A New MBTA
An Opportunity to be Part of the Transformation
The winter 2015 collapse of the Boston region’s mass transit system exposed not just breakdowns due to heavy snow, but long-standing, systemic failures in operations and management that demanded bold and urgent action.
Before the winter ended, newly-elected Governor Charlie Baker convened a special panel to review the MBTA and make recommendations to improve its governance, organization, financials and operations. (Click here for the Panel’s plan Back on Track: An Action Plan to Transform the MBTA).
Step 1: New Leadership – After receiving the Panel’s report in April 2015, Governor Baker immediately implemented dramatic and important changes to the top tier of MBTA leadership. He accepted the resignations of and quickly replaced both the General Manager and the entire MBTA Board. With the support of the Massachusetts Legislature, the Governor named a new, five-member MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) to oversee and direct the Authority’s transformation. New leadership, including a new Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, were brought on board. Click on the following links for more information: MassDOT Board of Directors; MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board; and MBTA Chief Administrator & Acting General Manager.
Step 2: Operational Improvements – Among the Special Panel’s top recommendations was to balance an unsustainable operating budget. Over the past eighteen months, the FMCB and new T leadership have made a number of cost saving improvements, including internal cost controls, enhanced fare collection, reducing absenteeism and overtime costs, and increasing advertising, real estate, and other own-source revenues. In all, these measures reduced the operating deficit by over 45% in FY2016 and are making further progress in FY2017.
Step 3: Capital Delivery Improvements – The MBTA and its leadership team has also acted on another critical phase in its transformation: fixing the physical infrastructure of the system. As noted by both the Special Panel and the FMCB, the MBTA has been unable to spend a large portion of the capital funds available to it, contributing to chronic underinvestment in the train fleet and infrastructure. The MBTA was struggling to get projects of all types out the door and, with an already enormous State of Good Repair backlog, the MBTA needed to dramatically improve the way it delivered capital maintenance and improvement projects. The MBTA engaged Ascent, a consultant with expertise in capital program and project management, to help understand and resolve the capital delivery dilemma.
MBTA leadership, with Ascent’s guidance, developed and successfully executed a plan to break the capital delivery log jam. The Authority made capital delivery a strategic priority and took the following steps toward transforming the MBTA’s capital delivery performance:
- Hired a new AGM to lead a new Capital Delivery department and consolidated and strengthened the capital delivery team.
- Hired a new AGM to lead a new Capital Program Oversight office to manage capital planning and the CIP process.
- Accelerated issuance of contracts for major capital spend on State of Good Repair projects.
- Selected a new DCOO to consolidate and lead a restructured Engineering & Maintenance department.
- Undertook a review of the entire capital program and developed interim performance reports and metrics
This reorganization strengthened coordination among the departments involved in planning the CIP and delivering the capital projects and provided new executive oversight to implement a CIP-wide controls approach to support meaningful decision making.
Step 4: Staffing Up – Bringing in the Experts - With these important governance, leadership, and operational transformations in place, the MBTA now seeks to staff the Authority with the talent and expertise needed to successfully deliver the CIP. This includes new talent across planning, oversight and delivery.
Of the critical new hires will be the Senior Director of Capital Program Controls – a controls champion to help meet the challenges ahead and help deliver an expanded capital program of more than $6.5 billion in the next five years. The Senior Director of Program Controls will lead the implementation of a controls approach which will require cultural change around accountability for capital delivery, controls and decision making. In addition, the Senior Director will provide more traditional support for process re-engineering, Program Management Information System (“PMIS”) implementation and training. While there is an existing controls team in place, it has been focused on Design and Construction and the new team will be responsible for serving capital delivery enterprise wide. This will require enhancing this team’s capacity and capability under the leadership of the new Senior Director of Capital Programs. Importantly the MBTA has committed to investment in the team and tools including the implementation of a new enterprise-wide Program Management Information System.
The Senior Director will report to the AGM for Capital Program Oversight and responsibilities will include:
- Controls team development including leadership and support to program and project controls staff.
- Program Reporting and Analysis – across the Authority’s $6.5 billion five-year plan including all projects and associated programs.
- Program Controls – develop and administer the Authorities Program Controls policies and procedures in support of achieving on-budget and on-time performance.
- Program Management Information System – support project and program delivery and efficiency through the implementation of systems and tools that support the five-year Capital Plan (CIP).