Boston City Council Skeptical about MBTA Privatization  

Boston City Hall. Photo by Zoe Mitchell/BU News Service.
Written by Zoë Mitchell

By Zoë Mitchell
BU News Service

The Boston City Council criticized Governor Charlie Baker for a lack of transparency regarding the expanded privatization of the MBTA on Wednesday, passing a unanimous resolution calling for a briefing by the Baker administration on their plans for the MBTA.

The council expressed concerns about discriminatory effects that privatization could have for MBTA riders and suggested that further investment by the Baker administration could help resolve some of the MBTA’s problems.

Councillor Andrea Campbell, who introduced the resolution, was critical of the service provided by Keolis, the company that operates the commuter rail for the MBTA, and was skeptical about the effects of further privatization of the system.

While we talk about privatization, which sometimes does work and sometimes not, we need to have a real conversation about the benefits or, most often, the lack of benefits when it comes to privatizing our system,” Campbell said.   

Councillor Josh Zakim said privatization would not help solve the problems of the MBTA, suggesting what is needed instead is more investment by the state. He and other councillors were critical of the way Baker has handled issues with MBTA in the past.

“[Baker] needs to show leadership and that leadership means investment,” Zakim said.

Members of the Boston Carmen’s Union, who were at the meeting, were praised by the Councillors. The union represents 6,000 MBTA employees and is against privatization, according to their website. 

The Council also approved two separate grants that authorized funding for the Office of Environment, Energy, and Open Spaces to develop a plan, resources, and information to reduce the impact of flooding due to climate change.

The funding will focus on areas that have been identified as flood zones,  such as Charlestown and Easton Boston. The total funding is $342,000, with the grant coming from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Barr Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Boston.

“Cities really seem to be taking the lead when it comes to combating the effects of climate change,” O’Malley said.

The process is expected to take about a year, according to O’Malley.

Other Items Raised by the Council:

  • Councillor Andrea Essaibi-George wants to “protect Boston Public Schools seats for Boston kids” and will hold a hearing to address the need for more enforcement and investigation into students and families who are enrolled in Boston schools but are not Boston residents. Last year, she said, this cost the city $450,000.
  • City Council plans to make changes to city parking before the end of the year, implementing changes that will raise rates for parking spaces in the city. Councillor Zakim called the current rates “laughably low” and says he wants “to make sure the city is getting fair value for these parking spaces.”
  • The Council will hold a series a Transportation Policy Briefing Series featuring local experts that will be open to the public and broadcast online.
  • Councillor Frank Baker and Bill Linehan will hold a hearing to  grant alcohol licenses to local businesses in Boston Seaport and South Bay. Councillor Baker stressed the importance of investment in these community that have historically not seen large amounts of city development. The City Council would have to get the approval of the State Government to issue the licenses.

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