Panel Discusses MBTA Issues, Performance

Four panelists concerned with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) discussed methods of dealing with the MBTA's rising operating costs and increasing deficit last night at the Kennedy School of Government Forum.

James Smith, chairman of the MBTA Advisory Board, said problems this year withvbudget management have shown that MBTA chairman Robert L. Foster is "over his head."

The Medium Is The Mess

"It's a very political agency," Smith said. "The only reason we have a new manager is that we have a new governor. Those things happen every four years--we hope."

Smith said ridership rose 15 per cent compared to July 1978 during the gasoline crisis this July, but by September decreased service to cut costs led to a decrease in ridership from last year.


"They lost every single new rider the gas crunch gave them," he said. "It's not politics. "It's not personal. It's embarrassing," he added.

Nancy Shapiro, director of public affairs and information for the MBTA, cited improvement in the system over the past three months, in spite of understaffing and a freeze on hiring because of budget constraints.

Twenty per cent of the MBTA's buses were out of service in September, but the MBTA is only 9 per cent short now, she said. "It's nothing to be proud of, but it is an improvement," she added.

Shapiro said the Green Line's problems mostly stemmed from problems with the Light Rail Vehicles (LRV) which the T ordered from Boeing Vertol several years ago. Because the MBTA expected the new cars, they did not maintain the old ones carefully.

"When the new ones didn't work and the old ones hadn't been maintained, you had pretty bad service on the Green Line," she said.

The recent $40 million settlement with Boeing Vertol should replace or repair those vehicles and alleviate the problem.

Brookline selectman Edward Novakoff said, however, that the settlement with Boeing Vertol may not be such a good deal. He said fixing the faulty vehicles would not necessarily prevent them from breaking down again, and because of the agreement, the company would no longer be responsible for manufacturing defects.

"The LRV's are over-designed, poorly constructed, dangerous, and simply don't work," Novakoff added.

Brookline will file suit against the MBTA if they feel Foster is not spending the settlement money properly.

He said businesses in the district most benefitted by the system should help subsidize the MBTA.

Jack Gallahue, president-elect of the Carmen's Union, said the problems in providing service are not caused by poor worker productivity.

He said the MBTA handled crowds during Pope John Paul II's visit in October efficiently "because the emphasis was on moving the people rather than on watching the budget.