Former MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott is gone. The MassDOT board was effectively dissolved. And Gov. Charlie Baker wants to handpick a new T “Chief Administrator’’ and most of a new control board.
Baker now owns the T’s problems.
Baker pushed for legislation Tuesday that follows recommendations in a special report released two weeks ago. Baker had commissioned the study during the depths of the T’s disastrous performance this winter.
The legislation calls for a new “fiscal and management control board’’ to manage the T until at least 2018, mirroring one of the major recommendations of the report. That board would include three members appointed by Baker, one chosen by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and one picked by Senate President Stan Rosenberg. The control board would be tasked with, among other things, developing separate capital and operating budgets, overseeing MBTA contracts, reorganizing the administration, and establishing short- and long-term plans for the system.
The law would also create a new day-to-day T leadership position, who would be appointed by Baker, called the Chief Administrator. It would allow for future fare increases sharper than state law currently allows (Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said they wouldn’t come “overnight’’), and it would subject the MBTA retirement fund to a full independent audit.
The filing comes a day after Baker accepted the resignations of six of the seven people who had governed the system as members of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board, and who Baker had inherited from former Gov. Deval Patrick. Baker had asked for the resignations a week ago, and will now install his own representatives in their place. Baker said Wednesday that his administration would name new MassDOT board members in the coming weeks. Its members will continue to serve as overseers of the T until and unless the new legislation passes.
If the proposed legislation comes to be, however, the new control board would oversee the T for the foreseeable future. The new board would differ from the MassDOT board in that it would be exclusively focused on the T, would meet more regularly, and would have greater authority, Pollack said at a Wednesday press conference. Baker added: “We would like to have a structure in place for a significant period of time that presumes that there is an ongoing oversight to what happens at the MBTA that’s separate from what’s going on at MassDOT.’’
The elements of the new legislation, as well as the resignation of the now-former MassDOT board members, were recommendations in a report issued earlier this month. The report was produced by a commission that Baker appointed in February, representing the start of his administration’s moves to make the MBTA Baker’s problem to at least try and solve.
Baker said he was ’’looking forward to engaging in the conversation’’ by working with the House and the Senate to turn the legislation into law. But he said he didn’t expect the panel report, or the resulting proposed legislation, “to be met with unicorns and rainbows.’’
January 8: Baker is inaugurated as governor.
January-February: The MBTA faces major systemic issues—highlighted by delayed, canceled, and crowded trains and buses—during the record-setting winter storm season.
February 11: At the height of the issues, Scott, the General Manager of the MBTA, submits a letter of resignation. She is replaced on an interim basis by MassDOT highway head and former Patrick administration interim transit secretary Frank DePaola.
February 20: Baker appoints a seven-member panel to examine the state of the MBTA. The panel’s size eventually drops to six when its chairman resigns due to personal financial issues.
April 8: The panel releases a report, which cites poor management and oversight as the primary cause for the MBTA’s struggles. It suggests the formation of the new fiscal control board, and calls for the resignation of MassDOT board members (except for Baker’s own representative on it, Pollack).
April 15: By this date, Baker had asked for the resignations of those six MassDOT board members.
April 21: The Baker administration confirms the MassDOT board members had agreed to step down.
April 22: Baker files the new legislation, titled an Act for a Reliable, Sustainable MBTA.