New MBTA head has no transit experience

But that's OK, because state officials weren't looking for anybody like that - they wanted somebody with "turnaround" experience - the Herald reports.


Free tagging: 



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*sigh* Great so I can go apply for a job as a brain surgeon because I'm a "getting the job done" kinda guy. amirite?!? Is this how this works?!?

It's clear Baker still has a pipe dream of running the T like a business and privatizing it. He wants a yes man, not someone who is going to question is or the FCMB's motives.

Sure, Im not giving the guy a fair shot but I've come to expect similar from Baker, so I am not surprised at all by this move.

Or trying to manage a hospital with a "family boss"

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Cannot wait for that first Ramirez-Pollack meeting

GM Ramirez: Hello Secretary Pollack, thanks for meeting with me

Pollack: No problem, I have some time before I scream gibberish at a conference, what's up

GM Ramirez: Well, I was going through the numbers and I found some low hanging fruit. Service after 8pm, gone, The Fairmount Line, gone, Green Line B gone, the RIDE gone; easy peasy.

But the biggest prize of them all, and I'm not sure why this wasn't cut before, is this Green Line Extension dumpster fire. Literally $5 billion for the Green Line to run 4 miles for 100 people? We cut this, we are golden!


I'll give the guy a shot

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A whole host of industry people have taken the job, but things have only gotten better in little ways (the countdown clocks and apps that tell when the bus should be there is great, but seeing that there is a 15 minute gap in the Orange Line during rush hour not so much.) If the guy respects the people who know the job and lets them do their jobs, we might be cheering this guy yet.

When the T was run by people with transportation backgrounds, the snow removal equipment was ignored, until of course 2015. Some genius once tried to get rid of the blacksmith shop, only to realize that it was needed to keep the trains running. As long as this guy isn't like those "leaders," I'll give him a shot.


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as general counsel. He had nothing to do with making sure the trains were running on time. He was GM for a year.

I give Davey this

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His time at the T before becoming GM left him with an idea of what to expect. I have a lot of good to say about him. He's the one that admitted that they would drop bus runs, and during his time the apps came in. Beverly Scott was theoretically the best candidate they've hired if you only count experience, but I was not impressed with her tenure at the T.

Speaking of Beverly Scott..

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When the trains stop running this winter, I guess Ramirez will be able to say "Actually, this IS my first rodeo."

Try reading links

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Try reading links... they are helpful sometimes.

In July 2003 he was named the MBCR's general counsel and in 2007 was named deputy general manager of the MBCR.[4] I

He wasn't GC for his entire tenure at MBCR

Full Disclosure: Rich Davey is an acquaintance of mine. I can also attest that Rich does love transit and has a very deep interest in it. I wish I could say for the incoming GM.

Say Goodbye

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To the Ashmont Branch, Fairmount Line, Green Line past Coolidge, and every bus after 7pm: all in the name of "turning things around". Hey, ya gotta pay for the Green Line Extension somehow. Pollack won't budge on her pet project. Expect major cuts everywhere else.

Red herring.

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Red herring.

Capital funding != operating funding

We get it, you don't like the GLX.

Madam Pollack

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Why are you spending time commenting on UHub? Shouldn't you be, um, working?

Baker's always had

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Baker's always had a thing against the MBTA. Many of it's issues, due to deferred maintenance, can be traced back to his bright idea to saddle them with the Big Dig debt and to tie their funding to the sales tax.

The city and region desperately needs to upgrade it's transportation infrastructure. Hell, could you imagine the economic revival of places like Lowell, Worcester, and Fall River is the MBTA could provided high speed 30 min rail to those cities?

The state has a housing crisis. It also has lopsided economic gains, mostly going to those inside 495. He's going to have to be bold if he wants to be remembered.

Cut the crap

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The T was never "saddled" with debt. They have been VERY generously funded and they plowed it all into salaries, pensions and bennies until the system was literally falling apart.

Go look at their income statement and show me where they got "saddled" with debt and not the funds to pay for it.

30 minute service? From Lowell And Fall River? Rotsaruck says scooby.

Pull your head out of the crap

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The T was saddled with Big Dig debt and that is a BIG issue.

Just stop your gaslighting campaign. You are as much of a fool here as you are with claiming that the schools are over funded.

Shouldn't you be sailing off on the Fountainhead or something Mr. Galt?

See analysis below

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'Big Dig debt and the T's woes are a NON-ISSUE. That was a carmen union's talking point that has been repeated enough until people started believing it to distract from the real issues of rising salaries and bennies. The state has given the T PLENTY of money to pay that off.

As for the schools - see you on another more relevant thread.

I know - facts suck when they don't confirm your echo chamber world view.

Ah, no.

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"The MBTA has $5.5 billion in debt from three sources: the transfer of debt associated with spending since 2000; the debt from prior projects and transferred to the MBTA after the start of forward funding in 2000, which directed a portion of sales tax revenues to the MBTA; and the costs associated with Big Dig transit mitigation projects that the MBTA is legally required to build."


Go look at their income statement

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And get back to me with numbers. They added the debt and have given them 3 separate revenue line items to pay for that and orher improvements. Instead they plowed the money into raises, pensions and bennies until they were forced to start buying new equipment.

They didn't provide funding

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They didn't provide funding for it - in fact in 2000 they screwed them on the switch to Forward Funding. Funny that the Sales Tax never lived up to projections (hi internet commerce and New Hampshire). Everything else related to be big dig was funded by big dig dollars (all 20+ billion of them), and then the T got screwed by the legally mandated transportation upgrades that got... no funding. It adds up to 1/3 of their debt - if they took that off the MBTA's books (and the debt service/interest) the MBTA would be in the black even without the last fare hike.

As to pensions - you do realize since the debt was incurred (and forward funding) that the pension was actually cut and renegotiated under Deval, right? But that doesn't help with making an incredibly complex issue into a sound bite about unions and how they caused all the problems the MBTA faces, does it?

Go look at their income statement

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The level of ignorance is astounding. They cut the pension benefits ( for employees after a certain gire date), the obligations co tinue to grow.

The linked article even oroves my point. Read the part about debt patments are now 22% of spending when the article was written as opposed to about 30% when forward funding started. The other 8% went to employees, not capital improvements until a few years ago when the system literally began to crash.

That's not an opinion. It's arithmetic.

Doesn't fit the BS narrative, but it's indisputable.

Case closed unless you find something in the income statement that says otherwise.


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Lets look at the financial sheet, shall we:

Total debt service: $423,938,425 with more than half going to only interest payments ($240,945,845) with 1/3 of that being directly the big dig, so, what, yearly the Big Dig debt is costing the T $141,312,808. Forward funding also accounts for a large portion of that debt, but lets forget about that. The 'Additional Assistance' the MBTA needed was 135,100,000 - which is basically the funny money the State throws in because of Forward Funding. Without the big dig, then the MBTA lives within its budget (without any funny money) while still posting a "profit". If you keep the funny money then thats ~$120 million a year extra that can be spent on anything else.

Looking at labor costs over a 10 year period, it rises slightly above inflation (assuming a base line 2% annual inflation increase) at ~3.8%, with the biggest jump in 2015 (shockingly when they had to pay out a shit ton due to the weather). Seems reasonable to me - people need at least CoL raises, and people need to be hired. Not to mention that most of the skilled labor in the T could be working anywhere else for a ton of money as the trades have been booming - so one needs to compete with private sector wages (same with management wages).

Material/Supply spending rose at a much higher rate: ~6.9%, Local Service purchased expenses by ~13.3%, CR purchased expenses by ~14.4%.

What were you saying again about how wages were increasing the most and all the money was going to them? Do you not know of the huge order of 100% fleet replacement of the OL/RL, the Blue Line replacement, the Type 7 overhauls, all of the (miserably failed) new CR equipment? The crazy costs to keep the OL/RL limping along until the new stuff gets here?

Does the MBTA have a problem with overtime (which should be management), the unions, and people gaming the system? Yup, definitely - the unions are crazy, management is incompetent. But that doesn't change the fact of debt and of funding to keep things maintained and running, and the legislature incompetence to keep things funded and to fund equipment orders in a timely manner.


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Now I know why Mass gets an F in national financial literacy rankings. Back when i have time.

Yes we shall

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1) Look at the revenue - it has almost doubled since forward funding in 2001. Inflation has run about 35% - but expenses are up almost 100%! There are some new services (Greenbush, Silver Line etc) - but I highly doubt the 33% incremental T costs over the rate of inflation is due to a couple of new services.

2) Your debt numbers make some assumptions about unknowable debt structure. What we do know is that the T has dropped their debt servicing from about 30% of revenue to 22% which pretty much explains why they are in such a maintenance pickle. Note this revenue magnifies the problem of "where'd all the money go" in number 1 above. We also know that the T has paid down about $2 billion in debt since forward funding - effectively retiring all the Big Dig debt and then some, so blaming their today problems on something that happened 15 years ago is ridiculous. It is more ridiculous when you see that the T got an extra $74 million of sales tax revenue year 1 of forward funding (and that has increased at about the pace of inflation), plus another $160 million for contract assistance, plus $130 million for "additional assistance" which in current dollars means the state is effectively paying for all of their debt service. Again - you can't blame the T's problems on debt servicing if the state is essentially washing it out with "funny money".

3) Labor costs nationally have struggled to even keep up with inflation - or about 35%. Hard to really do a thorough analysis because you'd need headcount numbers - but given that the vast majority of their expenses are related to either direct labor costs or contracted labor costs - it's reasonable to assume that they are either massively padding the payroll or giving everyone large raises - or both. It can't go anywhere else based on this income statement. Note - the 2015 numbers you cite are budget numbers. They are finalized in June the year before - don't know what the large 2015 increase is related to - but it has nothing to do with the bad winter. Nor was the labor market as tight then - although you are looking at very different labor markets (only a portion of the workforce would have skills transferrable to the building trades). And remember - they might make good money in building trades - but the benefits and pensions are a huge part of their compensation which they wouldn't get in the trades, not to mention job security when the market goes south again.

4) Note the specific increases you cite are mainly contracted services - which are, wait for it, wages, benefits and pensions. Same horse - different color.

5) And there you have the problem - instead of investing in capital purchases and projects - the T decided to pay people a lot more to fix the almost unfixable. That's the problem - not some debt scheme from 15 years ago that is now effectively irrelevant (which was the original point).

And I pretty much agree with your last paragraph.

Debt is not the problem - in fact the problem is that we don't have enough of it as we would if we were properly maintaining and improving the system (you'll see these numbers climb as we buy all these new cars, invest in new signalling etc. under the improvement Baker is working on - but that means there will be less room in the budget for future increases to wages, benefits and headcount increases). The T - like the rest of the world needs to become more efficient. There's only so much pie to go around - and they've already consumed more than their fair share for what they deliver.


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So.... lots of paragraphs, lots of.... nothing? National wages? Lets keep it local, you know, in one of the most expensive cities in the country to live in. Sorry, I will stick to the numbers and the 10 year analysis that I already looked at and provided and clearly shows the opposite of the bullshit you are taking. Maybe you should go back and take that finance 101 at BCC or RCC though - I'll stick with my undergrad and graduate degrees, thank you very much. I know looking at excel spreadsheets is hard - much more than vector calculus, linear algebra, graph theory, etc. Pesky numbers.

1) Lol, the numbers are right there cowboy, take a look at the expenses. I already broke down how they rose over the past decade for you.

2) What? The an article already linked down thread, and others are just as easy to find, breaks down the debt structure. Joke.

3) Blah blah blah, bullshit bullshit bullshit. Not finalized ? OK, I looked at a 10 year window, as the latest data on the T's website. In fact, most likely its less - making the number even closer to inflation. Show me the numbers, I showed you mine - er, I mean the actual MBTA's.

4) Bullshit bullshit bullshit - its equipment/etc costs from the new CR and subway rolling stock. Find me a break down showing you aren't talking out of your ass (you are).

5) And you didn't prove or do anything but talk out of your ass again. Show me the numbers. I showed you the numbers.

And as for your last paragraph - oh, I get it, you have no idea what you are talking about (other than your ass). New signaling system? A glimmer in the eyes of anyone - its going to cost billions (with a b) for any new signaling system on the red or orange - forget about the green that still uses block signaling to keep its headways. Just look at how much NYC has spent and the nothing they have to show for it. Want me to link you the presentation from the financial control board itself that said signaling improvements were pointless and they were instead focusing on all of the red's rolling stock with the claim that the better breaking would have as much effect, if not more, than new signaling? Joke.

As I said before, I am NOT saying there isn't any labor problem with the union (or management, or anything else). To blame the T on that is naive at best, and disingenuous at worst. What a joke. Also, sorry for being an ass, but, I may have had a pint (or two) and your other comment is pretty dickish - especially for someone who provides nothing in sources, makes shit up, and thus talks out of their ass.

Double Wow

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So you're doubling down?

1) Yes - you showed the past 10 years - conveniently ignoring the start of forward funding - and the years prior to that where debt burden often was even HIGHER than the 30% level at the beginning of forward funding. You argue that the state saddled the T with a high debt burden - but the debt burden was even higher prior to that, they got $74 million in additional funding to cover $51 million in incremental first year costs, doubled revenue - and never materially increased debt for about 8 years and somehow you double down on the argument that the state "saddled" the T with debt? How is that remotely logically possible? That one I'd love to hear.

2) I looked but didn't find the debt structure in the Commonwealth article - not that it's really relevant per 1 above - but I'll look again. I do see some subjective mention where the debt comes from - and I know there are articles that talk about how much Big Dig debt was transferred - but again - the T has paid off $2 billion in debt - effectively washing out whole swaths of that debt.

3) Wasn't criticizing the fact that you use 2015 numbers (doesn't surprise me that the T's numbers are 2.5 years out of date). The point is - those are budget numbers - not actuals. Those would have been estimated in June 2014 and I doubt they were using the Farmer's Almanac to predict snowmageddon. Those wage increases you note were fully planned - not emergency funding (my guess would be due to a new contract/collective bargaining with the carmen's union - that usually explains large bumps in Boston's wage numbers for public safety and teachers)

4) I don't know where there is a breakdown - but those contracts are for things like Keolis (CR) - from NBC "Keolis was awarded an eight-year, nearly $2.7 billion contract" - roughly 350 million a year - or pretty much what this number is. Keolis does the maintenance - it's built into that number - most of this is going to be wages like in any service organization. Not sure what the local service expenses are - but similarly - contracted services (maybe The Ride or local bus services?) - most of which would go to wages. New rail equipment isn't an operational expense - it's a capital expense amortized over decades.

5) the numbers speak for themselves - we didn't increase the debt burden on the T for a decade - and only for the last 5 years or so have we bumped it up as we desperately try to play catch up.

Bottom line and back to the original point - the state NEVER saddled the T with debt. And the debt they did pass along was fully funded (though perhaps not always by plan or choice). The T decided to forego capital expenses to offer employees and contractors packages that increased at or above double the rate of inflation. We can argue the wage issues and what's fair/required forever. But the original and main point to anyone that can read a spreadsheet is that the statement that the T was overburdened by forward funding, excess debt, Big Dig transit requirements etc. cannot possibly be logically true. That's not an opinion. It's arithmetic.

Pesky numbers!


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30 minutes from the south coast or southern NH for that matter? I take the red line from Quincy Center to Porter Sq, a distance of I'd say 12 miles, and it takes minimum 30 minutes, and the train is usually going at a good speed. Actually, a very easy, straight commute.

30 minutes from Lowell

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Easy. It's 25.5 miles. In 1952 several trains per day ran from Boston to Lowell in 30 to 33 minutes. Fall river, admittedly, would be a bit harder.

Several rush hour express trains to/from Lowell

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are scheduled for a 41-minute run, which isn't too bad. The locals are 45 or 46 minutes.

And yes, I've had days when it takes 45 minutes just to get from the Seaport to Back Bay.

At least it is better than the bustitution schedule for the next few months on weekends for installation of positive train control. The schedule lists a one-way bus trip between Lowell and Boston as taking AN HOUR AND 44 MINUTES. Apparently the bus will travel to every station along the route. The train usually boards dozens if not a couple hundred people at Lowell on weekends. Are they seriously making every bus travel to every stop, instead of sending the majority as an express to North Station?

As for normal service, can it be better? Sure. One day we will hopefully see electrification, and Metro North-type cars with high platforms. I look forward to that day... in 2108.

Trip times on the Lowell Line

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Trip times on the Lowell Line are not really a problem. Frequency is.

Another problem is that the line is kind of near some important suburban employment centers, but not close enough to walk. Same goes for the Lowell station -- not much there except a garage and bus stop. But that's much harder to solve.

The other problems exist on all the commuter rail lines -- high operating costs, high fares, and poor reliability. These could all be fixed by buying proven modern trains from other countries.

First of all, you are wrong

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First of all, you are wrong about the debt. This is all well documented.

Secondly, have you ever left this country? China, Italy, Spain, Germany and Japan all have trains that go 200MPH or more during service. I've been on trains in all those countries. Their public transit embarrasses ours. But there is no good reason we can't compete and have nice things too. We just have to raise the gas tax and stop giving billions in hand outs to oil companies and military contractors. But that won't happen as long as the republican party is the only major political party in the world to deny climate change and fight against public transit.

Read the post above

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You are wrong question

Aa for hav o traveled. Not much. Maybe only 30-40 countties including all but one you mention.

So ....

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What's Baker going to do when this guy comes back at him with the *groundbreaking* news that the T needs a lot more money to do its job?

He'll raise fares on T riders

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He'll raise fares on T riders yet again even after he said he wouldn't. Meanwhile drivers will pay less and less in gas tax every year.


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Baker and his new CEO MBTA head will raise rates, cut service, privatize as much as possible, and blame the unions. Like they always do.

Experience in a specific

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Experience in a specific field is meaningless in the C suite. The MBTAs widgets are train rides, but they are still just widgets.

not always

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to be a successful C exec, you should have some previous experience with your product.

You can't run a successful company without knowing some about the marketing you are targeting.

So I should be the CEO of Microsoft because I use Microsoft Windows? I mean that's what you are saying...

"So I should be the CEO of

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"So I should be the CEO of Microsoft because I use Microsoft Windows? I mean that's what you are saying..."

That is the exact opposite of what I am saying. To be a successful CEO of an organization you should be a good CEO, not an avid user of the specific products. You could be a great CEO of Windows and (ignoring the PR issues) prefer IPhones.

JCPennys brought in an Apple

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JCPennys brought in an Apple guy to fix the company.

He didnt last long.

You need to understand your customers, your labor, and your market.

This is what we call an

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This is what we call an anecdote.

If you like I could find you a CEO that came from the bottom up that tanked a company. It too would be a meaningless anecdote, but perhaps it would make you feel better.


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But according to Byron Hanson of the Curtin Graduate School of Business....
“Industry experience is not as big a success factor as what people think it would be,” he says. “My sense of success factors is more context-related or expertise-related.

Michelle Cottrell of recruitment firm Robert Walters agrees.

“Generally, we see that CEOs and board members are employed for their relevant experience and good performance in high-level roles, not necessarily their industry-specific experience,” she says.

How can you be this daft?

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Oh right...Trump guy. Pardon me, I'll let you get back to supporting at failed policies ad nauseam.

If you would like to have a

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If you would like to have a conversation I am more than willing to do so.

If you would like to attack my character than respectfully, get lost.

No need to attack your character

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as even casual readers of this blog know your stances and have watched you dig the hole you're in. You support racist, big-business coddling, common-man smashing, soul-less politicians, and you do so with glee. I hope the current "show" of anarchy and chaos you voted for is entertaining to you at least.

lol what?

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lol what?

I did not vote for Trump, will not vote for Trump in 2020 and do not care for him in the least.

Sorry to disappoint you.

My position is well supported

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My position is well supported.

Hanson points to a 1996 Academy of Management Journal study that found that CEOs with “medium or moderate experience” in an industry performed better than CEOs with high industry-specific experience.

“The drawback of same-industry [executives] is the ‘assumption that you know how this should work’ syndrome,” he says. “Banking is a good example of this … you often get conversations that begin with ‘when I worked at such and such bank we did this’, yet the current practice at the bank could be valid and just different.

It's not the lack of public transit experience that worries me

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its the lack of public sector experience. Running an operation in the public sector is, I believe, considerably more difficult that many private operations. You cannot just walk in and rule by fiat the way you can in many private operations. There are all kinds of exogenous factors beyond your control, and dealing with arguably the biggest ones (labor and politicians and their constant interference) require, for lack of a better term, "street cred" with those groups. (I realize you can analogize to union labor in the private sector and to shareholders, but from my view, having worked in both the public and private sectors, it's not the same).

I am not sure this fellow has any street cred, but I hope to hell he can get some and fast. This thing (the MBTA) is strangling the goose (metro Boston) that is laying the golden egg for the whole Commonwealth.

Glad we're all on the same

Glad we're all on the same page:

At his introduction Tuesday, Ramirez bristled at the notion that he was hired as a turnaround executive, saying the MBTA is already on the path to improvement.

“When I hear the phrase turnaround, it means something is going in the wrong direction or a direction contrary to where an organization needs to go,” he said. “My job is to build upon the solid foundation . . . and help create a long-term road map and plan to fully transform the T into what it needs to be: a world-class transportation system serving the people of a world-class city and Commonwealth.”

The perfect candidate for

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The perfect candidate for leading the MBTA doesn't need transit experience. The candidate needs union wrangling experience.

Yeah!!!1! The guy who doesn't

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Yeah!!!1! The guy who doesn't know the first thing about making trains run on time should boss around and lower pay of the people who actually know about public transit! Makes total sense.

This reminds me of what happened with the demise of Polaroid

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They installed as CEO a person with no imaging experience and no practical knowledge of its products (a former CEO of Black & Decker). My father, a Polaroid employee from the mid Sixties until its demise (and then on to a successor company with the same name, until that too folded) always said about him "he knows how to sell power tools, but knows nothing about imaging or photography". Several innovative products that were ahead of the digital photography curve that my father (a long time product line manager who started as a staff photographer directly under Dr. Land) thought would have saved the company were rejected in favor of branding non-Polaroid products with its logo and name. Needless to say, the company ceased to exist after not too long. Sometimes a widget is not a widget.

Same story with Eastman Kodak

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Same story with Eastman Kodak, but they blew it with their eyes wide open.

Kodak had a choice in the 1970's to spend a billion dollar on either a) digital imaging, like their new camcorder or b) instant photography. They chose instant photography. Their reasoning was that most of the company's revenue came from film. Instant photography consumed film, so there'd be more money in it.

Kodak soon ended up in a lengthy lawsuit with Polaroid over instant photography patents, where just the two companies spent a billion dollars just on lawyers. The rest is history.

Bios of various transit agency leaders

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NYC MTA: Veronique Hakim

Director of New Jersey Transit
Special Council at MTA
Head of NJ Turnpike
27 years public sector experience

Chicago CTA: Dorval Carter

Chief Counsel, Deputy Admin, Chief of Staff, Federal Transit Authority
General Attorney, CTA
31 years public sector experience

Los Angeles MTA: Phil Washington

CEO, RTD, Denver
24 years in US Army, Command Sergeant Major
16 years public sector experience

DC WMATA: Paul Wiedefield

CEO Maryland Aviation Admin
Admin Maryland Transportation Authority
13 years public sector experience

Philly SEPTA: Jeff Knueppel
Deputy GM of Operations and Engineering, SEPTA
Chief Engineer, SEPTA
27 years public sector experience

Yet here in MA:

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Yet here in MA:
Charlie Baker: Despises the MBTA and public transit in general. Saddled the MBTA with a huge chunk of debt that had nothing to do with public transit. Raises prices on MBTA riders white cutting service. Never rides the MBTA.

Marty Walsh: Self identified "car guy". Doesn't ride the T. Defends drivers when they kill people in hit and runs.

The new head of the MBTA: Doesn't know the first thing about public transit.

I wonder why the MBTA isn't a world class transit service???


You obviously don't know what it takes to run an organization and the expected compensation, especially with upper management.

Sure, you could go low bidder, but you get what you pay for if you bottom out.

$320,000 today is not an outrageous amount of money to running an organization like this.

However, if you can think you can do it better and much cheaper, give Charlie B a call and make your case.

Right because ...

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The T is just teeming with people who get hired on their "ability."

They are all somebody's cousins, brothers, uncles, nephews...see UNION...cronyism, nepotism etc...

Most new guys are known for banging on "hundreds of doors for, Maaaahty."

The new GM is a former GE

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The new GM is a former GE exec, and yet no one has posted a contentless, snarky message about helipads yet? C'mon, people!

I know!

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We are slipping here on Uhub.

Ok.. how about..

"OK maybe GE will finally get its helipad, but it will be operated by the MBTA so it'll be taken out of service a good portion of the time for 'schedule adjustments' "

Except it'll take an extra 5

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Except it'll take an extra 5 years to get built, go 3x over budget, and be scaled back to the size of a drink coaster.

How the hell...

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How in the world does a helipad have delays due to a switching problem?