New T board likely to move at slower pace
Poftak says panel will meet once a month
THE NEW PERMANENT MBTA board of directors seems poised to move at a much more leisurely pace than its predecessor, the Fiscal and Management Control Board.
Under the statute that created the new board, the seven-member panel is required to meet at least once a month and not less than 12 times per year. In announcing a delay in the opening of the Green Line extension on Thursday, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said it was his understanding that the board will meet 12 times a year.
“Consistent with the statute that the Legislature passed, the MBTA Board of Directors will meet on a monthly basis with the possibility of additional extraordinary meetings but a standard cadence of monthly meetings,” Poftak said.
The number of oversight meetings is a sensitive topic at the T. The Fiscal and Management Control Board met nearly every week when it first came into existence after the Snowmaggeddon of 2015. That pace subsequently eased back to three times a month, which was required by the law that created the board.
The control board scaled back its meetings before the safety panel’s report came out, but even so the board continued to meet roughly twice a month, often for three to five hours at a time.
The control board’s operating style was very different from the board overseeing the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The control board meetings drew attention to ongoing problems at the T and the board members themselves often pursued agendas and debated among themselves. By contrast, the MassDOT board meets once a month and takes a much more passive, oversight role.
Just before their mandate expired at the end of June, the control board directed T staff to develop options for a pilot project to test a means-tested fare program, which would base fares on the income level of the rider. On the assumption the new T board would be in place by now, the control board directed T staff to present the means-tested fare options to the new T board in October.
Now it appears that won’t happen quickly. Legislation creating the new T board was signed into law in July, but Gov. Charlie Baker waited until earlier this month to appoint five of its seven members. The new T board is scheduled to hold its first meeting next week, and Poftak said on Thursday that the first meeting of the board will attend primarily to housekeeping duties.“We want to give this board the opportunity to fully constitute itself. There’s a variety of subcommittees that we have to get members assigned to, there are bylaws that we have to pass,” he said.
Poftak said he didn’t know when the means-tested fare program would come up for review, although he said T staff had spent considerable time investigating options.