What will happen now that the general manager of the MBTA, Beverly Scott, has announced her intention to resign?
The T is still woefully underfunded — an ageing, creaky system with too many out-of-date cars that has been battered by the recent winter weather — and there's more snow on the way!
Now, add a search for a new general manager to those challenges.
But what happened? We know the T ground to a halt this week, we know that Gov. Charlie Baker declared its performance "unacceptable" and we heard Beverly Scott's passionate and animated defense of her staff and record.
But what compelled an experienced, very popular general manager to quit just hours after members of a grateful state transportation board gave her a unanimous vote of confidence?
On his reaction when he heard Beverly Scott was resigning:
Paul Regan: "I was stunned, I was very surprised. She's immensely popular with transportation advocates, with T employees. After this broke, I called some friends of mine over at the T and it really did take everybody off-guard."
On whether Baker's disapproval of the T's performance contributed to Scott's decision:
PR: "I think that jobs like this — general manager jobs — are lightning rods, both in Massachusetts and throughout the country. If you look at the history just of the T in the last, say, 10 years or so, every time that there's a major problem — or even a relatively minor problem — it's always a call for the general manager's head. I don't know the details of this. I'd love to know, but I don't. I think that she knew...that this is a very controversial position, especially since she's been here a couple of years. She knows the condition of the T. If the red line breaks down on a 70 degree day in June, you could pretty much predict that we were going to have trouble when we got four or five feet of snow."
On Scott's argument that the MBTA's problems have to do with resources, not management:
PR: "I agree with her. I think that this is not a management crisis. No one could have managed this situation better. I think people would have done it differently, perhaps, but I don't think you could do it better. The machines broke, and there's really not a lot you can do about that. She's right in the sense that the resources to make sure those machines don't break have not been there for a very long time. This snow emergency is about choices we've made [over a long period of time.]"
On what this situation says about Gov. Baker's management style:
Simon Waxman: "Like everyone in the Boston area, I've been frustrated by the way the [MBTA] has operated lately, but it never occurred to be to suggest that it was a failure of the T, it's operating plan, it's management...As I think everybody must understand at this point, it's a fiscal failure. It's because the T is consistently underfunded and so in that circumstance, to have the governor come out and publicly put pressure on the leadership of the system and blame the operators of the system...to me, that seems pretty unfair. It seems to me that a good manager — and of course, Charlie Baker ran heavily on that platform of being a...skilled private sector manager — that a good manager is going to look at that situation and, you know, give people a straight answer about it, protect his employees. And that doesn't really seem to be what happened in this case."
On whether the T will change:
PR: "Yes, I do [think it will change]. I'm really encouraged. I am hopeful for the future that things will change. I think that we've gotten a real window into what's going to happen to this system when it's stressed. It's not going to get less stressed over the next couple of years. It's the big ticket items that you see, vehicles, things like that, yes. They do take years. Bridges take years. But power systems, signals, tracks, they can be done much faster. It's not a panacea but, increased investment, I think, will result in increased efficiency of the system."
- Beverly A. Scott abruptly resigned as general manager of the MBTA on Wednesday, taking Governor Charlie Baker’s administration by surprise just hours after she received a unanimous vote of gratitude and confidence from the MassDOT board."
- "Throughout his campaign for governor, Charlie Baker regaled us with tales of his nigh superhuman management abilities. That was the promise of Charlie Baker. In practice, that spyglass looks more like a rifle scope, and MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott was in its crosshairs."
- "You've heard of the glass ceiling for women? Perhaps you're less familiar with the well-documented idea of the glass cliff, where women just happen to be placed in charge of systems on the brink of collapse where, shockingly, they are most likely to fail."
This segment aired on February 12, 2015.