Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Boston Globe: Graubauskas Sullies His "Mr. Fix-it" Rep

In today's The Boston Globe there is a a long article about MBTA GM Dan Graubauskas. Before helming the T three years ago, Graubauskas' rep was outstanding. He was known as the person who fixed the Massachusetts' Registry of Motor Vehicles.
But three years later, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is far from fixed, and there are more political darts aimed at Grabauskas. He has earned praise from transportation activists for putting a focus on efficiency and access and has instituted customer service improvements such as the automated CharlieCard and the beginning of cellphone service on subways. But overwhelming debt, political infighting, and a recent series of controversies and crises at the T have tarnished his image.

It has been a rough summer for the T. And Dan is the ultimate spin-meister. He noted the following:
"We're moving the ball in the right direction," he said. "But in this particular job, there is no end zone. You're either moving in the right direction, or you're moving in the wrong direction."

And reporter Noah Bierman wrote this:
His team provided reams of lists and graphics, including a monthly system accountability book he initiated, to show where he is improving service and saving money. Canceled trips on buses and subways are down, and the fleets are running longer without breaking down, with fewer speed restrictions. Commuter rail, however, continues to run late more often than promised.

Ah yes, the commuter rail. Yes, why isn't the commuter rail running well? And really - the lists and the graphs - do they mean anything? I, for one, would love to see a correlation between T passes and tickets purchased and the actual number of riders/revenue.

Dan, in his head, is probably chalking up all the negative press to a political battle. He was appointed by a Republican governor and now a Democrat leads the state. I think using the political card is a cop-out.

At the end of the day, this is what is at the heart of the matter:
Much of this discussion of debt and politics is academic to the system's hundreds of thousands of riders, who simply want to get to work on time, with some level of comfort.

Dan used a bunch of PR puffery and didn't really address the issue of riders who just want to get to where they are going on time and without a lot of aggravation. Plus Bierman worked in some of the Dan Graubauskas myth and legend into the article.

My "buddy," Metheun State Senator Steven Baddour appears to be a big Graubauskas fan. I will admit, Senator Baddour is on my list because he was so vehemently opposed to I-93 tolls. Steven, just thank the MetroWest and Western drivers when you ride around the state as we are footing the bill.

So the rest of the article really didn't say much, other than Graubauskas has 20 months on his T contract and there are people in state government who still like him, who don't think any of the T's problems are his fault.

Dan is really in the winner's position. If Governor Patrick wants to oust him, the state would have to pay Graubauskas nearly a half-million dollars. So what's Dan's incentive, really? Not much. He's earning a lot of money, he would generate a huge payout. If he loses his job, he would probably go consultant somewhere. It is all win-win for Dan and a huge lose for commuters and state taxpayers.

Whoever does Dan's PR is a total rainmaker.

In other news, yesterday WHDH-TV Channel 7 ran a piece about raises that State Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen extended to T employees. This was five days before Graubauskas tried to give raises to the T executives. Again, what a mess!

The Patriot Ledger reported on a planned MBTA bus service expansion to South Weymouth.

In case you didn't see this, Daily Worcesteria penned an assessment of the new Union Station garage. It looks like some things still need to be worked out.

Finally, checkout Switchback's new blog design. Very nice!

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