T board to unveil new online dashboard

T board to unveil new online dashboard

Officials say pay for senior execs ‘noncompetitive’

THE FIVE MEMBERS of the MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board on Monday briefed state lawmakers on their progress, offering a glimpse of a new online dashboard that will chart system performance, promising significant capital investments over the coming years, and warning that the transit agency’s compensation for senior executives “is simply noncompetitive.”

The new dashboard will allow the public to see at any given moment how the transit system is performing. According to the board’s slide presentation to the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, the dashboard will chart ridership, reliability, financials, and customer satisfaction. Board member Monica Tibbits-Nutt said the reliability data will tell riders the historic and real-time performance of every bus and rail line during peak and off-peak periods.

“Every single day we are being held accountable,” said Tibbits-Nutt.

Joseph Aiello, the chair of the Control Board, told lawmakers one of his initial concerns on taking the unpaid position was the lack of a strong leadership team at the T. He said a lot of progress has been made building up the team, with the hiring of a general manager, a chief administrator, a chief operating officer, a chief financial officer, a chief technology officer, and a new head of procurement.

But Aiello said another 15 to 20 senior leadership positions remain vacant in the maintenance and repair area, which he described as a $500 million-a-year operation. He said filling those vacant positions is proving difficult because compensation at the T “is simply noncompetitive.”

Aiello said the T has hired a consultant to examine the problem and offer recommendations. Right now, Aiello said, someone in a senior leadership position at the T can work several years and then leave to take a job that has half the stress level and yet pays 30 percent to 40 percent more.

Sen. Thomas McGee, the Senate chair of the Transportation Committee, noted the Washington, DC, Metro late last year hired Paul Wiedefeld away from the Baltimore-Washington Airport at an annual salary of $397,500. By contrast, Frank DePaola, the general manager of the T, earns $176,000, and Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve earns $175,000

Board member Lisa Calise outlined many of the steps taken by the T to bring costs under control, and said the transit authority hopes to have $100 million available next year for capital projects. Board member Steve Poftak said a portion of that money will go for upgrades to Green Line signal technology that dates to 1915 and for more winter resiliency improvements on rail lines.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Poftak also said the transit agency hopes to boost capital spending at the T from an average of $389 million a year over the last seven years to $765 million a year. He said the agency has spent $100 million on signal technology over the last five years and wants to spend $220 million a year over the next five years.

Sen. McGee, who also heads the state Democratic Party, said he appreciated the work the Control Board has done. But he said he is hopeful the focus of the discussion will soon shift from reining in costs to determining what the agency can’t do now and needs to do. The senator recalled the reform-before revenue mantra of 2009 and said now is time for reform and revenue.

  • Euclidoris

    Here’s a thought, why not hire an administrator who can properly staff the MBTA? The ridiculous OT policies in place are the result of an understaffed workforce that cannot keep up with the demand for bus and train drivers. The fact that pen and paper is used by an organization that employs thousands of people in irregular shifts is ludicrous. A culture change is long overdue.

    Riders are being asked to pay ever higher fares for a system that cannot accommodate growing ridership. When OT becomes the exception instead of the rule, costs will fall and the type of investment that is so desperately needed will finally come to fruition. I think we would all benefit by paying executives a more competitive salary, if it brings in people with more experience and a better understanding of what can be done to improve existing service, and create new routes to expand the MBTA footprint.