T notes: Fare gates coming to 3 commuter rail stations
Agency hires new administrator, commuter rail chief
ESTIMATING THE MBTA’S COMMUTER RAIL operation lost between $10 million and $20 million last year due to fare evasion, the transit authority said on Monday that it plans to install fare gates at the South, North, and Back Bay stations next year.
Officials said the gates would be capable of reading all fare media, including plastic cards as well as electronic M, paper, and Amtrak tickets. Conductors would also double-check passengers on board trains to make sure all are properly ticketed.
T officials have been talking for well over a year about fare evasion crackdowns at the three stations, through which 90 percent of commuter rail journeys flow. So far, most of the fare evasion initiatives have been focused at North Station, with officials manually checking tickets as passengers go to board. Now T officials want to install gates that would handle the ticket checks.
Mike Muller, the T’s assistant general manager for strategic initiatives, said it has taken considerable time to sort through the various options and make sure they complied with real estate restrictions at the stations and with new fare collection equipment currently in development. Muller said the T and its commuter rail operator, Keolis, have reviewed a number of configurations for the fare gates and will soon make decisions on where to put them.
T officials estimate their fare losses in fiscal 2018 ranged somewhere between $10 million and $20 million, which is somewhere between 4 and 8 percent of revenue. Muller said the international standard for so-called fare leakage is 3 percent.
Panagore named chief administrative officer
David Panagore, who has described his career in government as a “theater director” and worked on turnaround efforts in Chelsea and Springfield, will now take a role backstage for Boston area transit riders as chief administrative officer of the MBTA.
A lawyer who has studied engineering, politics, philosophy, and physics in addition to theater, Panagore received a master’s in public administration and has served as Provincetown’s town manager since September 2015. He will take the reins of his new post at the T in mid-May making an annual salary of $230,000.
The hire, announced in a memo Friday, comes amid another shuffle at the MBTA, as Rob DiAdamo will take over as executive director of commuter rail, succeeding Dan Grabauskas, a former MBTA general manager, who was doing that job as a consultant.
Panagore will succeed Jeff Cook, the acting chief administrative officer, in a position that has previously been occupied by Michael Abramo and Brian Shortsleeve. Handling the transit agency’s administrative and financial responsibilities, Panagore will report to General Manager Steve Poftak.
Panagore has held posts in Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut, as well as San Diego, California, but his career began squarely within the MBTA service area. For five years starting in 1993, Panagore worked on the turnaround of Chelsea, including as chief legal counsel and school construction project director. From there, he went to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, where he was project director for the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the largest building in New England.
For DiAdamo, who leads on transportation issues for the Chicago-based Bronner Group, it will be a sort of homecoming. DiAdamo was previously deputy general manager and chief of staff at the T, and served as general counsel in the old Executive Office of Transportation. He will make $195,000 annually.
Laurel Paget-Seekins has been promoted to assistant general manager for policy at the T, and Mike Muller was promoted to assistant general manager for strategic initiatives.
Dalton warns of ‘scope creep’
John Dalton, who is overseeing construction of the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford, said the project is in a good place in terms of cost and spending. But he said the project faces a number of financial risks, including “scope creep” and difficult site conditions.
Dalton said the project, which had to be dramatically scaled back when its cost ballooned to more than $3 billion, is facing pressure from municipalities and advocates to restore some of the elements that had been cut to bring the cost back to around $2 billion.
In a brief interview after testifying Monday before the state’s two transportation boards, Dalton said various groups are pressuring him to add elements back to the project. He said he always tells them the project’s scope and cost cannot be increased, but the mere fact he was raising the issue with the board underscored the possibility it could happen.
The other big headache he faces is some 1,600 underground structures along the proposed rail line that the contractor has to deal with.Kathleen Murtagh, a member of the Department of Transportation board, urged Dalton to stand firm against add-ons because they can quickly eat up contingency funds being kept in reserve to offset higher-than-expected costs. She said the underground structures alone could lead to cost overruns.
“There’s going to be things that nobody thought would be there,” she said.