Senator Brendan Crichton and Rep. William M. Strauss, co-chairs of the Transportation Commission, listen at a hearing in the State Capitol.Staff Photo Chris Christ/Boston Herald
Thanks, but no thanks. Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro said of state legislators’ proposal to move the MBTA’s security oversight to his office.
Shapiro, who testified Monday at a Joint Commission on Transportation hearing, said he would instead support moving this oversight role from the Utilities Administration to a new independent agency “focused solely on MBTA safety.” .
He envisions two branches within this potential entity. One is for the regional subway system and works with the Federal Transit Authority regulator. It’s a smaller one that focuses on everything else: buses, regional transport, ferries.
“I believe we need a new FTA-defined safety agency,” Shapiro said, referring to the Fed’s criticism of last year’s security inspection that state security oversight is independent of the governor’s office. and said
“That institution should not be the OIG,” he added. “Rather, the OIG will oversee the new safety agency.”
This solution frees up the DPU to focus on its “many other statutory responsibilities,” especially those related to climate and energy. The Office of the Inspector General will also be able to expand its role of independent statewide oversight into this new safety agency that prevents and detects fraud, waste and abuse and monitors public and private transportation costs.
In particular, the inspector’s proposal would move safety oversight to his office, as proposed in a bill introduced by state Rep. William Strauss, which was considered at a hearing Monday that Strauss co-chaired. I rejected the idea that I should.
Instead, Shapiro proposed a solution closer to that proposed in a bill introduced by State Senator Michael Barrett, which also called for the establishment of a new independent commission to take on this oversight role.
However, the approach is somewhat different.
Barrett envisions a new commission with all transportation responsibilities out of the DPU, but Shapiro said the new agency should focus solely on safety. Shapiro said more administrative tasks such as setting tariffs and freight rates and managing buses should be handled by a separate organization.
But Barrett said keeping specific transportation responsibilities within the DPU would exacerbate the situation the state faces now that “transport safety and climate change are at war with each other.” .
Like the safety blunders faced by the beleaguered MBTA, each time one situation explodes, the DPU is forced to ignore the climate. DPU is forced to ignore climate when other circumstances take precedence at a given moment.
Another disagreement developed over the appointment authority of the new commission, which, as outlined in Barrett’s bill, sought three members to be appointed by the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.
Strauss said he didn’t think a structure in which two legislative leaders would appoint committee members and then perform executive branch functions would work.
Another Transportation Commission member, Sen. John Keenan, expressed similar concerns, saying the format may be too “political” and threaten the independence Congress is seeking to establish new oversight powers. said to be sexual.
Barrett said he was open to appointing bodies determined by the Transportation Commission, and said others were considered before the bill was finalized, including constitutional officials such as the secretary of state and the mayor of Boston. .
While there may have been points of contention, the general consensus among those who testified was that a new commission dedicated to safety oversight was the better option.
Brian Kane, executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, said new agencies could be modeled after agencies already in place in New York City and Washington, DC, but the approach is simply to “copy and It should not be dropped into Massachusetts.
But the most sobering testimony of the day came from the parents of David Jones, a 40-year-old Boston University professor who died after falling down a dilapidated staircase not open to the public at the JFK/UMass MBTA station.2021 September of the year.
Jones’ mother and stepfather, Debra Bingham and Kent Hamilton, called his death “preventable” and said that if certain safety protocols and oversight were more stringent, at least “massive structural changes” would have occurred. Hope to connect. Both testified in support of the new Oversight Board.
Jones’ wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit against MBTA and MassDOT last November.
“David’s mother and I are calling on the Legislature to stop the death, injury, pain and suffering caused by a lack of effective leadership and oversight,” Hamilton said. It is my sincere hope that his death will help create the conditions for ensuring a safe transportation system in Massachusetts.”