Is it time to shake up the MBTA board?

A correction has been added to this story.

In the debate over the future of the MBTA, very little attention has been paid to the relatively new board that oversees the transit authority.

The board began its work last fall and adopted a very different style from its predecessor, the Fiscal and Management Control Board. 

The previous board was criticized by a safety panel it hired in 2019 for meeting too frequently and for too long and for taking up too much of the staff’s time, even though state law required the board to meet three times a month. When the new board was created, the law required the board to meet at least once a month and the panel on its own adopted  a more hands-off approach, letting MBTA management set the agenda. (This paragraph was corrected to make clear that the number of meetings per month was set by state law.)

“That’s quite intentional,” chair Betsy Taylor told CommonWealth in December. “The secretary of transportation and the GM [of the MBTA] worked with the governor and the Legislature to create this new board. They wanted it to be more like the [Department of Transportation] board. They did not want it to be a control board.” 

Yet with the MBTA facing a federal safety review and lawmakers on Beacon Hill asking whether the transit authority should be abolished and rolled into the Department of Transportation, some transportation advocates are beginning to question whether the new board is too passive. 

“They are not probing or using as much of their oversight authority as they could,” said Brian Kane, executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, which represents the municipalities in the transit authority’s service area. 

Both the former control board and the new T board are made up almost entirely of appointees of Gov. Charlie Baker. That, too, was by design, to give the governor direct control of the MBTA. 

The old board, particularly toward the end of its nearly six-year tenure, occasionally took different positions than the governor (backing a low-income fare, for example), but the new board, still getting its bearings, rarely goes off script.  

That could change. In its recently approved budget plan, the Legislature inserted a provision expanding the size of the seven-person MBTA board by adding two new members, one appointed by the mayor of Boston and the other a municipal official in the MBTA service area appointed by the governor. 

Those appointments could shake things up a bit, but change is also coming because a new governor will take over in January. When Baker leaves office,, the terms of four members of the current board — Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler, Robert Butler, Mary Beth Mello, and Thomas (Scott) Darling – will also come to an end. If the new governor replaces all of them, a majority of the board members will be new on the job at a time when the T is grappling with pressing safety and budget challenges. 

“What that means is we’re going to have another time of folks learning the ropes,” Kane said. 




Free isn’t enough: Every baby born or adopted in Massachusetts is eligible for $50 in free seed money for a college education fund, but not all new parents are taking advantage of the offer. Those in wealthier communities are tapping into the money at a much higher rate than those in poorer communities.

– In Newton, more than a quarter of the babies born in the last two years have college savings accounts in their names. In Lawrence, the percentage is 1 percent.

“Forms are often a problem,” said Bob Hildreth, who provided the initial seed money for the BabySteps program. “But it goes deeper than that. The biggest thing of course is poverty. That quells ambition. You have systematic racism. All the different things that stop people from participating.” Read more.

Doughty holds his own: Businessman and political newcomer Chris Doughty more than held his own in a radio debate with Geoff Diehl, his rival in the Republican primary for governor. Doughty said his business background makes him the better candidate and also slammed Diehl as unelectable in the general election. “Geoff cannot win running as an Alabama Republican in the state of Massachusetts,” he said.

– Diehl predicted a red wave is coming to Massachusetts that will sweep Republican candidates into office. He said his political and business background makes him the best candidate for governor, and also made clear his allegiance to former president Donald Trump, who has endorsed his candidacy. Diehl said the best political decision he ever made was endorsing Trump for office in 2016. Read more.

Climate change bill on move: A compromise climate bill is coming down to the wire in the Legislature. The bill includes language allowing 10 municipalities to ban natural gas hookups in new construction, although caveats for life science labs and affordable housing are included to address concerns of the Baker administration. Read more.


End of an era: Paul A. Harris of the Lown Institute offers five observations at the end of the “Altman years” on the Health Policy Commission. Read more.




A Senate provision giving State House staffers immediate access to health care insurance failed to make it into the final budget, which means the workers will have to continue to wait 60 days for their coverage to kick in. (Boston Globe)

New Bedford Light columnist Jack Spillane digs into Sen. Mark Montigny’s move to secure state funding to keep the College of Visual and Performing Arts in downtown New Bedford.


A divided Worcester City Council votes to pursue regulations on crisis pregnancy centers. (Telegram & Gazette)


President Biden in Somerset announces modest actions on climate change, says more are to come. (Associated Press) The Herald News has more on Biden’s visit to Somerset – and how locals reacted to it. 

US Labor Secretary Marty Walsh releases salary data for his office, including for several locals who came to Washington with him. (Boston Herald)


A super PAC has been formed to support Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll’s bid for lieutenant governor against Rep. Tami Gouveia and Sen. Eric Lesser. Driscoll is tight with Gov. Charlie Baker and people with close ties to him are running the PAC. Funding is reportedly coming from Christopher Collins, who once served as finance director for the Republican Governors Association executive roundtable. (Boston Globe)


Northampton, a city of 29,000 people whose former mayor embraced the nascent cannabis industry, now has 12 cannabis dispensaries, but can it sustain all of them? (MassLive)


The Boston Little Saigon cultural district held its first event and the turnout of 15,000 people for a night market in Fields Corner exceeded everyone’s expectations. (Dorchester Reporter)


An Orange Line train caught on fire approaching a station in Somerville Thursday morning. All passengers got off the train and no injuries were reported. (Boston Globe)

State transportation officials are working to address a rise in roadway fatalities. (MassLive)


The EPA rejects an interpretation by the company overseeing the decommissioning of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant regarding what wastewater they can discharge into Cape Cod Bay. (Patriot Ledger)

The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund has had a transformative effect for many Worcester area parks. (MassLive)


A Boston Globe editorial takes issue with the Legislature’s effort to pass a five-year moratorium on new prison construction. “Unless and until we become a community of saints, a five-year moratorium risks ushering in an era of potentially cruel and unusual punishment,:” the editorial says. 

A Suffolk Superior Court judge rules that a ban on mandatory life sentences for juveniles should be extended to adults younger than 21. (Boston Globe)


Dan Bogan, a businessman and civic volunteer who owned chemical company BOREMCO and served on the Fall River City Council for 22 years, including 14 as president, dies at 89. (Herald News)

The family and friends of Mary Anderson are left with unanswered questions after the body of the 23-year-old Harvard woman is found in Vermont. (MassLive)