Boston's gain is New York's loss with the appointment of Phillip Eng as general manager for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). In his previous position as Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) president, he made it a priority to always be accessible to riders.
Eng will need to quickly come up to speed in understanding MBTA's agency organization, staff, operations, facilities and customers needs. He also needs to become familiar with ongoing and planned future capital projects. His relationship with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Region 1 Boston office will be critical.
He should make it a priority to meet with the FTA Boston Regional Office Administrator and staff. The FTA provides significant annual capital grants to the MBTA. He should quickly come up to speed with MBTA's FTA federal Fiscal Year 2023 Program of Projects for the various FTA grant programs. This is accomplished under the FTA Transit Award Management System (known as "TrAMS") that is used to award and manage federal grants.
As part of the requirements contained within all master grant agreements, using the FTA TrAMS, the MBTA provides updated quarterly financial and milestone progress reports to the FTA on active capital improvement projects and programs. Eng should become familiar with the contents of these reports.
Information contained includes status of capital project contract award or initiation of in house projects. He can learn if projects and programs are progressing on schedule, completed on time and within budget, based upon the original approved grant milestones and budget. Explanations for project delays and change orders over $100,000 are provided. Project delays require recovery schedules and revised interim milestones to document future completion.
The FTA has its own Project Management Oversight (PMO). PMOs are independent engineering consultant firms to supplement regional and headquarters staff for oversight. These firms provide both oversight and technical assistance for capital projects. FTA Region 1 will usually assign their own engineering consultant firms to those projects over $100 million or more. Engineering firms monitor the progress of these major capital projects and prepare monthly progress reports.
Eng should become familiar with the contents of these reports. He needs to make it a priority to meet with the FTA PMO employees assigned to MBTA.
The FTA also has other consulting firms who conduct periodic financial management, procurement system and triennial (to insure compliance with FTA rules and regulations), along with various civil rights (Title VI, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, Equal Opportunity Employment, Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), rail station, fixed bus route and paratransit reviews). Eng should become familiar with the contents of these reports. He should take a personal interest and become involved in any future reviews and follow up with his own staff to insure any open findings from previous reviews are closed as quickly as possible.
Timely access to federal formula and national competitive discretionary grant programs always plays a part for MBTA's commuter rail, subway, bus, ferry and paratransit systems to reach a state of good repair for existing fleet, stations, signals, interlocking's, track, power, yards and shops. Expanding the number of stations that are in compliance with ADA is another priority. Ensuring that maintenance programs for all assets are fully funded and completed on time to so riders get safe and reliable service. Completing capital projects on time, within budget with a minimum of justified contract change orders will help build his credibility with FTA and other MBTA funding agencies.
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously served as a former Director for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office of Operations and Program Management. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for NJ Transit, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, NYC Transit bus, subway and Staten Island Railway, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, NYCDOT Staten Island Ferry and 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ.