MBTA board made headlines in fight over Grabauskas’s fate
Members of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s board of directors do not normally get much attention, but their open fight over whether to fire general manager Daniel A. Grabauskas put them in the headlines for most of last week.
This may be a surprise to some, but the appointed members of this board get paid a salary. They receive $7,500 per year, plus full health benefits. They also get individual offices in the state transportation building near Boston Common, a parking space in the building, and a special MBTA pass that allows them unlimited travel on all modes of transport - ferry boat, bus, subway, commuter rail - worth $250 per month.
The board meets Thursday, when members are expected to discuss the future of Grabauskas, who has more than nine months remaining on his contract. Opponents do not have the votes to fire him for cause, and it would cost $200,000 to $300,000 to buy him out of his contract, which expires in May. Grabauskas has said he will not serve beyond May.
But the board is another matter. It has three months before it dissolves and is replaced by a five-member board that will oversee almost all road and rail transportation in the Commonwealth, part of a transportation overhaul passed into law last month. (The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board also goes away under the new law.)
The new super-board will not be salaried. Members will get up to $500 per year in travel expenses.
Patrick accused of politickingThe Patrick administration took a lot of political heat last week for what looked like an attempt to force general manager Daniel A. Grabauskas out of his job. Many, including members of the Legislature, accused the governor of playing politics.
But politics were played on both sides. The contention over Grabauskas’s leadership quickly became an issue for many of Patrick’s critics and rivals, including some who generally don’t talk much about the T, like Senate President Therese Murray and other members of the Legislature.
For all the criticism Patrick and his transportation secretary, James A. Aloisi Jr., have taken, they made a loud public case in recent months to get the T some money. The Legislature was generally far more concerned with preventing a toll increase on the Massachusetts Turnpike, and said pretty quickly that MBTA riders would probably have to pay more to ride public transit. In the end, the Legislature did give the MBTA $160 million from part of the sales tax increase that took effect yesterday. That helped prevent drastic service cuts and astronomic fare hikes that some, including Grabauskas and Aloisi, had been fearing. Still, riders are not happy about a proposed 19.5 percent hike that will probably take effect in December or January.
Senator Steven A. Baddour, the Methuen Democrat who cochairs the Legislature’s transportation committee, denied that politics was the motivating force behind his and other legislators’ defense of Grabauskas. And he pointed out that the T did get a big chunk of money from the Legislature in the end.
“It would have been politics if we started it. We were forced to respond,’’ Baddour said. “It became political, obviously. When you have politicians going back and forth, it’s political.’’
After its debut online, some questions Last week, the MBTA finally unveiled its online CharlieCard program - about three years in the making - that lets riders add money to their cards, register them in case of theft, and add other custom features.
remain on CharlieCard program
As of Friday morning, 2,000 people had registered their cards online, and 400 used the site to add money from their credit cards or sign up to have the system withdraw money once a month automatically to buy a monthly pass.
The Globe ran a story about some of the new system’s features Wednesday, but some readers had additional questions. I posed some to Lynne M. O’Neill, retail sales manager for the T. Here they are, edited for brevity and clarity in some cases:
Q. Can a court have access to records of when you enter and leave the T? Can this information be obtained without your CharlieCard, using credit card information entered through an online purchase?
A. The courts cannot subpoena information on CharlieCards that are not registered, nor can it be obtained without your card. Our system does not hold personal credit card information for nonregistered customers. The safety and security of our customers is our top priority.
Q. My sense is that a very important feature is missing - to have the CharlieCard authorized to automatically “recharge’’ with a certain predetermined amount when the card gets below $1.70, like the Fast Lane program on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Why not let people who register online set a value, say $5 or $10, that automatically gets added when the card is about to run out of juice?
A. This is a great suggestion and yes, we have developed this feature as an added benefit for our customers. We wanted our customers to feel comfortable with the new online program and not overwhelm them with too many features, so we did not include this with the initial launch. We plan to introduce this feature for our stored-value customers in the near future.
Q. I expected to see my travel history once I registered my card. Having a history is a means to check if I was charged properly or charged twice erroneously when entering a subway or bus. Any thought of changing this?