Real progress at the MBTA
Fiscal control board members say thank you for work to date
ALMOST TWO YEARS AGO, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board began what many thought to be a thankless if not hopeless task: Transform a fiscally and operationally broken MBTA into a more reliable, customer-friendly transit system. While we still have a lot to do and, like our system, will continue to face foreseen as well as unexpected problems along the way, we believe we can report real progress. Customers are experiencing some improvements and much greater ones are coming as new vehicles, upgraded infrastructure, and modernized fare collection and other systems come on line.
But rather than recap accomplishments and challenges ahead, (details about the FMCB’s work, including links to more than 500 public presentations, are available at www.mbta.com/fmcb), we want to use this opportunity to step back and thank many people, without whom the dark days of the winter of 2015 would not be just a bad memory.
Leading our thank-you list are the employees of the MBTA, from senior management to the operators, mechanics, maintenance workers, and others who truly make the system work every day. Many of the T’s structural problems and failures were not of their making, but they nonetheless have had to cope with them. Some of the changes made since 2015 have been difficult for a workforce and other stakeholders who were used to certain ways of doing business, but as demonstrated by the T’s landmark agreement with Carmen’s Union Local 589, T workers are just as committed to positive change as we are.
Special appreciation goes to the T’s former chief operating officer and now Deputy General Manager Jeff Gonneville and his team. Even as they keep this complex and often antiquated system running, they are developing and implementing major improvements for the future. We also want to salute former FMCB co-chair Steve Poftak for his willingness to step into the role of Interim general manager as we await the appointment of a permanent general manager. Steve will continue to oversee the T’s positive momentum, from redirecting operating budget savings into infrastructure and customer service upgrades, (which also serves to limit taxpayer exposure), to fundamental investments in physical improvements that will directly enhance the rider experience.
Every FMCB meeting begins with a period of public comment on agenda topics, sometimes running an hour or more. Even when individuals are critical of the decisions we make, we deeply appreciate all who participate in our meetings, including the reporters who have covered them since we began. And we certainly learn from the public as they share what are often great ideas. Such public awareness and involvement, including in the development of the MBTA strategic plan, makes what we do more thoughtful and informed.
Finally – and above all – we want to thank our riders and customers. For years, they have had to put up with delays, poor communication, failing equipment, even outright dysfunction. We owe it to them and their communities and to the regional economy that depends upon a reliable T, to deliver on the promise of a world-class transit system.We are especially proud that we have done our work with transparency, meeting in executive session only under limited circumstances. Our nearly weekly meetings include open discussion and debate about important issues, even occasional disagreements among board members, for all to see. Our primary mandate is to fix public transit, while each day we strive to restore public trust.
Joe Aiello, Monica Tibbits-Nutt, Lisa Calise, Brian Lang, and Brian Shortsleeve are members of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board. Shortsleeve, formerly the T’s chief administrator and acting general manager, joined the board July 1, replacing FMCB co-chair Steve Poftak, who is now the T’s interim general manager.