Let’s ride down memory lane to when Baker took office and Beverly Scott resigned
MBTA service will be a disaster for a month or more beginning this week, with the shutdown of the Orange Line and the closure of a section of the Green Line. As always, the riders most affected are in communities of color and the working class.
Many in the press have given the Baker administration a free pass on the matter. Looking back, however, Baker assumed responsibility for the T after the public humiliation of its first Black, female general manager, Beverly Scott. In 2015, Scott was castigated as incompetent and assigned blame for the T malfunctions during severe snowstorms. She attempted to defend herself against criticism by Baker and others with the expression, “this ain’t this woman’s first rodeo.” It became a punchline in press reports.
Scott resigned under a cloud but not before trying to explain the fiscal reality of the challenge. According to one account, “As Scott left, she complained of chronic underfunding of the agency, which she said had made it difficult to maintain the system.” Seven years later, the outcome of the Baker administration intervention is evident. Wouldn’t it be decent of Baker to offer a statement of regret over the discrediting of the former general manager?
It turns out that Scott was right. The root of the T problem is not so much an issue of competent management but rather one of sufficient funds to run an aging transit system. For that reason, voters should weigh the merits of the Fair Share Amendment on the November ballot. It proposes annual investments of $2 billion in transportation and public education funded through a tax on very high incomes. It may be a better way to end a legacy of mass transit underfunding and inequity than unfairly blaming a pioneer general manager.
‘5 years of work in 30 days’ — pretty impressive . . .
As I waited in line Friday evening for the shuttle from North Station to Beverly, a fellow rider, a construction worker, helped me see something differently. We were talking about the Orange Line shutdown (our shuttle ride was unrelated to it), and he said, “Yeah, they’re going to do five years of work in 30 days.” This struck me because it was so contrary to the messages I’ve been receiving from Twitter and WBUR, my daily news sources, about what a big problem the shutdown is.
As he told me a bit about the project, I began to feel pretty grateful for the work being done and impressed with what our society is able to accomplish. The gap between this feeling and the undercurrent of disgruntlement I had felt toward the shutdown previously, even though it really isn’t part of my daily commute, made me reflect on how I had been nudged by the constant barrage of opinions, especially the negative, anxious ones.
So, here’s one small voice saying thank you to those working hard on the Orange Line and other sites on the T, for doing it while bearing the constant critique, and for trying to make all of our lives a little bit better. And thanks to my fellow shuttle rider for giving me a new perspective.
. . . although really, what message does that phrase send?
The T needs not only people who can maintain, repair, and improve infrastructure but also people who know public relations. If the phrase “5 years of work in 30 days,” as seen in a full-page ad in Thursday’s Globe, is intended to reassure us, it does the opposite.
The phrase sends the message that the T procrastinated to the detriment of the system and the safety of its riders, and that the T thinks it’s OK to make its workers try to accomplish five years of work on an unrealistic, maybe impossible, schedule. I hope that no one who does the real, hard, on-site work gets hurt because of the proposed breakneck pace.
Good, long-lasting track work takes time (especially long-deferred work). The T has been working on the Fitchburg line’s track structures for years. Those have caused delays but not shutdowns of the line.
Someone has to be accountable for deciding to put new Orange Line cars on bad tracks. The poor track conditions must have been known. Maybe someone thought the new cars could handle poor conditions? Did anyone review that risk analysis?
I can’t wait for the T’s next catchphrase, when it discovers one month will not be enough: ”7 years of work in 7 months”?
How is it that the City of Boston still doesn’t have a seat on MBTA board?
Decisions made by the MBTA and failures of its management have had stark, disturbing consequences on life within Boston and on the lives of all those who travel regularly to and from Boston. Over the next month, if not longer, this daily reality will become even more unmistakable. Is it not blindingly obvious then that the MBTA Board of Directors should include a member appointed by the City of Boston?
In light of metro Boston’s role as the economic engine of the Commonwealth and New England, should we expect the interests of not only its residents and businesses but also of those in other municipalities served by the T to be fairly and adequately represented only by the mayor of Quincy, a current member?