You rarely hear about Massachusetts Port Authority CEO Thomas Glynn. Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis said that's an indication of just how good he is.
"The Port Authority job was a very controversial job ... [there were] all kinds of problems with the neighborhood and with the facility itself," Dukakis said. "The relative silence, quiet and effectiveness that we now have at the Port Authority has everything to do with Tom."
Dukakis said that Glynn, who ran the MBTA for the former Governor, is one of the best managers he has ever worked with.
Glynn is stepping down in November after managing Massport's vast transportation empire for the last 6 years, during a period of rapid growth and development. He oversaw operations at Logan Airport, Hanscom Field and Worcester Regional Airport along with three large marine terminals, and the Boston waterfront itself, which is now some of the hottest real estate in the city. Massport is a financially self-sustaining public authority whose transportation facilities generate more than $600 million annually and are a vital part of the New England economy.
During Glynn's tenure there has been dramatic growth at Logan Airport: a 77 percent increase in international destinations and a 65 percent increase in international passengers
"We're very proud of the international flight growth and some of the new markets in China and South America and the Middle East," Glynn said. "And I think revitalization of the Worcester airport is a very big deal for people in Central Mass."
But all that growth has brought with it increased traffic congestion, something Glynn admitted is a big problem. Glynn said to deal with that, Massport is committed to increasing the capacity of high occupancy modes of transport like Logan Express.
"We have about 30 percent of the passengers come on an HOV option, so that's the highest in the country, but that needs to grow. And we're working on an automatic people mover to move people around the airport," he said.
That "people mover" could be a monorail or tram system. And Glynn said $15 million has been committed to designing it. It would connect the T's Blue and Silver Lines with airport terminals and parking lots.
Glynn is adamant that one thing is off the table. Expansion, he said, is out if the question at Logan. "It's in a residential neighborhood. People in East Boston have been very patient over the years to work with Massport, as have Winthrop and South Boston. We have one of the smallest airport footprints in the country; there's never been a discussion about expanding and it wouldn't be the right thing to do," Glynn said.
But Glynn added that doesn't mean there can't be growth in service.
"At our peak, we had about 1,500 flights a day and now we have maybe 1300. So we still have some room in terms of the number of flights, because in the old days when we had 1,500 flights they were only half full," he said. "Now, the flights are about 80 percent full so we can actually carry more people on fewer flights. So, we think we still have some room to grow."
Another part of Massport's domain is the Boston Harbor waterfront, including the booming Seaport District. Glynn admitted along with soaring condo and office towers, there is concern about maintaining public access along the shore.
"On the East Boston side, there's a lot more public access because of Massport properties. I think the Harborwalk on the South Boston side is very significant, but it is true that because if the geography over there and the way the parcels lay themselves out there is not as much access as we would like to see," Glynn said.
And speaking of the harbor, Glynn has overseen the massive $350 million dredging project underway to accommodate more and larger cargo ships crucial to the port's future.
"We have a working port with 7,000 blue collar jobs and we need to protect those assets which a lot of cities would be happy to have," he said, "so the dredging project will allow us to stay in the game as the container ships get bigger and bigger."
Under Glynn’s leadership, the Conley Cargo Terminal has set all-time records for container volume for four straight years.
And Glynn said those aren't the only ships coming more frequently to Boston Harbor. In the summer of 2016, 115 cruise ships stopped in Boston. One year later, there were 151 — a 30 percent increase. Glynn said the old army warehouse now serving cruise ships needs to be upgraded and heated to accommodate the longer cruise season.
By all accounts Glynn has kept Massport financially afloat during his tenure.
"I inherited it in the black and I haven't messed it up, so it's still in the black but it's a challenge. In the old days we used to have the Mystic River Bridge, which provided a good profit margin, but that was transferred back to [the Massachusetts Department of Transportation], so we're on a skinnier diet than we used to be," he joked.
Glynn said although there will be financial challenges ahead, he sees a bright future for Massport as the region's economy prospers. Glynn said people want to come to Boston because we have some of the best hospitals and universities in the world, along with tourism, finance, manufacturing and technology. He said that is what attracts people from around the globe and Logan Airport is the main gateway for them all.
Glynn’s contract ends in November 2019. But Glynn, now 72, said he’s ready to leave early and may return to teaching. He noted that the average tenure for a Massport CEO since 1990 has been three years. In the future expect to find Glynn in a classroom somewhere, sharing his expertise on how to manage seemingly unmanageable enterprises.