MBTA

Mayor Wu on the MBTA: ‘We are in a very, very dire place'

The mayor made her comments during an interview on WBUR's "Radio Boston" on Monday

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Boston Mayor Michelle Wu sounded the alarm about the MBTA's woes during a radio interview on Monday, saying what used to be a "stress-free" experience now has people leaving it altogether because of its unreliability.

"We are in a very, very dire place, just in terms of service delivery," Wu said on WBUR's "Radio Boston." Asked where her sense of urgency stands when it comes to the T, she rated it as a 4.8 on a scale of 0 to 5.

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"The experience of riding the T has very much changed, even as technology has improved," Wu said. "We are far from having a system that is barely adequate for the needs of a world-class economic engine and hub for our workforce. People are -- especially on certain lines -- you see people leaving because it's simply not... you can't rely on it to get to work on a regular basis, just the bare minimum of what we need."

And she said that doesn't even begin to address improvements that need to be made in terms of extending MBTA service to neighborhoods that currently aren't connected by public transit.

"We need to, most of all, prove to the public that everything is on a plan. There has to be a plan."

That said, Wu believes Gov. Maura Healey, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll and new T General Manager Phillip Eng are headed in the right direction, noting that the administration has done more in eight months for the agency than has been done under Republican governors over the previous 22 years.

"It's going to take a little bit of time," she said. "I don't think the public is demanding everything be fixed tomorrow. We know how much there is to do. But just to give a sense of what are the milestones we should be looking for? When can we expect this to happen or that next step to be taken so we can still have a sense of accountability and not just slide into complete disengagement or disillusionment with the system?"

You can listen to the full interview below:

Wu's comments came on the same day she announced that she has appointed Mary Skelton Roberts as Boston's first-ever representative to the board of directors of the MBTA. Skelton Roberts is president of the Climate Beacon Conference and a senior advisor to the Climate Beacon Project. She is a former senior vice president at the Energy Foundation and spent more than a decade as co-director of climate at the Barr Foundation in Boston.

The mayor said her focus will be on advancing faster bus trips, fare-free transit, ensuring all commuter rail trips within Boston charge the lowest Zone 1A fares and boosting communication with the public about improving the agency.

The MBTA announced last week that it had temporarily paused nearly all contractor work as it moved to address safety for its work crews. The stoppage came just days before MBTA leadership announced a personnel shakeup, demoting at least two longtime leaders and reassigning other staff.

The pause in contractor work, which ended Friday, came amid new reports of trains failing to stop despite being flagged to do so by track inspection crews.

In a public statement alongside his internal correspondence, Eng said the changes are "not about the status quo but about careful, meaningful restructuring to put people in the best position to succeed based on their talents and experience."

"We owe it to the public and the workforce. Over the past six months, I have taken full advantage of the opportunity to discuss with employees at all levels the challenges they face. I have done this to ensure that, as I make challenging decisions, we are rebuilding our ability to better succeed today as we strive to create an organization that is sustainable well into the future that we all will be proud of," Eng said. "We are taking direct action to guide and lead the workforce at all levels, protect their safety and ability to deliver the safe, reliable and robust service that the public deserves and expects."

Last week's issues were just the latest in a series of incidents that have plagued the agency in recent months, from safety issues to slow zones and service shutdowns.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

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