Walsh charges ‘there’s absolutely no checks and balances right now’ at MBTA
A day after MBTA leaders rejected his calls to halt a planned fare hike, Mayor Martin J. Walsh escalated his attacks on the transit agency and charged that its deteriorating performance is hurting the rapidly growing city.
“There’s absolutely no checks and balances right now,” Walsh said Tuesday of T leadership, offering that its governing board has made “difficult decisions” to solidify the T’s financial picture since its creation in 2015 but is falling short in delivering basic service.
“Getting your fiscal house in order is one thing. Now it’s about getting the actual trains running,” he said at an unrelated event in the North End. “And there has to be something more to that.”
Walsh this week jumped forcefully into the debate over the state of the T after a derailment on the Red Line shoved the agency’s performance back under the microscope.
Walsh, who once supported a slate of fare increases scheduled for July 1, reversed course Monday, demanding it be delayed until the T can fully restore service on the Red Line. Hours later, he wrote on his official Twitter account that the city should also have a seat on the T’s oversight board.
On Tuesday, he referred to legislation from state Senator Michael F. Rush of West Roxbury that would give the mayor the ability to appoint someone to the state Department of Transportation board, a panel that has a broader focus beyond the MBTA. The transit system is currently governed by the Fiscal & Management Control Board, which includes five gubernatorial appointees.
The T, however, quickly threw cold water on the idea of halting the fare hikes. And it remains to be seen what shape the T’s governance will take after June 2020, when its current board is slated to dissolve.
Walsh had avoided directly criticizing T leadership following the June 11 derailment, which has continued to slow service on the heavily traveled subway line. And in February, amid debate about the city’s annual payments to the T, Walsh said the city should work with the agency, adding that “in some cases, the service has gotten better.”
But that has shifted at a time when Boston city councilors and lawmakers have called for putting more money toward the beleaguered transit agency.
The Democrat acknowledged he backed raising MBTA fares but argued Tuesday that raising costs means providing better service, and he sees “no reason why they can’t hold” the increase.
“It’s gone the other way,” Walsh said of the T’s performance. “I’ve been pretty sympathetic all along and [was] criticized for being that sympathetic” of the T’s struggles. “But right now it’s time for action. We can’t have it.”
Walsh said he’s specifically heard from restaurant owners frustrated about their employees’ ability to commute to Boston on public transportation.
“The city’s growing every day,” he said. “I’m asking the leadership of the T and MassDOT to get their act together and figure this out.”
T officials did not immediately have a response to Walsh’s comments.
The MBTA is still investigating what caused the Red Line derailment, and officials disclosed Monday that their focus has shifted to the 50-year-old train car itself.
But it’s still unclear when normal service will return on the line, as the agency works to repair signals and other equipment severely damaged when the train traveled some 1,800 feet — more than one-third of a mile — with one of its cars off the rails.