He’s been on the job for only eight months, but MBTA General Manager Phil Eng thinks the troubled transit system has finally turned the corner. Appearing on Boston Public Radio Friday, Eng said progress is being made despite continuing negative press about problems he inherited.
“People do need to hear when we have challenges,” he said, “but people also need to hear that we are making progress. And we really are.”
Eng cited repairs to the Blue Line, which allowed for more frequent trains, ahead of the summer-long closing of the Sumner Tunnel. He also said recent work on the Red Line’s Ashmont Branch and along the Green Line in downtown Boston means more than two dozen longstanding slow zones could be eliminated. And there is a plan to lift speed restrictions systemwide by the end of 2024.
Eng said the T is building its depleted workforce providing better pay and benefits, and employees are seeing their concerns being taken seriously.
“I think in the past there's been this feeling that 'If I raise it and it doesn't get addressed, then I'm going to stop bringing it up,'” he said. “The employees are speaking up, and they're embracing the changes that are happening.”
Eng did admit there have been problems in collecting fares on commuter rail and subways due to crowded cars and a lack of personnel. He said a contactless system to be introduced next year will boost the T’s revenue, a third of which comes from fares. He also said it’s the intent to extend the free-fare pilot program that Boston Mayor Michelle Wu initiated two years ago on three bus routes to help lower-income riders afford transportation.
And he says talks are underway with Gov. Maura Healey's administration and legislators about providing a more consistent funding source for the T — especially as it faces an estimated cost of more than $24 billion to reach a state of good repair.