The next head of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will almost certainly be heading north from Atlanta as that city’s top two transit officials have emerged as finalists for the general manager’s job in Boston, according to Transportation Secretary Richard Davey.
The MBTA General Manager screening committee plans to meet Wednesday to announce the two finalists for the general manager position. Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Davis has filled the position for the past year on an acting basis since Richard Davey became secretary of transportation.
The finalists are Beverly Scott, chief executive officer and general manager of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and Dwight Ferrell, deputy general manager and chief operating officer of Atlanta’s MARTA.
Scott would be the first female to lead the MBTA, while either candidate would become just the second African-American – Robert Prince Jr. was the first – to hold the top job at the MBTA.
The screening committee on Wednesday plans to schedule a meeting for the full board to interview the candidates publicly on Monday, Sept. 24, and it is expected that the board will vote the same day on an appointment, Davey said. The screening committee included Davey, MBTA Board Chairman John Jenkins, and former board member Elizabeth Levin, who was replaced last week.
Davey said the committee considered over 100 people for the job over the past year, conducting about two dozen phone interviews and interviewing three candidates in person in Boston. One of the three candidates interviewed in Boston has since withdrawn from the process.
“Either one would be terrific,” Davey said, explaining that some potential candidates declined to participate because the MBTA was making the names of finalists public for the first time.
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority is the ninth largest public transit system in the country with four rail lines, 132 bus lines and 38 train stations in its network. The agency is one of the largest employers in the Atlanta region with 4,500 employees servicing nearly 500,000 daily passenger trips throughout the greater Atlanta metro area, including service to Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport.
The T is the fifth largest public transit agency in the country. Initially formed in 1971 as a bus system, MARTA is not nearly as old as the T, but its system is also beginning to show the effects of age and the infrastructure needs that come with that, Davey said. “It’s not as big but it’s close. It has bus and subway and some of the same financial challenges that the T does,” Davey said.
Scott was appointed to the head MARTA in 2007, becoming the first female to hold the position. She has also worked in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York and the Sacramento and Rhode Island transit agencies.
Scott informed the MARTA board in Atlanta last year that she would not seek to renew her contract, which led to an announcement last Friday from the MARTA board that it had selected two finalists to replace her, neither of whom were Ferrell, who has worked as Scott’s deputy since April 2008.
Ferrell, according to his resume, is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of Atlanta’s transit system, as well as developing, implementing and evaluating the systems long- and short-term policies.
The MARTA system includes 600 buses, 175 paratransit vans, 318 rail cars and 47 miles of track. Ferrell’s previous public transit experience includes positions in New Orleans, Philadelphia and Austin, Texas.The new general manager will inherit a debt-laden transit system that raised fares and trimmed some services in July despite a one-time $49 million bailout approved by the Legislature. The Patrick-Murray administration is in the midst of preparing a long-term transportation financing plan due in early January and likely to include new revenue options to support existing infrastructure, as well as an extension of the MBTA’s Green Line into Medford.