When Beverly Scott became the new manager of the MBTA in December, she inherited a slew of challenges. Perhaps the most daunting is balancing a very unbalanced budget — to the tune of a $132 million deficit.
But despite the long task list that lies ahead, Scott says she has enjoyed her month on the job. She has decades of experience working in the public transportation industry, running systems from Rhode Island to Atlanta, and was universally approved by the MBTA board to become it’s new general manager. But despite her long history in the transportation industry, Scott says she still finds the MBTA special.
“The T belongs to Boston and to the people of the Commonwealth,” she explains. “The people have entrusted us and they have put their T in our care … that is a feeling of a personal nature and connection with the system that I honestly have not experienced in any of the other places that I have worked.”
With that spirit in mind, Boston Public Radio had the people Scott sees as the T's owners — Boston commuters — ask Scott their questions about the MBTA.
Q: What will the MBTA look like in 2030?
Scott: Well I hope what winds up happening in 2030 is that we have accomplished at least a goal of being able to try to increase the travel that winds up taking place by transit and alternative modes…The bottom line is that we also have a goal from the Commonwealth of trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020.
Now in order for all of that to happen, we’re going to have to have a much more robust system than we have today. I’m a very big [proponent for saying] it won’t about just the T alone… streetscapes to me are very important, biking — I always say that everyone is a pedestrian first.
…I think we have to make very good and strategic investments in expansion. I do think that the Green Line expansion makes sense; I did do Rhode Island for six years and I’m familiar with parts of where the South Coast Rail system will go, and those expansions are needed as well. I’d like to see an expansion in terms of Commuter Rail service.
Q: I live in Fall River, and we’re the only urban area of the Commonwealth that isn’t connected to the capital city. How close are we to getting connected by the South Coast Rail project?
Scott: I can tell you that it’s been very clear from my secretary to me and my board that it’s more than just a commitment … The keeping of that commitment relative to the implementation of South Coast Rail is a part of those plans.
Q: Are you going to be increasing bus services into minority communities?
Scott: Let me tell you — across the board. I did have a chance to look at the recent report that came through showing some of the disparities that exist in terms of travel time [for minority commuters]. I can tell you that issues of service equity, title six, just trying to make sure that the service that we provide is very fair, is very rational in terms of how we’ve done it, and we hold ourselves to really high standards across the board in terms of on-time service and service reliability.
I look at the communities that we serve…as one blanket. And I’m not being naïve, because you need to look behind the blanket, but in terms of being fair and straightforward, and trying to make sure that every part of the community that needs a service has that service, we’re running that the best that we can — you have that commitment from me.
Q: I live out in the suburbs, in Billerica. I’d like to use public transportation more — but it’s more expensive than driving. How can we address that issue?
Scott: It is something that has to happen as a function of a broader community understanding of — what is the cost of things and what do we value…It’s not just a fair T conversation, it’s really about how we are going to value the different pieces that go into making that trip, if you will.
…That’s literally what they’ve been doing in other countries for years. It’s not by chance that they wind up having the mode splits that they have, because what they’ve done is that the prices of petroleum were much higher, the prices of parking were much higher, and those kind of things were done largely, honestly, to make transit in your alternative modes the systems of first choice as opposed to last.