T officials urge riders to be patient
Predict it will be at least a year before change is evident
THE GENERAL MANAGER of the MBTA and two members of the agency’s board of directors indicated on Thursday that positive change is coming at the transit authority but it won’t be visible to riders any time soon.
In a virtual Q&A session, MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng, T board chair Thomas Glynn, and T board vice chair Thomas Koch said the transit authority has the team of transit professionals in place to bring about improvements in service. But they cautioned it will take time.
“It’s an incremental series of improvements,” said Glynn, noting that some efforts will take longer than others.
“I think people will see a difference at the T a year from now, but I don’t know if they’ll see a difference in two months,” Glynn told questioner Brian Kane, the executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, which represents the cities and town in the MBTA service area.
Eng, who started his job on April 10, talked largely in broad brush strokes about his plans to get the T back on track. But he revealed that he is not only pursuing the hiring of new bus drivers and safety staff but also senior managers. When his appointment was announced, Eng said he would not be bringing in a new management team. “It’s just me,” he said when he was first hired.
On Thursday, Eng said he is recruiting and hiring “senior skilled people” and introducing them to current staff even before they’ve been brought on board. “No one is feeling threatened by that notion,” he said. “This is not a gotcha. This is how we work together.”
Glynn, who served as general manager of the MBTA under former governor Michael Dukakis, said he is gathering ideas to address the “fiscal cliff” the T is expected to face in two years, including from Rich Davey, another former MBTA general manager who now is president of the New York Transit Authority.
As he has in the past, Glynn said the T board under him will be more assertive and activist than the board under the previous chair, Betsy Taylor. But Glynn said the board will continue to meet once a month and at all times will be deferential to Eng in running the T.
Glynn said one advantage as the MBTA seeks to rebuild is Healey’s personal engagement with the agency. “We have a very engaged governor. I think she meets with Phil almost every week. That’s unusual,” Glynn said.Koch, the mayor of Quincy, the chair of the MBTA Advisory Board, and the vice chair of the T board, also urged riders to be patient. Koch also put a good word in for former governor Charlie Baker, who appointed Koch to the T board and with whom the Quincy mayor was tight.
“We might be a year, a year-and-a-half from turning the corner because we all know there’s some huge structural issues at the agency that have been unattended to for a long time,” Koch said. “That’s not a shot at anybody, but I certainly have, when you are talking about what Mike Dukakis … I think Charlie Baker probably was the first governor since Mike Dukakis to pay any attention in any real way to the T.”