Riders say odor is T’s biggest cleanliness problem
Agency revamping contracting, oversight to address issues
TAKING THEIR CUE from Massport, MBTA officials say they are revamping the way they contract for cleaning services to address the chief concerns of riders.
It’s not the grime. It’s not the dirt buildup. It’s the odor and the litter,” said Joe Cheever, the
T’s senior director of engineering and maintenance.
In-station polling data indicate 34 percent of MBTA riders say odor is the cleanliness issue that bothers them the most, followed by litter at 21 percent,” Cheever told the Fiscal and Management Control Board. Not surprisingly, the areas of most concern to riders are elevators and station platforms.
Cheever said the T brought in an industry expert as a consultant who said the existing cleaning contractors are not using proper equipment. As a result, Cheever said, there is a problem with odor, grime, and dinginess.
The plan calls for hiring a third-party firm to audit the quality of work being done and for expanding the number of MBTA employees who oversee the work. Under the plan, the MBTA oversight staff would be increased from 8 to 12, with agency officials tasked with making sure that in-station repairs (leaks, cracked tiles, etc.) are completed so cleaning work can be done efficiently.
Cheever said MBTA personnel will need to go through classroom training this summer to prepare for the new oversight approach.
The T plans to send out a request for proposals this month and have new contractors in place in December. Contractors will be required to have at least 65 percent of their employees working full-time. A baseline for station cleanliness will be developed in the first six months of the contract and after that contractors will be measured on how they do against that baseline.
The new contracting process is coming as the T is starting to invest in cleaning up and brightening stations and hiring contractors to do ongoing repair work. T officials said 34 stations were targeted during the first week, which started April 1. Work included power washing and scrubbing floors and walls, painting, repairing cracks, and removing litter, salt, and litter.
Joseph Aiello, the chairman of the control board, asked T officials if the agency might eventually adopt mechanisms adopted by many municipalities allowing the public to identify problems (potholes, for example) and monitor dashboards tracking how quickly the problems are addressed.
“We would very quickly be overcome with the number of requests coming in,” said Jeffrey Gonneville, the MBTA’s deputy general manager.Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack and other T officials quickly interjected that the transit authority is fine-turning internal mechanisms to track issues and how quickly they are addressed, but lacks the capacity to go public now.
Cheever said the T ultimately hopes to have its stations as clean as Logan Airport’s terminals, even though he acknowledged the spread-out nature of the MBTA system will make that difficult. “This is going to be a multi-year journey to get to that point,” he said.