A car full of characters at the debt-laden MBTA is raking in a king's ransom in pay — from train starters, painters and bus drivers pocketing six-figure paychecks to a $200,000-a-year transit cop, a Herald review found.
The payroll bonanza comes as Gov. Deval Patrick is seeking nearly $2 billion in taxes and fee hikes to, in part, rescue the debt-heavy T and extend rail service to New Bedford and Fall River.
The T payroll, obtained by the Herald yesterday after a public records request, shows that 711 employees have cracked the ranks of the $100,000-plus pay club — a 12.5 percent jump over the previous year.
Transit workers on the six-figure track include:
- 120 cops who pulled down $100,000 or more — with one patrolman raking in $199,145, boosting his pay with massive overtime and detail shifts
- 36 bus machinists and 13 bus drivers who pulled away with $100,000 plus
- Three train starters banked $100,000 or more
- Three painters clocked in at $100,000 or more and another dozen who pulled down $90,000 plus
For cops and front-line workers, the staggering number of overtime shifts needed to rack up those sums has one T watchdog howling about the threat to public safety.
"The MBTA can be a very dangerous place to work. There's lots of heavy machinery and dangerous jobs, and tired people make mistakes," said Paul Regan, head of the MBTA Advisory Board.
Case in point: The moonlighting Green Line trolley operator who crashed at the Boylston Street station in November injuring 35 people. Transit bosses fired the driver after learning he had just finished an overnight shift at another job in the city.
"I think there is a legitimate worry that you have too many people working too many hours, even if they want to," added Regan, whose board represents cities and towns served by the T.
T brass say they're cracking down on overtime abuse. Transit Police Superintendent-in-Chief Joseph O'Connor said double 8-hour-shifts are allowed but the department now restricts officers from working more than 96 hours in a week and 18 hours in a day.
"They can't work around the clock," O'Connor said, adding the agency last year reduced its overtime spending by 3 percent. "Some of these high earners chose to work on their days off and work double shifts."
MBTA spokesman Joseph Pesaturo said the agency has an "intensive fatigue awareness program" and supervisors are trained to look for drowsy workers. He also said overtime is down by $2.7 million from last year.
The T's new general manager, Beverly Scott, said yesterday she is holding internal budget meetings with department bosses to scrutinize current staffing levels.
The T hired 64 new employees last year bringing its head count to 6,048. But its overall payroll declined by about $12 million last year, to $448 million, from $460 million in 2011.
"I'm pleased to see that overtime spending decreased last year, and I want to see us build on that success," Scott said. "As the larger debate about the MBTA's finances takes place, I want to make sure we are getting the maximum benefits out of our existing resources."
The T faces a roughly $140 million budget shortfall this coming fiscal year.
Copyright 2013 - Boston Herald