DPU and MBTA Flummoxed by Staffing Challenges

October 11, 2022

I watched the September 14th hearing of the Massachusetts Legislature on MBTA safety issues so you do not have to. The MBTA does not have the staff it needs to run effectively and they are stuck in firefighting mode.

  • Elizabeth Cellucci, Director of Transportation Oversight Division of DPU, discussed an in-progress workforce study/report along with noting that if safety is a priority other things cannot be priorities.
  • Toni Hops, an MBTA Bus Driver, shared the non-sensical scheduling she endures. She has breaks that go for three or four hours, and then mere minutes to transfer from one bus to another. The shortage of dispatchers means she waits for responses to her needs. She sometimes goes through three buses before one passes her safety check.
  • Jeb Mastandrea is an Outside Machinist and noted they used to have over 30 machinists on staff, now they have 11. There is not enough time to do preventative maintenance and outside contractors are brought in to supplement the gaps, but often at a lower quality.

The Stress of the Staff Shortage Hurts Retention

Toni Hops noted that she does not enjoy her job as much as she did. Being tightly scheduled and the cascading problems caused by calling out sick is a lot of pressure for individual employees. Mastandrea told a new employee that as long as he goes home with all his fingers and toes, it is a good day.

My View: Find and Overwhelm the Bottlenecks

A year ago Ryan Peterson of Flexport tweeted about what he saw with the supply chain shortage by touring the Port of Los Angeles. The main lesson here was by meeting them where they are and talking to workers he could identify the bottlenecks. Once found it was easy to find ways to overwhelm them and reduce stress on the system as a whole.

Go Deeper

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.