Healey goes with a team approach on transportation

Picks Fiandaca as secretary and Tibbits-Nutt as undersecretary

GOV.-ELECT MAURA HEALEY named two women to head the state’s transportation bureaucracy on Friday, appointing Gina Fiandaca as secretary and Monica Tibbits-Nutt as undersecretary.

Fiandaca has experience overseeing large transportation organizations, as commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department from 2015 to 2019 and most recently as the assistant city manager of Austin, Texas.

Tibbits-Nutt is more familiar with state transportation policy issues in Massachusetts and the MBTA in particular. She is the executive director of the 128 Business Council, which coordinates last-mile shuttle services for businesses. She was co-chair of Healey’s transition team on transportation and was appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to serve on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board and vice chair of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board.

While serving on the control board, Tibbits-Nutt was a leading proponent of equity. She led the charge for improvements to the bus system and for a means-tested MBTA fare — a lower fare for low-income riders – an initiative that has stalled under the current MBTA board. She was also active in addressing climate change, strongly supported the transition to electric buses, and embraced regional rail.

Fiandaca, when she was working for Boston, often stayed out of the spotlight, giving Chris Osgood, who at the time was the city’s chief of streets, the role of explaining policy initiatives to the press.

The two women will enter office at a time when the MBTA is in crisis and the state’s overall transportation system needs to transform itself if the state is going to meet its climate change goals. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

Jim Aloisi, the transportation secretary under the last Democratic governor, Deval Patrick, said Fiandaca and Tibbits-Nutt have the potential to be a very complementary team.

“The potential strength of that is Gina Fiandaca is very much a nuts-and-bolts, operations-focused individual,” he said, describing her as an urban mechanic. “Monica brings the policy chops to the table. It can be a profound combination. Time will tell.”

Joe Aiello, the former chair of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board, said the appointment of Fiandaca and Tibbits-Nutt will usher in change.

“I expect a meaningful shift,” he said, particularly in picking up the pace in addressing transportation issues and putting more emphasis on equity. He said the Baker administration has done a lot of talking about equity, but taken little action.

He said the conversion to electric vehicles is a good example. Because of the high cost of electric vehicles, wealthier people tend to be the first to buy them. They then stop paying gas taxes, which means the state has less money to address its transportation issues.

“How do you wrestle with that problem?” he asked. He said no one has come up with an answer yet, but he expects Fiandaca and Tibbits-Nutt to tackle it head-on.

Aloisi, a big fan of connecting the Red and Blue lines on Boston’s subway system, a project that is in the very early stages of planning, says he is hopeful Fiandaca and Tibbits-Nutt will move it along. He noted Fiandaca lived in East Boston, so she would know the value of the project.

“It gives us the best chance in our lifetime to make the Red-Blue connector happen,” he said.