Boston transit chief resigns amid snowstorm-related strife

February 17, 2015

Beverly Scott, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, announced her resignation this week, reports the Boston Globe. Scott’s announcement comes as she and the MBTA have been battling criticism for their handling of recent weather emergencies, including the decision to suspend rail service due to snow conditions earlier this week, and the passenger-packed train that was stuck for two hours due to power failure.

MBTA in the snow

Beverly Scott might have endured budget crises, but her tenure with the MBTA couldn’t survive 2014 to 2015’s streak of bad weather. Image from ironmike9.

Scott, who has held this role since December 2012, will leave office on April 11. She announced her resignation in a letter and did not give reasons for her departure, though, as the Globe reports, she told reporters asking if she was forced to give up that “I never give up anything.”

There have been three major snowstorms in the area over three weeks, resulting in over six feet of snow. MBTA train service has been suspended for more than 24 hours twice within the last two weeks due to snow. Earlier this week, Scott blamed the system’s problems on the weather and on the infrastructure itself being outdated, saying that as many as 6,000 people were working on fixing the situation.

“What we are going to do is to get things up as quickly as we can, as responsibly as we can, and I will tell you this, the fixing of it has to wind up being part of a collective. Because we are running an extremely aged system that is getting a pounding every single day. And we love it. Because we love our public. But I’m telling you this is not a spring chicken system by any stretch of the imagination,” Scott said, according to local news station WHDH.

Scott worked for more than 30 years at transit systems around the country including New York’s MTA, with her most recent stint at Atlanta’s Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, where she was the first female exec in that role. Under her leadership in Boston, a major Green Line extension has been funded, certain improvements on the Fairmount Line have begun, and late-night service — piloted last year — was recently extended, according to the Globe. As for reasons why she left, Robert Prince Jr., who managed the agency from 1997 to 2001, told the Globe that “I suspect that she didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel… And if she does, it’s another train coming at her.”

Yet the MBTA’s problems started before Scott arrived on the scene. The system is the country’s fourth-largest public transportation system, spanning a commuter rail, subway, bus and trolley network. As the Huffington Post reports, the city itself is ideal for public transit: “Boston should be a perfect case for public transportation… it has a youthful, engaged population that wants to use public transport, it spends $2 billion a year in supporting the system, and it’s a small city with enough traffic and parking issues to keep people out of cars.”

But when funding sources were changed from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the agency itself in 2000, problems grew. The change in funding meant that the agency had a dedicated stream of revenue, but also that it would inherit $3.2 billion in debt from the Commonwealth. Though the agency generates a great deal of revenue, it is still paying off that debt: A 2009 analysis of the MBTA concluded that a “private sector firm faced with this mountain of red ink would likely fold or seek bankruptcy.”

Follow Scott’s story as it unfolds over at the Boston Globe.

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