Gubernatorial front-runner Maura Healey on Thursday announced a plan aimed at turning around the beleaguered Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, including restructuring the agency’s leadership team, expanding and electrifying train and bus service, and implementing a low-income fare.
In the five-point transportation plan, Healey said she will appoint a new state-wide transportation safety chief to assess rail and bus operations, roads and bridges, including for cyclists and pedestrians, and help address safety lapses at the MBTA highlighted by the Federal Transit Administration.
“Our current transit challenges should be a call to action,” Healey, the state attorney general, said in a statement. “My plan will urgently address the failings at the MBTA, expand rail and buses across our state, and continue to fix our roads and bridges. This will drive economic growth, create good-paying jobs, and support residents and businesses.”
The plan comes as the FTA finalizes its report about safety at the T, which is expected later this month. The FTA has been inspecting the T’s subway system since mid-April after a series of safety incidents, including the dragging death of a Red Line passenger at Broadway Station in Boston. Since then, T riders have continued to endure safety problems, like an Orange Line train fire last month.
In addition to appointing an MBTA general manager, Healey said she would appoint two deputy general managers — one to oversee operations and one to oversee capital planning — and empower the agency’s board of directors to be more involved than the current board in decision-making.
Healey said she supports creating a lower MBTA fare for people with low incomes, something transit advocates have long pushed for, and a “pathway” to fare-free bus service across the state. She said she supports several transit expansion projects, including East-West rail, which she said will get its own director at the Department of Transportation, the Red-Blue Connector, the Allston Multi-Modal project, and more service on bus and commuter rail lines throughout the state.
Healey said she will ensure “all modes of transportation operate on 100 percent clean power by 2040,” including electrifying all school and MBTA buses by 2030 (10 years faster than the agency’s current projection), putting 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, and making public fleet purchases electric by 2028.
Making these changes will take more resources, Healey acknowledged. She said new revenue potentially generated from a proposed income tax surcharge on high earners — the so-called millionaire’s tax on the ballot this November — is “much needed” but did not specify another funding source. However, she said she plans to create a “multi-disciplinary task force” to focus on obtaining as much funding as possible from the federal infrastructure law, and work with high schools, vocational technical schools, and community colleges to “create a pipeline for the next generation of transportation workers.”
“Maura is committed to working with federal partners, legislative leadership, businesses, and local communities to think creatively on how we increase revenue, without relying on passenger fares,” the plan said.
To deal with the immediate safety issues, Healey said her transportation safety chief will first conduct a safety audit. The plan also said Healey will “order a review of project delivery for all existing projects in the pipeline,” including the production of hundreds of new Red and Orange line cars, which is far behind schedule.
The MBTA has already been audited with safety as a focus, most recently in 2019 by three outside experts who found that the agency was not putting enough investment into its day-to-day operations. The report made 61 recommendations to the T about how to improve safety, of which the agency has said it has mostly completed.