No calls for Poftak’s removal, even from Healey’s campaign

FTA report cites support at T for stability of leadership team

THE FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION on Wednesday raised serious concerns about the safety culture at the MBTA, but no one is calling for the dismissal of top leadership at the transit authority, including Maura Healey, the frontrunner in the race to be the state’s next governor.

The FTA, in its report and in remarks by a spokesman, showed little interest in scapegoating the T’s leadership. The report noted that many at the T described the challenges they faced between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2018, when the agency ran through nine different general managers.

“At all levels of the organization, from the frontline through supervision and middle management to senior technical leadership, FTA found support for executive leadership and appreciation for the stability of having a consistent MBTA leadership team in place since January 1, 2019,” the report said.

And Paul Kincaid, an associate administrator of the FTA, said there was no interest in punishing anyone at the MBTA.

“Honestly, this is a turning point,” he said. “It’s not a time for recrimination. It is a time to make the T better.”

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak, who has held the top job at the authority since the start of 2019, indicated he, too, is worried about what could happen at the MBTA as the Baker administration steps aside in January.

“I’m well aware of what was in one of the candidate’s transportation plans,” Poftak said in an apparent reference to Healey’s plan. “I’m not naïve. There will be some level of transition.”

Poftak said he is committed to making any transition as orderly as possible, but he cautioned about wholesale change. “Leaving me aside, the notion of a wholesale transition is something that’s been reviewed multiple times by multiple parties and I think the importance of some level of continuity at the T has repeatedly been emphasized,” he said.

Healey released a transportation plan earlier this month in which she listed a number of management failures at the T and said she intended to appoint an experienced leadership team consisting of a general manager and two deputy general managers, one for operations and one for capital planning.

While that language was widely interpreted to mean Healey would put her own GM in place, her campaign said on Wednesday that replacing Poftak is not a given. The campaign said Healey, if elected governor, would review the situation when she takes office and then make a decision.

The state’s two US senators were less reticent to voice their displeasure at T leadership.

In a statement, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey said the FTA report merely underscores what is already well known. “The MBTA’s current crises are the unprecedented consequences of systemic negligence, underinvestment, and mismanagement of Greater Boston’s public transit system,” they said.” It is shameful for the first public transportation system in our country to have reached this entirely preventable point, where deep service cuts and wholesale shutdowns of subway lines are deemed necessary to get the T back on track. It is unacceptable that the MBTA has forced riders to carry the burden of the Baker Administration’s failures.”