MBTA exploring salary options to attract, retain top managers

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BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – While wrestling down operating cost growth, MBTA officials plan to also turn their attention to attracting and retaining top managers, especially in technical maintenance roles, MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve told a legislative panel Monday.

“If we’re going to be a world-class transportation agency, we need world-class talent in particular in those very senior maintenance roles,” Shortsleeve told the News Service after the Transportation Committee hearing on Monday. Shortsleeve said the T has engaged a firm to help determine “what we would have to pay” managers in about 15 key positions. Shortsleeve said the positions include executive-level non-union staff as well as some members of management unions.

MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board Chairman Joseph Aiello told the Transportation Committee the compensation rates for management positions are “non-competitive.”

Committee co-chairman Sen. Tom McGee urged MBTA officials not to focus exclusively on the bottom line when making decisions.

“I’d rather we have a discussion about what does this system need?” McGee said. He said, “It gets a little frustrating when we continue to talk about the cost, and we don’t talk about what this system needs.”

After the hearing, McGee indicated he wanted a broader analysis of whether to continue services such as extended operating hours on the weekend, which the control board recently voted to end.

“I understand where they’re coming from but I think the discussion needs to be broader than that,” McGee told the News Service. He said, “Late night service is an example… ‘Oh we’re going to eliminate the service because it’s fiscally responsible to do.’ The question is let’s get our hands around all of the fiscal issues and then where do we go from here?”

According to Boston.com, the Federal Transit Administration said the MBTA failed to conduct a civil rights analysis before deciding to eliminate the late-night service.

Sen. John Keenan, a Quincy Democrat, and Rep. Evandro Carvalho, a Dorchester Democrat, differed on the fare hikes the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board plans to vote on later in the day Monday.

“I’d like to put myself in the camp of being in favor of an MBTA fare increase with the caveat those fare increases look at distance traveled,” said Keenan, who also urged consideration of the fare increases’ effect low-income riders.

“I am strongly against the hikes,” Carvalho told the board.

The control board reported to the committee on progress in reducing operating expenses and increasing own-source revenues to reduce the T’s structural deficit as well as measures taken to improve service.

To better prepare the system for harsh winters, the MBTA installed more than 13 miles of new third rail, 32,757 feet of heater element and 2,470 feet of snow fencing.

The rate of daily dropped weekday bus trips has fallen in early 2016 to 81, down from 155 in 2015, while average daily overtime expenses fell to $115,000 in early 2016, down from $154,000 in 2015, according to the control board’s presentation.

Monica Tibbits-Nutt, a control board member who focuses on riders’ experience, told lawmakers the T is seeking to overhaul its website, provide riders with more information on service and in the next few years upgrade the automated fare collection system.

“We are really going to take a system that was fantastic seven years ago and bring it up to what it needs to be now,” Tibbits-Nutt said of planned upgrades to fare collection. Anticipating the T would seek proposals in the next few months, Tibbits-Nutt said, “We’re looking at an open-payment system,” which she said would allow the T to implement distance-based fares and time-of-day based fares or other changes.

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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