Baker FCB

Governor Baker swears in members of the MBTA’s Fiscal Control Board

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Last Friday, Governor Baker appointed the five members of the Fiscal Control Board (FCB) that will oversee every detail of MBTA operations. On Monday they held their first meeting. It is now Wednesday, and already the FCB has issued a significant, innovative order to improve transit service to the public.

The FCB ordered that the $ 7,500,000 in non-performance fines paid by Keolis, the company that operates the MBTA’s CommuterRail lines, will be used to hire additional Keolis staff, to do a variety of things not being done well enough or at all; in particular, additional fare collectors will be hired.

Failure to collect several millions of Commuter Rail fares was an issue raised at the Hearing held by the Legislature’s Transportation¬† Committee, at which the Governor;’s MBTA reform legislation was testified about — including extensive testimony by the Governor himself. There, the Governor expressed a resolve not to have to hear of non-collection of Commuter Rail fares ever again; and State Senator Tom McGee, chairman of the Committee, responded in kind : “believe me, we don’t want to heart of it again either.”

The FCB’s move almost guarantees that fare collection will be a problem solved.

Some have complained that the $ 7,500,000 was not allotted to track and switching repairs first., I find the complaint misplaced and uninformed. Three weeks ago Governor Baker announced that he was postponing a $ 200,000,000 order of new trains for the Fairmount CommuterRail line so that those very track and switching repairs could be made.

If this level of complaint previews the criticisms that Governor Baker can expect of his MBTA reform, there will truly be nothing to see there. Yet there’s worse. Today a State Senator posted on facebook that the FCB’s fare collector hiring is an example of “privatization” and thus to be decried. Is he serious ? In what way is it “privatization” to use Keolis money the better to do Keolis’s job ?

Or perhaps the Senator is telling us that Keolis, a private company, shouldn’t have been hired in¬† the first place (by the previous administration, let us recall) and that instead the Carmens’ Union should run the CommuterRail ? I almost wonder why that sounds like a very, very bad idea.

The FCB is going to rethink how the MBTA is run. It is not going to accept an inefficient practice when there’s an efficient one available. It is not going to cling to a process that opens doors to failure when there’s processes available that have fewer exits. The FCB is going to evaluate what works, and who; and what does not work, and who. The public has a right to nothing less, and the Governor is right to insist that MBTA personnel remember who they’ve been hired to serve — and at what level of taxpayer cost.

The FCB’s thoroughgoing overhaul of the MBTA’s workplace culture prerequisites what is needed next : new cars and trains, T line expansion, and the personalization of ridership service. And guess what / Better T service is good for T employees, too, including the Carmen’s Union’s own survival — whether or not they realize it so far.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere