During “Snowmageddon” After a series of unprecedented blizzards forced the MBTA to close in 2015, Beacon Hill set up a five-member finance and management committee to put the organization in order. Control was a useful word in the name of the board, and at least in the beginning, it held lengthy weekly meetings that delved into all aspects of the organization. The board brought much-needed transparency to the MBTA, but was criticized for taking up too much staff time.
When the Control Board expired in 2021, it was replaced by a new seven-member board that operates in very different ways. Meetings were held once a month. The board was reactive rather than proactive, taking a non-intrusive approach to government agencies and asking relatively few questions.
The MBTA is now facing a crisis that some say is even worse than it was in 2015. Safety is a big concern. The slow zone covers one-fifth of the subway system. Recruitment is delayed. Passenger numbers are stagnant. To address the situation, Gov. Maura Healy hired a new general manager, a new minister of road safety, and replaced three members of the T Board, including the chairman. The new chairman will be former MBTA General Manager Thomas Glynn, who has run or operated many other prominent organizations.
Glynne is fumbling along while playing the role of Goldilocks, who is looking for a “just right” recipe to direct MBTA. MBTA, he suggests, is somewhere between the old Trustees approach and the modern Trustees.
“The governor said she wants an activist committee. She wants a proactive board. She wants a board that’s focused on safety and accountability,” he said. Told. codcast. “We have been encouraged to be more proactive and to have a sense of urgency.”
But Glynn said the board’s goal is not to micromanage. He said the board will continue to meet once a month, but said this week’s Budget Committee meeting could be postponed to a special meeting in June to ensure adequate deliberation time.
A recent meeting of the board subcommittee provided an early glimpse of the new board style. For example, Glynn asked staff how much debt MBTA had on Bigdig. A lot of people have asked that question, he said, so he decided to get some answers.
He learns that Company T originally absorbed $3.6 billion in Big Dig debt as part of an effort to spread the burden of an overbudget highway project among multiple government agencies. That number has dwindled him to $1 billion, but he still owes about $200 million a year to service T’s debt. Glynn said some transport advocates believe the state should take over its debt and use MBTA funds for other pressing needs.
Glynn says Big Dig’s debt “contributes significantly to Company T’s financial position,” but is quick to add that the board hasn’t even discussed the issue. He also expressed uncertainty as to whether the Beacon Hill allegations were the work of the T Board, saying it was the domain of Healy, Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaka and MBTA General Manager Philip Ng. Stated.
Like everyone else, Glynn said he was waiting for Eng to develop MBTA’s financial plan and explain what caused the current slow zone crisis and when it would be resolved. Glynn said Ng could announce plans around the end of his first 100 days, which would be around July 10. “He’s working on it,” Glynn said.
Glynne is opposed to adding two new members to the T board, including a representative from the city of Boston, as the House proposes in its FY24 budget bill. However, Glynn noted that some people have expressed concerns about the addition of board members. Represent a specific constituency.
“There is this idea that being on the board represents the interests of Company T as a whole. . “It depends a lot on who sits in the seat.”
Some have expressed concern that the board, which is fully controlled by the governor, will be wary of asking tough questions of T leaders. Mr. Glynn dismissed those concerns, saying everyone in the administration shared the same view of Mr. T.
“At this time, there is no indication other than that there is a full agreement between the newly appointed board of directors, general manager and secretary.” [of transportation], lieutenant governor, and governor,” he said. “I don’t expect there to be any real big disagreements.”