After a week of mismanagement of the money room since a private consulting firm took over, Boston Carmen’s Union President Jimmy O’Brien testified to the FMCB and MBTA management about the ongoing problems facing the MBTA and money room as a result of this poor management―reminding them that this serves as another example of why privatization is wrong for the MBTA.
Boston Carmen’s Union Testimony
James O’Brien, President
August 1, 2016
Good Afternoon. My name is James O’Brien, I am the President of the Boston Carmen’s Union, representing over 4,100 hardworking employees of the MBTA.
Last week, the MBTA hosted a bidder’s conference in an effort to seek proposals from private companies to take over the money room. A move that will push employees out of their jobs.
Time and time again the MBTA has commissioned consultants to produce reports that point to failures of management and a lack of investment as the root problems at the MBTA.
What also happened last week was that one of those commissioned consultants took oversight of the money room. Shellie Crandall of 4Demand, the consultant you hired to provide an audit of the money room, is now in charge of logistics there. And things are not off to a good start.
Her oversight and recently implemented changes are a perfect example of what happens when an outside company that doesn’t understand our business, our system, or our city comes in and attempts to take over.
Ms. Crandall’s changes began last Saturday, July 23. She immediately dropped routes that collect money from fare machines at MBTA stations. With the influx of people on the Blue Line that day, due to a local event, problems became evident that afternoon.
After pulling back too much, too quickly―from five trips to one―an additional truck had to be deployed with two workers who were sent out on overtime. That means poor schedule management forced employees to work on unnecessary overtime―not what we would all consider cost savings.
Additional problems arose on the Green Line.
When trucks don’t go out to pick up money often enough, the machines fill up. Then they can’t accept cash. This results in an unknown number of riders receiving free rides because the machine is not in working order. There’s no way to calculate how much money the MBTA lost because of this poor management.
Fast forward to Monday and we saw problems throughout the entire system. In the past, two trucks were deployed on Sunday, but under the new schedule, zero trucks were deployed. That meant that come Monday, the fare machines had not been emptied since Saturday―some even since Friday.
By the end of the day on Monday, reports had been received on 84 fare machines and receiving vaults. Twelve of the 84 machines were full and no longer accepting cash. Others could only distribute coins, others only cash―all resulting in an inability to provide riders with change. So if riders did not have exact change to pay for their trip, they were being let in for free. More money lost. And again, there is no way to calculate how much money the MBTA lost because of poor decisions by 4Demand.
And again, additional employees were dispatched to make trips to account for the problems. And again, they were paid overtime to do it.
We received notices from employees that fare gates were being left open to accommodate the amount of riders who had to be given free trips due to inoperable fare machines.
Additionally, with three receiving vaults full by Monday afternoon, and no way to empty them, some buses could not empty their machines. But because there is a requirement to have a certain number of buses on the road―those buses had to go out. That meant that they were providing transportation to riders, but they weren’t able to accept money, so more riders received free trips and more money was lost.
I could go on, and provide examples of these problems occurring each day of the week last week, but in the interest of time I will say this:
An outside vendor came in to the money room a little over a week ago, implemented changes without an understanding or consideration of our system and our city―and it caused even greater problems. It caused problems for riders, for employees, and the system as a whole because money was lost. We all know the MBTA cannot afford to lose any more money. And yet it’s impossible to calculate how much revenue 4Demand cost the MBTA with its poor management.
The MBTA’s track record with privatization shows exactly why we should be wary about further efforts. Keolis has failed to deliver for commuter rail passengers, and the MBTA was forced to hand over $66 million more to the company in order to have their needs met. Outsourcing security at the MBTA’s money room led to a newly hired private security guard asleep on the job. Privatizing the management of several T parking lots is now being investigated by the Massachusetts Attorney General. And Alstom’s $104 million rehabilitation project of Green Line trolleys has been a disaster―MBTA repairers are having to make even further repairs once the cars that have been sent off to a private company for repairs finally get back to Boston and we’re concerned this will soon affect riders.
The MBTA should invest in its own system and its own employees, not turn over the keys to a private company that seeks to make a profit at the expense of our riders.
Your MBTA employees are dedicated. They know the work. They know this city and this system. Work with them rather than against them. Invest in them rather than turn away from them.
Privatization is not the answer. It will not make for a better MBTA tomorrow or decades from now.
On behalf of the Boston Carmen’s Union, thank you for taking the time to hear from me today.