Gonneville running the MBTA differently

New emphasis on trust, transparency, and credibility

JEFFREY GONNEVILLE, who took over as acting general manager of the MBTA in early January, is running the transit authority differently.

The first hint came on January 19, when he showed up at a meeting of a subcommittee of the MBTA board to listen in on a presentation about the latest glitch with the new Orange Line trains being assembled in Springfield.

Gonneville told the subcommittee the T needs “good quality vehicles” and hinted he would be more forthcoming at a meeting of the full board the next week about steps needed to get this “incredibly complex project” back on track.

‘One of the things we’re going to be focusing in on is really continuing to work on building internal and external trust and credibility in our organization,” he said. “Part of that is really talking and thinking about transparency on a number of issues.”

At the full board meeting on January 26, Gonneville’s first as acting GM, he delivered on his promise, making an in-depth presentation about the serious problems with the MBTA’s most important contract – a deal with the Chinese company CRRC to deliver 404 new Red and Orange Line vehicles.

CRRC is way behind in train deliveries. No train cars have been delivered since July 2022 to give CRRC time to work through manufacturing problems. And while Gonneville said the T had made some progress in its negotiations with CRRC in recent weeks, he indicated the T was exploring its options.

It was the first time T officials had shed light publicly on just how bad the situation was with CRRC. As part of his presentation to the board, Gonneville said: “I will work to rebuild internal and external trust and credibility in the agency.”

Many insiders saw Gonneville’s embrace of transparency as a break with the Baker administration’s tight control of MBTA information. “Everything the T has put out in the last eight years has been done for the benefit of the Baker-Polito administration,” said Brian Kane, executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, which represents cities and towns in the MBTA service area.

It’s unclear whether the T’s new transparency was the idea of Gonneville or Gov. Maura Healey, who would have an interest in getting MBTA dirty laundry out early in her term.

When Gonneville made his presentation about CRRC, Healey’s pick for transportation secretary, Gina Fiandaca, hadn’t started work yet. Healey also seemed a bit unfamiliar with the situation when she was asked about Gonneville’s presentation after a Beacon Hill meeting with legislative leaders earlier this week.

Gonneville declined comment on his push for transparency or whether he is seeking the GM’s job. A statement issued by the T seemed to suggest transparency is the watchword of the Healey administration.

“Consistent with the Healey/Driscoll administration’s priorities around transparency and accountability at the MBTA, MassDOT and the T are working to rebuild the public’s trust and improve the authority’s credibility with riders who deserve a safe and reliable transit system,” the statement said.