Transportation notes: Rocky rollout at inspection stations
Deveney said focus should have been on people, not equipment
STATE OFFICIALS ON MONDAY conceded that a new system for handing out automobile inspection stickers got off to a dismal start at the beginning of October because of a failure to provide enough technical support to the roughly 1,700 stations participating in the program.
“While we provided the technology to the stations, they deserved a greater degree of support,” said Erin Deveney, who oversees the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Station owners seeking to provide automobile inspections were required to purchase $8,000 of new equipment, including a workstation, software, and cameras. They were also given training on how to operate the equipment, but Deveney said the help wasn’t enough to allow station owners to get their equipment up and running properly.
Only 531 of the state’s roughly 1,700 inspection stations were running on October 2, and the hotline set up to handle questions from operators received more than 5,000 calls that day. Deveney said the call center was “overwhelmed.” Many drivers, who pay $35 for an inspection sticker, had trouble finding an operating station that day.
After the problems surfaced, Registry officials and employees of Applus Technologies, the vendor that won the $29 million contract to launch the new system, began working directly with the inspection stations. The number of call center workers was also doubled. As a result, the number of operating inspection stations increased fairly rapidly, rising from 531 on October 2 to 1,340 by October 6 and 1,715 by October 13. There are a total of 1,762 inspection stations in Massachusetts.
“There are still continuing issues we are working to resolve,” Deveney said, but added that the number of inspection stations and inspections is back to the level it was at at this time last year.
In her presentation to the MassDOT board on September 11 prior to the Applus launch, Deveney said the company had never missed an implementation date. “Their experience and agility to adapt to any situation has allowed them a perfect history hitting program start-up dates,” said the presentation.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the program seems to be back on track. “I’m satisfied with where we are now, but I wish we were here two weeks ago,” she said.
Control board meetings going live
This coming Monday’s meeting of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board is expected to be livestreamed over the internet and available later for viewing.
Owen Kane, the T’s legal counsel, said Valley Communications, the company that installed $175,000 of video and audio equipment in the Department of Transportation’s conference room, will handle the initial work under a contract worth $33,000.
Kane said he didn’t know the long-term cost of providing live and recorded coverage of the control board’s meetings. At an earlier meeting on October 2, he estimated the cost at between $3,000 to $4,000 a meeting, or between $105,000 and $160,000 a year. The control board decided to proceed but at a cost of no more than $100,000.
Kane said details on how to watch the livestream will be available on the MBTA’s website when the agenda for Monday’s meeting is released.
More problems at the RIDE?
An official from the Teamsters Union said on Monday that drivers for the RIDE, the MBTA’s paratransit service, are being asked to work unusually long work weeks that endanger public safety.Testifying before the Fiscal and Management Control Board, Michael Halley of the Teamsters said many of the drivers are being asked to work long days and as many as 59 hours a week. He said many of the drivers, who are hired by National Express Transit, are refusing to bid on jobs. One of the drivers, a single mother, told the control board she is being asked to work from 9:45 a.m. until 11 p.m. on some days.
MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez said he has asked his staff to investigate. “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said.