Today Gov. Charlie Baker announced a blue ribbon Comission to study the MBTA’s current state of affairs and recommend changes. While Gov. Deval Patrick also had a commission (Headed by former John Hancock CEO David F. D’Alessandro) study the same question in 2009, there was little if any feedback on this report from Beacon Hill.
“Do you know how many legislators called me after I did that report? Zero.” – David D. D’Alesandro, Boston Globe Feb. 15, 2015
Gov. Patrick did push for a $13 Billion transportation bill that was signed into law last year which funded a number of capital improvements for the MBTA. This includes the GLX Extension into Somerville & Medford, new rolling-stock for the Orange & Red lines, funds for South Station Expansion and money for South Coast Rail. However none of the structural issues of the identified by D’Alessandro were addressed.
To that end during his press conference today, Gov. Baker was quoted as saying:
“We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result,’’ – Gov. Charlie Baker
So we shall see if Gov. Baker can be “The Great Reformer” of the MBTA or if this is just another distraction to throw voters off the scent. A recent poll by WBUR has shown that most voters blame previous governors & the Legislature for the state of the MBTA, so this could be a great moment for the Governor to deliver on his reformer image, or it could be another example of a conservative governor punting and leaving the commuters of Greater Boston to rot.
However, looking at the Gov’s commission, it is stacked with a pretty good set of members who really could deliver the goods for those of us who depend on the MBTA:
- Jane Garvey, former head of the Federal Aviation Administration under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and the Massachusetts highway department. Had been considered for the Secretary of Transportation cabinet post by Obama.
- Katherine Lapp, former executive director of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority under Republican NY Governor George Pataki, who served in many other roles in NYC government. Current Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Harvard University.
- Paul Barrett, former Boston Redevelopment Authority director
- Robert P. Gittens, a vice president at Northeastern University who sits on several nonprofit boards. Served as Secretary for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services under Republican MA Governor Jane Swift.
- Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez, a professor of urban planning and public policy at Harvard University. He teaches courses in economics, infrastructure and transportation policy.
- Brian McMorrow, chief financial officer at Massport’s aviation division
- Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan, former co-chairman of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee
The Commission will have 30 days to review the MBTA’s operations. Paul Barrett will serve as the Chairman.
You can read the Governor’s Office press release & bios on the panel members here.
Here is a listing of the MBTA Panel’s objectives:
MBTA Special Panel’s Objectives:
1. Develop a fact-base from available data and recently published reports to enable the MBTA and the Commonwealth to ground its future plans and recommendations.
- Synthesize the findings and recommendations of the previous reports
- Prepare a ‘state of the operations’ review on the strengths and areas needing improvement and attention; topic areas to include: maintenance, maintenance planning and preparation, operations, communications, decision-making, and governance
- Conduct benchmark review of similar transit systems operations
2. Undertake a rapid diagnostic on the state of MBTA asset management and maintenance, including:
- A review of reports and/or Request for Proposals issued by the MBTA related to asset management, system preservation, State of Good Repair and maintenance planning, budgeting and implementation at the MBTA
- An investigation of the current size of the MBTA’s State of Good Repair backlog, assessing the extent to which previous report recommendations related to asset management and system preservation were followed and evaluating what information the board received as it relates to these issues
- A review of the MBTA’s overall capital program to assess the processes for selecting projects, allocating funds between maintenance and expansion projects and delivering capital projects on time and on budget
3. Make recommendations to improve the MBTA’s governance, structure, financials, and operations in both the short and longer-terms to enable the MBTA to plan, operate and maintain a 21st century public transportation system.