T notes: Capital delivery arm has 80 openings

Early morning bus pilot doing well, late-night pilot off to slow start

THE MBTA’S CAPITAL DELIVERY arm, which is tasked with spending $8 billion over the next five years, is struggling to ramp up its hiring to oversee projects.

Beth Larkin, the T’s assistant general manager for capital delivery, told the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday that her team has 180 employees but is currently trying to fill another 80 positions.

Brian Shortsleeve, a member of the control board and a former general manager of the T, said filling those positions is critical if the agency is going to have success in meeting its spending targets. “Organizationally, nothing can be as important as filling those slots,” Shortsleeve said.

Luis Ramirez, the general manager of the T, said the type of employees the agency is looking for are in high demand nationally, so hiring is difficult. “This is top of mind for me,” he said.

The discussion about capital delivery hiring came as Larkin summarized more than $1 billion in planned improvements on the Orange Line, including upgrades at the Oak Grove, Forest Hills, Sullivan Square, Ruggles, and Back Bay stations.

Early morning, late night bus pilots

New early morning bus service appears to be doing well, but late-night service is off to a slow start.

The $500,000 early morning pilot, which launched in April, added an earlier bus run to 10 routes in a bid to reduce over-crowding during the morning peak. Inbound boardings so far have ranged from a low of 11.4 on the Route 16 bus that runs from Forest Hill to Andrew Station on weekdays to a high of 67 on the Route 117 bus between Wonderland and Maverick on Saturdays. All but the Route 16 bus exceeded passenger boarding goals, some by large amounts.

T officials on Monday urged the Fiscal and Management Control Board to make the early morning service a permanent part of the T’s bus offerings. They also proposed spending another $50,000 annually to add additional trips on three of the existing routes and two new routes.

Control board members seemed receptive, but they became skittish when some of the ridership numbers appeared squishy and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack cautioned that a number of measurements the board needs to evaluate the effectiveness of pilots were not available. Board members indicated they would take another look at the issue next week.

T officials launched a new late-night bus service pilot at the start of September to test the viability of more frequent service on some routes between 10 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., a later last trip on some routes, and new service between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m. T officials said ridership has grown with the new service, particularly between 10 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., but some of the new routes haven’t attracted many riders. Officials said they intend to increase marketing efforts to try to attract more riders.

Aiello presses for commuter rail hire

After a week when commuter rail service suffered two major breakdowns, the chairman of the Fiscal and Management Control Board pressed for the hiring of a full-time executive director of commuter rail at the agency.

Consultant Dan Grabauskas, a former general manager of the T, has been working as the executive director of commuter rail since last September. It was supposed to be a one-year appointment.

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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.

Joseph Aiello, chairman of the control board, said the position needs to be filled quickly. “This is a very complicated piece of the organization,” Aiello said. “We need strong permanent leadership to drive this.”

Jeffrey Gonneville, deputy general manager of the T, said an offer has been made to a candidate for the job.