MBTA General Manager Search Process Now Underway

So you think you can run a transit system? The three-person search committee is beginning to narrow down candidates.

Despite initially tepid response to the open position for MBTA General Manager (and MassDOT Rail and Transit Administrator), a number of applicants have stepped forward in the month since it was last reported on the matter.

From the Board of Directors, John Jenkins, Elizabeth Levin, and Secretary Richard Davey comprise the three person preliminary search committee who met this morning to begin screening the applicants who have thrown themselves into the pool thus far.

Their intent is to narrow down the pool of applicants to three to four candidates to present to the board with a group interview of selected candidates. So far, there are over 40 applicants with varying degrees of operational and leadership expertise, including candidates with experience from Toronto’s TTC to San Francisco’s MUNI. 13 of those were put to consideration this morning.

Aside from the desired qualities listed in the posting on the MBTA web site, the committee repeated its desire for candidates with good on-the-ground, operational expertise balanced with well-rounded experience across organisation operations and strong leadership experience.

Through all of this, will we end up with a GM who can lead the MBTA and continue with the internal organisational reform started by Rich Davey almost two years ago? Unlike in New York, where there has been enough political conflict to lead their last and most qualified CEO to resign, Governor Patrick strongly supports both MassDOT and the MBTA and we rarely see him bash either of them. Does it help that the Governor’s office is not more than 850 metres away from both the Secretary’s and General Manager’s office, just across the Commons?

Suffice it to say, the upcoming MBTA GM will be managing the 6th most used public transport system in the US with the greatest debt of them all. S/he will need to work closely with the Governor, Secretary, and legislature in not only securing the funds necessary to operate the economic engine of the Commonwealth, but also show competence in affecting effective reform in the nation’s most organisationally flat public transport operator. With little political friction to deal with (compared to that of the MBTA’s closest neighbours in the US), the next GM will be able to focus on actually running the system and the search committee will be able to look for a candidate who has more public transport operations experience than New York’s new MTA CEO, who is more known for his political and financial management savvy than his (nonexistent) transit experience.

The position remains open to applicants until the end of this year and the search committee will continue to filter candidates as they come in.

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