A look at MBTA GM Phillip Eng's first 6 months
Six months after MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng was appointed by Gov. Maura Healey to fix the T, the agency's situation has gotten worse.
- But observers tell Axios that Eng is still the right person for the job.
Why it matters: The T has federal regulators breathing down its neck for a series of safety problems spanning years, and service slowed for track repairs has frustrated riders and made some commutes up to 50% longer.
- The agency also has a labor shortage of 20-25% that has prompted more service reductions, as well as a budget crunch that forced it to tap emergency funds this year.
What's happening: Under Eng, the T shut down long sections of the subway this summer for necessary repairs, and closures are likely to continue into the fall.
- To boost hiring, Eng played a key role negotiating with MBTA employees to create generous new benefits and pay raises.
Of note: Perhaps the most important accomplishment of Eng's tenure so far has been the one that's most frustrating for riders: identifying overlooked safety concerns and instituting speed restrictions while they're fixed.
Between the lines: Eng's biggest move came just last month, when he built a new executive team by reassigning over a dozen senior managers and demoting top operations leaders.
- The former head of the Long Island Rail Road brought veterans of New York's transportation systems into top jobs.
What they're saying: "With Phil Eng, it's like the adults are finally in charge," MBTA Advisory Board executive director Brian Kane told Axios.
The intrigue: Observers like Kane see Gov. Healey's faith in Eng as one of his top strengths when tackling the T's problems, since she campaigned on fixing the metro system and appears to have empowered Eng to make big changes.
What's next: Aside from hiring, firing, repairs and track closures, Eng also has his hands full regarding the T's finances.
- Ridership and revenue remain low, and when remaining federal pandemic aid runs out the T could face a $400 million budget shortfall in 2024.
- Still, some transit advocates hope Healey and Eng, along with new acting Transportation Secretary Monica Tibbits-Nutt, will finally ask the legislature to significantly increase the T's budget after years of cost-cutting.
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