Aug 18, 2022 - News

How the next Massachusetts governor will try to fix the MBTA

Illustration of an MBTA sign changing into an emergency symbol.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The candidates running to succeed Gov. Charlie Baker (R) have promised to bring changes to an MBTA in turmoil.

The big picture: Attorney General Maura Healey (D), the only Democratic candidate seeking the nomination for governor, is focused on improving safety and increasing funding for repair projects and daily operation.

  • Healey would name a transportation safety chief to conduct reviews of the rail, bus, road and bridge systems.
  • She would create a task force dedicated to competing for funding opportunities from President Biden's $1.2 trillion infrastructure law.
  • Healey would restructure MBTA leadership by hiring a new deputy general manager to be in charge of capital spending.

What they're saying: "We need to make sure that we are supporting both … infrastructure with respect to operations and infrastructure with respect to capital planning," Healey told Axios in an interview.

  • Healey said that means prioritizing the T's recruitment, hiring and training efforts to assure all systems are staffed safely.
  • Healey said she "wants to look at" putting more annual funding into the MBTA's operating budget to make service better.

Republican candidate Chris Doughty on Wednesday criticized Healey's plan to restructure the T's top brass.

  • "Maybe we need to make some changes in leadership, but I would never do that publicly. It's just not the role of a governor and it's not good management," he said at a press conference.

Details: Doughty says he would rely on his experience as a businessman to guide the T.

  • Doughty, president of a powder metal manufacturing company, would hire outside groups to audit the T's safety.
  • He wants to implement a "checklist culture" at the T, with frequent third-party safety audits and "world class" preventative maintenance systems.
  • Doughty told Axios last week that as governor, he would travel to train maintenance yards to see problems firsthand.

Former state Rep. Geoff Diehl (R) is also calling for an independent audit of the T.

  • Diehl also wants to make managerial changes to the T. He said in a statement to Axios that current management is incapable of delivering change.
  • He would name a special commission to prioritize infrastructure needs and oversee their repairs.

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