THE CHAIR of MBTA’s board of directors, backed by fellow directors, on Thursday set out three top priorities for the agency — security was No. 1, followed by an infrastructure spending target of $2 billion a year and a call to deal with impending operating budget deficits.
Betsy Taylor said safety should be the agency’s top priority and acknowledged that the agency is strapped right now.
“While thousands of people use the T safely every day, too many tragic accidents have happened lately,” she said.
She said the board welcomes input from the Federal Transit Agency, which currently has teams reviewing security measures at the T and is expected to release its findings this summer.
Taylor said the T must continue to invest in its infrastructure at a rate of $2 billion a year. “Without these continued investments and financial resources, MBTA cannot provide the safe and reliable service that this region and our customers deserve,” she said.
Taylor also said the council will work with stakeholders and the Legislative Assembly to address impending operating budget shortfalls.
Every board member said they agreed with Taylor’s list of priorities. Board member Travis McCready said he wanted to double down on priorities. “We have to be obsessed with security,” he said. “We need to sound the alarm about the long-term structural integrity of the T’s budget.”
McCready said that without adequate funding, the T cannot achieve its goals of transit equity and means-tested fares, sometimes called low-income fares.
Board member Mary Ann Mello praised MBTA Managing Director Steve Poftak for decommissioning all new Orange and Red Line cars after an improperly installed bolt on a brake mechanism disabled a train. Poftak told the T council on Thursday that an inspection of 1,584 bolts on the vehicles revealed 17 that were “out of the specified torque range.”
Poftak said the vehicle’s Chinese manufacturer will change its assembly procedures to guard against such problems in the future when the vehicles are assembled in Springfield. Poftak also said security should be the agency’s top priority.
“Getting it right is more important than avoiding a few days of critical coverage,” Poftak said. “It’s surely more important to get it right.”