Mar 28, 2023 - News

The MBTA's Eng era begins

Phillip Eng at a press conference in New York in 2020 when he was president of the MTA's Long Island Rail Road. Photo: Steve Pfost/Getty Images

Gov. Maura Healey Monday named Phillip Eng, the former president of New York’s Long Island Rail Road, as the new leader of the MBTA, an agency engulfed in safety and performance crises.

Why it matters: The MBTA's current safety crisis was brought on by decades of neglect that no amount of funding will solve without effective leadership.

Between the lines: Eng's administration of the agency will be the key connection point between Healey's campaign promises of a functioning T and on-the-ground solutions to make it happen.

What’s happening: The T is still under federal review for a slew of safety problems that were exacerbated by worker shortages during and after the pandemic.

The MBTA's subway lines have operated under severe speed restrictions and trains will likely continue to move at reduced speeds along some stretches of track for at least the next few weeks.

Background: Eng ran the Long Island Rail Road, the busiest commuter rail line in North America, from 2018 until his retirement last year.

  • He had worked for the New York Department of Transportation as an engineer before becoming an executive at the department and the COO of the New York subway system.

Details: Eng will earn a base salary of $470,000, per the Globe, some $130,000 more than his predecessor Steve Poftak, who stepped down in January.

  • He's also being offered bonuses for success that could amount to nearly $100,000 more.

What they're saying: "The MBTA’s problems are deep and systemic. They go well beyond just one person, but leadership at the top will set the tone for everything the MBTA does moving forward," U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton said in a statement Monday about Eng's hiring.

  • Moulton, an outspoken critic of the MBTA under former Gov. Charlie Baker and Healey, added that it's time to turn the T from a "trundling mess" to a regional point of pride.

Zoom in: At a press conference outside Riverside station in Newton yesterday, Eng promised "outside the box solutions" and a "back-to-basics" strategy for assuring riders the T is safe.

  • "It's not going to happen overnight," but riders can expect some progress will be made in short order, Eng said.

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