State selects head of Atlanta transit system to lead MBTA

Beverly Scott is the new general manager of the MBTA.
Beverly Scott is the new general manager of the MBTA.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

State transportation officials have selected the head of Atlanta’s transit system to be the new general manager of the MBTA.

Beverly A. Scott, general manager and chief executive of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, was selected by the board of directors for the MBTA and the state Department of Transportation. She beat out the second semifinalist, Atlanta’s No. 2, Dwight Ferrell.

Atlanta’s system is the nation’s ninth largest, while Boston’s is the fifth largest.

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The vote came after public interviews of both Ferrell and Scott.

“Both are excellent candidates with a deep experience in transit,” said Secretary of Transportation Richard A. Davey, whose promotion a year ago from T general manager to secretary created this opening. “Both are from outside the commonwealth, so we hope either would bring us a fresh perspective, and they also know what we’re up against in terms of the need to reform and refinance the system.”

From a national pool of 106 applicants, the T’s human resources office forwarded 22 resumes to a screening committee comprised of Davey and two transportation board members. The committee interviewed 10 semifinalists by phone, inviting three to Boston for public interviews – with one unnamed candidate dropping out, leaving Scott and Ferrell. State officials have already interviewed their references.

Six of the 10 semifinalists were women, people of color, or both, with diversity an objective in filling one of the state’s highest-profile and most challenging government positions, transportation board chairman John Jenkins said. Scott will be the first African-American woman to lead the MBTA.

The T carries more than 1.3 million riders each weekday and set modern-era records for number of passengers in the fiscal year that ended June 30, but it struggles to keep up with rising costs under a financial system set up by the Legislature more than a decade ago. That system has left the T overly reliant on one source of income besides fares – a dedicated portion of the state sales tax – and burdened it with billions in debt to pay off politically popular expansion projects.

A recent fare increase and a one-time infusion of additional state aid were enough to balance the budget just for this year, with more cuts or fare increases on the table for the future without new transportation taxes.

Legislative leaders say they will discuss the financial crisis facing the state’s transit and highway systems in 2013, following expected recommendations in December from the Patrick administration on what taxes and fees could be raised to bolster the transportation system.

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