MBTA’s Board of Directors addresses infrastructure issues in public meeting


Ethan Cooler

Passengers on the Green Line.

By Ethan Cotler, Staff Writer

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Board of Directors held a virtual public meeting on Thursday—its first since late August—which covered the Orange and Green Line surges.

The meeting began with a period for public comments, all of which were submitted via e-mail or voicemail. The first caller complained of water leaking in subway stations and expressed a desire for a more reliable bus system that does not “cut out”—stop running—and require people to walk. 

Doug Johnson, the MBTA’s senior recruiter, outlined the Better Bus Project, which aims to transform the antiquated infrastructure to accommodate Boston’s current layout. Bostonians should expect another five years until the MBTA’s projected completion of BBP in 2027. 

Mymairis Cepeda, a plaintiff named in the Daniels-Finegold vs. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority lawsuit, addressed the board, calling for more “patient ambassadors.” 

“I am disabled, and I have mobility impairments,” Cepeda said. “It is very important to have someone that you can count on, that you can contact whenever you are at a station.” 

Dianna Hu, chairperson of the Boston Center for Independent Living, executive board member of the Riders Transportation Access Group, and a motorized wheelchair user, shared an anecdote of a kind transit ambassador helping her from “end to end” of a station. She seconded Feingold, demanding to “increase the number of staff.” 

MBTA Chief of Capital Delivery Kaite Choe addressed the staffing issue in a prepared presentation, saying the staffing levels do not meet the demand and the MBTA cannot presently solve it.

Choe shared a Workforce Assessment and five-year plan, including recruitment, retention, and hiring to attempt to remedy this problem.

Vice President of Area Planning and Development for the Longwood Collective Tom Yardley voiced his support of the infrastructure improvement.

“The infrastructure can be unreliable and have a capacity that does not meet service standards,” Yardley said. 

Overcrowding is an issue the Orange Line shutdown stressed, which “during the four weeks of the surge…had between 80,000 to 100,000 average daily riders,” according to MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak.

The board delved into Poftak’s report, detailing a steep decline in the Orange Line’s ridership due to its shutdown until Sept. 19. 

Poftak said ridership has almost returned to summer levels. He went on to address the “slow zones”—areas that may cause delays due to construction. The two most significant areas are tracks between North Station and Assembly. Poftak said it could be a matter of days until the MBTA resolves this issue, but did not provide a specific timeline. 

“When the teams are satisfied that the appropriate amount of work has been done and that they’ve been adequately tested, we’ll lift the slow zones,” he said. 

Chief of Capital Transformation Angel Pena said, “there is still work to be done” on the Orange Line with construction expected through 2025. 

The general manager’s report concluded with praise for the handling of the Orange Line’s shutdown from board members. Board member Mary Beth Mello said she was imbued with “a real sense of pride,” while Director Thomas Darling congratulated Poftak and his team.