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Here's what the MBTA has planned for 2018

Do you have any new year's resolutions? The MBTA, which recently got a new general manager, has some things in store for 2018.
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Luis Ramirez, the general manager of the MBTA, pictured riding the Red Line at South Station in Boston on Sep. 7, 2017. Photo: Getty Images

The new year often marks a fresh slate for people to build positive habits and plan big projects, and those goals aren’t restricted to just individuals in their private lives. The MBTA recently got a new start with Luis Ramirez, who took over the role of MBTA general manager in September, and he has some ideas about 2018.

Ramirez recently passed his 100th day in the role and in that time he’s noticed a few things about the transit system he hopes to address and also started some habits he hope to keep.

Though he’d rather not use the word “resolution,” because people don’t always fulfill them, he said, Ramirez did outline a few objectives for 2018.

“We’re really going to work on safety first,” he said, “and that includes the safety of our people, our customers, everything we do, we’re going to do it in the safest way possible.”

In November, the MBTA secured $382 million in federal loans to support the Positive Train Control project. PTC technology can automatically reduce a train’s speed or even completely stop it in order to avoid a collision or derailment.

Recently, an Amtrak train in Tacoma, Wash. derailed, killing three people, while traveling 80 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone. Those tracks did not have a PTC system, prompting some to put more pressure on the MBTA’s aim. The MBTA said PTC hardware will be installed by Dec. 2018.

Aside from overall safety, Ramirez also aims to focus on customer experience as a whole, easing delays and other issues riders complained about in 2017.

“Ridership is at the center of every decision we make,” he said. “One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve been here, from talking to a lot of people and looking at some different polls and studies done about the customer service piece of the MBTA, is that a lot of people just think that we don’t care. My message to them is that we care.”

Multiple large projects are in the works throughout the system, from the Green Line Extension to new Orange Line cars. Those take time, Ramirez said, but the MBTA will work to improve customer service in the now.

“One of the things that I re-invigorated with my eternal affairs team is to focus a lot more on getting direct customer feedback and providing customer information in a more direct way,” he said. “For me, it’s about more direct collaboration face-to-face with customers.”

Ramirez previously announced that the MBTA was planning to hire a customer service advocate to be a voice for riders directly to him.

“We’ve been interviewing actively for that in the last few weeks,” he said, “and in the new year we’ll be announcing what that looks like.”

Another thing to look forward to in 2018 is the new phase of the Automated Fare Collection 2.0 project, a new fare system that Ramirez said is “really going to change way people work in the entire ecosystem of the T.”

“That’s going to be a focus — creating a system that's more reliant on digital, hopefully making it better for our ridership, more accessible to our ridership, that produces better result in terms of how they feel customer service is going,” he said.

In his daily life, Ramirez plans to keep using the T as his main transportation. Since moving to Boston from Texas, he said he’s only driven his car maybe three times.

“My goal is really about mobility, making sure people are getting where they need to get to in the best way possible. It’s important for me to interact with all the different ways people move within the city,” he said.

“I think that [another] habit that I’ve developed when I got here that I will keep in the new year — because it serves me well and gives me a real picture — is getting to talk to the people that really deal with this stuff everyday,” he added. “Going to the stations and talking to people on the trains and the busses, without the cameras, just me going out there and doing that has been a really positive thing. …It’s not just anecdotal, it’s real.” 

 
 
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