Steve Poftak leaving MBTA at the beginning of January 2023

Nov. 2, 2022
Poftak says he takes “great pride” in the MBTA’s accomplishments during his four-years at the helm and expressed gratitude toward the MBTA team.

Steve Poftak will be leaving Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) with Jan. 3, 2023, set as his final day as general manager of the authority.

In a letter to MBTA staff, Poftak called serving as general manager, “the experience of a lifetime” and noted that while he will be leaving the authority in January, his support of MBTA, and its workforce will continue.

“While we have faced and will continue to face challenges, I believe in the strength and resilience of the MBTA. As I look back on my four years as general manager, I take great pride in what we have accomplished together,” Poftak wrote.

Poftak was named MBTA’s general manager in December 2018 following the departure of Luis Ramirez. Poftak had served as vice chair of the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board. At the time of his appointment to general manager of MBTA, he was called, “the right person to facilitate a smooth transition and continue the important work to reform the MBTA for customers.”

Major upgrades to MBTA’s system were delivered under Poftak’s watch, including the opening of the Green Line Extension Union Square Branch, the anticipated opening of the Green Line Extension to Medford in late November 2022, new rail cars entering service on the Orange Line, the implementation of real-time bus crowding during the early part of the pandemic and the addition of New England’s first center-running bus lane on Columbus Avenue.

“We kept service going (and made it better) through a global pandemic,” Poftak wrote. “In a world where a lot of people stayed home, the MBTA was out there serving our transit dependent customers.”

Yet, safety concerns plagued MBTA for much of Poftak’s time as general manager, and the authority’s focus on service over maintenance, particularly for rail service, was called out by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for contributing to a lacking safety culture at the authority. In June, FTA issued four special directives to MBTA and the state agency tasked with safety oversight of the system, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, requiring them to take immediate action to remedy safety concerns.

FTA published its full Safety Management Inspection report on MBTA in late August, and the authority established an oversight office tasked with addressing the findings of report.

Poftak didn’t mention the FTA’s report directly in his letter, but he did recognize the need for safety to have a continued focus.

“While we know we have more work to do on safety, we have made great strides as an organization, building staffing, expertise and above all, commitment to making the system as safe as it can be,” he wrote.

Poftak concluded his letter with gratitude toward his MBTA colleagues and noted he is committed to, “preparing for the transition to a new administration and to new leadership here at the MBTA.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.