Healey plans overhaul of MBTA management
Maura Healey, the lone Democratic candidate vying for governor, released a transportation plan on Tuesday that would overhaul top management at the MBTA, set aggressive electrification goals, and establish low-income fares “with a pathway to fare free buses.”
The plan says Massachusetts cannot have a functioning economy without a functioning transportation system. “Right now, it isn’t working. The status quo isn’t working,” Healey said in an interview.
Many of the initiatives she is supporting would come with hefty price tags. Healey’s plan does not get into specifics on how much money would be needed and how it would be raised. In an interview, she said federal funds and the tax on income over $1 million, if it passes in November, would be available.
“Maura is committed to working with federal partners, legislative leadership, businesses, and local communities to think creatively on how we increase revenue, without relying on passenger fares,” the plan says. “Maura believes that there is not one specific funding source that will solve the long-term underinvestment in our transportation system.”
She also indicated she would appoint new leaders at the MBTA, including a general manager and deputy general managers for operations and capital planning. The T currently has a deputy general manager focused on operations, while capital planning and development duties are split between a senior director and a chief.
Healey’s plan indicates she favors something in between the “oversized presence” of the Fiscal and Management Control Board that was in place for several years and the more hands-off approach of the current MBTA board. The next governor will have five appointees to the seven-person board, and Healey’s plan said she wants the panel to collaborate with MBTA leadership but also “challenge, when appropriate, and intervene if necessary.”
Healey said the T’s workforce is demoralized and short-handed. She said she would work with high schools, vocational technical schools, and community colleges to create a pipeline for the next generation of transportation workers.
“It’s not just investing in the trains and in the parts and in the switches and in the rail lines. It’s also about investing in the human capital,” she said.
Healey appears to support most of the capital projects backed by transit advocates, including building a connection between the Red and Blue subway lines, West-East rail, and converting the Fairmount and Rockport/Newburyport commuter rail lines to subway-style service. She listed West-East rail as a priority and said she would appoint a director to focus exclusively on that project.
She also supports expanding the overall frequency of commuter rail service as well as bus service provided by regional transit authorities.
Healey said she favors the establishment of a low-income MBTA fare and eventually fare-free buses.
Healey also committed to 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, an increase from the current target of 750,000.
Raising the passing score: The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8-3 to raise the minimum passing score on the 10th grade MCAS test, which is required to graduate from high school. The board also required higher test scores to qualify for an alternative pathway to graduation centered around course work.
– Starting with students entering ninth grade this fall, the minimum passing grade on the 10th grade English language arts test will rise from 472 to 486. The math and science test scores will not change. Under an amendment approved by the board, the passing score on both the English and math tests will rise to 500 for students entering ninth grade in the fall of 2023. The minimum score to qualify for the alternative pathway to graduation will rise to 470 from 455 in English and 469 in math.
– Supporters of the changes said the passing scores needed to be raised because students who barely passed under the old system were not succeeding in college and in the job market.
– Nearly 100 state lawmakers, most public commenters, and the state’s two teacher unions opposed the change. They said raising the minimum score would disproportionately affect students with disabilities, English learners, and Black and Latino students. “If the state’s goal is racial and social equity, this is the wrong way to go,” the lawmakers wrote. Read more.
Road reverberations: Baker administration officials said the month-long shutdown of the Orange Line starting this Friday will lead to significant and severe traffic congestion in Boston. Some of the congestion will be caused by people driving instead of riding public transit, but the officials indicated most of it would be caused by mitigation efforts, including dedicated lanes, closed streets, and new pickup/dropoff locations for the replacement shuttle buses. Read more.
Split on Trump: The two Republican candidates for lieutenant governor – Leah Cole Allen and Kate Campanale – favor lower taxes and less government, but they are split on former president Donald Trump. Allen, who is campaigning with Geoff Diehl, who has been endorsed by Trump, said she is running on the policies of the former president. Campanale, who is campaigning with Chris Doughty, said Trump’s endorsement of Diehl guarantees he will lose the gubernatorial election in November if he wins the primary. Read more.
Prison data dive: A new searchable database shows how the state’s prison population has declined, from 17,000 in 2017 to 11,200 this year. Critics say the data dive, required by the criminal justice reform law of 2018, still has a ways to go. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Michael Cox is sworn in as Boston police commissioner. (WBUR) Cox says he’s looking ahead, not back at the incident he’s best known for, as he takes the reins as Boston’s new police commissioner. (Boston Globe)
In Stockbridge, a proposal to shift more of the tax burden on to seasonal homeowners is dividing the town. Seasonal homeowners own half of the single-family homes in the municipality. (Berkshire Eagle)
Meet Cathy Draine, Everett’s new diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. (GBH)
The Justice Department opposes release of the affidavit used as part of the basis for last week’s FBI search of Donald Trump’s home in Florida, which multiple media outlets asked a court to make public, saying it could jeopardize the investigation and pose a threat to those involved. (Washington Post)
The son of Larry O’Brien, the man whose office was broken into at the start of the Watergate scandal, says his father would have been “disturbed and flabbergasted” by what is happening in Washington today. (MassLive)
Maura Healey releases her first TV ad of the gubernatorial campaign. (MassLive)
Joan Vennochi says Healey’s prosecution of former Republican state senator Dean Tran in the midst of his congressional run against Rep. Lori Trahan “does seem odd” and “has some optics of overreach.” (Boston Globe)
Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington defends her leadership of the office in a debate with challenger Timothy Shugrue, who points to his experience in the courtroom. (Berkshire Eagle)
The two candidates for Berkshire County sheriff differ on whether women inmates should be held in a facility in Chicopee. Challenger Alfred Barbalunga said he would bring the women home to Berkshire County while incumbent Thomas Bowler said he has asked each of the female inmates and they prefer Chicopee. (Berkshire Eagle)
Against the state’s vast sea of uncontested legislative races, the race for the 10th Bristol House seat looks like a raucous free-for-all of electoral energy, with contested Democratic and Republican primaries in the district for the first time in 66 years, as incumbent Democrat Bill Straus seeks re-election. (New Bedford Light)
The state eases its recommended COVID precautions in K-12 schools. (State House News Service)
With a shortage of dorm space, UMass Amherst will house 120 students in an off-campus Econo Lodge hotel. (MassLive)
The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst is reopening after a makeover. (WBUR)
The MBTA has paid out nearly $60 million in overtime so far this year. (Boston Herald)
Police departments acquire more semi-automatic weapons to respond to an increasing number of mass shootings. (Standard-Times)
Smith & Wesson declines to provide requested information to Congress about mass shootings, saying the questions are designed to embarrass the company. (MassLive)
Dan Kennedy offers more grim commentary on the layoffs at Gannett. (Media Nation)PASSINGS
Robert Marr, who helped raise the money for the original Boys and Girls Club, which was named after his father, Col. Daniel Marr, died at age 86. (Dorchester Reporter)