^ T General manager Beverly Scott, who should report to Governor Charlie Baker but does not because, inexplicably and illogically, the Governor does not control the T’s Board of Governors. —- —- —- —- —- —-
MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott has it right. “Give them the resources that they need, and that means there has to be significant investment and reinvestment in this system.” Scott’s cry for help sounds extreme, yet if anything it’s not extreme enough. The Boston area’s public transit system — the “MBTA,” Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority” — needs not just investment and re-investment. It needs a complete re-make, and now, with the “T”‘s services rendered entirely hors de combat, is the time to start doing it.
What do I mean by “re-making” ? Read my list :
1. replace current tracks and signals with entirely new, state of the art lines both weather resistant and internet-capable. This goes for the commuter rail as well as the transit lines.
2. replace every train on the Red, Green, Orange, and Blue Lines that doesn’t use AC motors, or is not weather-resistant, or which has reached its sell-by date full of mechanical band-aid fixes.
3. Make every outdoor bus kiosk or “T” station fully winter-heated and weather-protected.
4.extend the Green Line to West Medford, the Blue Line to Lynn, the Orange Line to Needham. Connect East Boston to the Seaport District by way of the Silver Line.
5. put wi fi in every “T” train and make sure that very newly bought bus has wi fi capability — and an inside heater that works properly.
6. buy the T’s $ 9 million dollar debt thereby freeing up T funds for use by the T itself !
7. raise fares by 50 percent.
8. Fund the T’s unfunded pension liability and reform the union contracts so that workers contribute a larger share of the contract’s benefits.
9. Publish the T’s performance record on line as well as each division’s budget on a quarterly basis. Every meeting of the T’s Board of Governors should be live-streamed and its minutes put online as soon as printed.
10. Reform the Board of Governors so that an incoming Governor has immediate control thereof, rather than having to wait our years to acquire it, as is the case at present. Whose interest does it serve to deny the Governor power to govern an operation as vital as the T ? Certainly not the public interest.
11.To the extent feasible, Issue state bonds to fund this re-make. For the remaining funds, apply for Federal transportation assistance; but expect also to enact new state taxes to get this job done. The resulting system will reward the entire Commonwealth many times over.
And what about Scott herself ? That her salary is — reportedly — $ 375,000 certainly holds her to a high standard. Baker and Mayor Walsh are said not to be fans; my own view is that, as with Olga Roche at the DCF last year, the blame for the T’s collapse should not be attributed to Scott. That would deflect the public from the real problem, which is the system itself, not its manger. As with Roche, whose resignation came only after repeated DCF failures, Scott would most effectively be replaced as part of the much larger reforms I have outlined, especially reform of the T’s Board of Governors.
We are fortunate that this all-in mission to completely make over the “T” has a huge catalyst : the Boston2024 Olympics cannot happen without a vastly reconfigured transit system in place. 2023 thus becomes a deadline for finishing the job. This gives us a bit more than eight years to rebuild, a time slot much shorter than required two decades ago by the Big Dig. Add the hurry to the hugely bigger constituency that cares about the Olympics, and you may have a critical mass of political momentum for T reform.
Catalyst or not, the question remains: how, politically, will this mission get enacted ? For this question I have no answer as yet. T riders have shown no political power at all. Many are students, many more are immigrants (and of those, many likely undocumented); the t also serves the lame, the blind, those whose disabilities prevent them from driving. Ride a T bus at 5.30 in the morning and look around you. The people aboard are not of the world of power or pelf. Far from it.
Olympics and the T ; this is the hour. So how to ring it in ? Start with this : the Governor and the Speaker of the House, Charlie Baker and Robert DeLeo, need to have a serious conversation in which they forge a consensus and then hold a joint press conference announcing it. It would help, too, to have Senate President Stanley Rosenberg join the conversation from the outset.
Let the mission begin. Our state deserves it.
—- Mike Freedbeerg / Here and Sphere