched a crew to the site to address the situation."
That same day, the T changed the timer on the lights and fixed the problem.
But Foscaldo sees the problem as bigger than a little wasted electricity.
"When they don't even handle this one small situation that was brought to their attention, I don't have much faith that they're handling any of it," he said.
MBTA Acting General Manager Jonathan Davis was apologetic.
"They shouldn't have been (on)," Davis said. "And to be quite honest with you, when we received the information from the customer we dropped the ball."
"One of our viewers wrote to the T. The T said nope, not our lot -- how did that happen?" asked FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet.
"It shouldn't have happened. That was misinformation that shouldn't have gotten out there," Davis replied.
The explanation is not making Foscaldo feel any better.
"If they're wasting money over a simple thing like lights, then I don't have a lot of trust that they're taking good care of the money that they have for other expenses," he said.
It's an understatement to say money is tight at the MBTA.
Billions in debt, it hiked fares and cut services to deal with this year's $185 million deficit, and is facing another deficit looming next year of at least $100 million.
"People hear about this and say if the T is wasting money on this, what else are they wasting money on?" Beaudet asked General Manager Davis.
"I understand that and I understand where our customer is coming from, but I would ask them to please let us know. But the things that they don't see is the cost saving measures that are taken by our employees every single day," Davis replied.
"Would you agree this is a waste of money?" Beaudet asked.
"I would say that we should be looking at all areas to save money within the MBTA, and if lights are going on earlier than they should or not coming off as soon as they should, we need to take a look at that and make the corrective actions necessary to fix it," he replied.
When asked if the T is checking other lots, the GM said he's hoping customers let the MBTA know if they see the lights on during the day.
When FOX Undercover checked, we found the lights on hours before sunset at the Riverside T station in Newton and at Sullivan Square in Charlestown.