What local transit advocates think of the MBTA's new leader

The sun will come out tomorrow, but today we’ll have to trudge through this raw, drizzly weather. (Parts of Massachusetts may even be waking up to some spring snow.)

Speaking of light on the horizon…

Gov. Maura Healey introduced newly tapped MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng yesterday as a man with “a proven track record of …. taking over the reins of transit systems in times of crises and turning them around.” During his four years as head of Long Island Rail Road, the New York commuter rail system’s performance went from an 18-year low to an all-time best. Can Eng now achieve a similar turnaround with the MBTA? WBUR’s Andrea Perdomo-Hernandez reports that local transit advocates are “cautiously optimistic.”

  • Brian Kane, the head of the MBTA Advisory Board: “He has a reputation there of really being a project delivery person … which is something the T desperately needs right now.”
  • Stacy Thompson, the head of the LivableStreets Alliance: “This is not about flashy announcements and ribbon cuttings. This is about someone who can hire people, build a team, operationalize repairs and literally get the trains back on track. It’s that behind-the-scenes hard work. And he’s got decades of experience.”
  • Jarred Johnson, the head of TransitMatters: “The real priority is going to be restoring service and restoring confidence in the agency. I don’t think there’s going to be a single rider that’s going to be applauding or cheering [Eng’s appointment]. They just care about when their service is going to be back to normal.”
  • In his own words: Eng named safety and communication as top priorities yesterday — two things that advocates praised interim GM Jeff Gonneville for making progress on. “We need to find a way to balance the needs so we could build a safe, reliable service for today’s users and for the future generations,” Eng said.
  • The longtime New Yorker also addressed the burning question on everyone’s minds: “No, I’m not a Yankees fan,” Eng told reporters. (He’s a Mets fan. We’ll allow it.)

Salem residents are heading to the polls today to winnow down the field of candidates to replace longtime mayor-turned-Lt. Gov Kim Driscoll. The preliminary special election is a five-way race that includes two city councilors, a former mayor and Driscoll’s former chief of staff. The Salem News has more on all five candidates here. (You can also watch last month’s mayoral forum on YouTube.)

  • What’s next: The two top finalists in today’s contest will face off in a final election on May 16. Whoever wins that will serve as mayor for the rest of Driscoll’s term through 2025.

For the first time since a driver tried to ram their car off the top of the Alewife parking garage last month, MBTA officials reopened the Red Line station’s main entrance and lobby yesterday. The fifth floor of the Alewife parking garage is now open again, too.

  • There’s still a lot of work left until the station is permanently fixed. (The crash caused well over $1 million in estimated damage.) Riders will notice a large shoring tower has been put up in the middle of the lobby to provide temporary support to the damaged glass roof.
  • Even though the crash was an apparent suicide attempt, MBTA Police are charging the man behind the wheel for causing what could have been a horrific incident. CommonWealth Magazine has more on the unusual move here.

Get involved: Ahead of next month’s Boston Marathon, local officials and organizers are planning over a dozen One Boston Day volunteer events on April 15 to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2013 bombing. There will also be a public dedication of a new commemorative finish line and a “One Boston Day” marker on Boylston Street. The city has recognized One Boston Day since 2015.

  • Wu shared how the city plans to approach the day during her appearance yesterday on Radio Boston: “We’re doing our best to make sure that we are looking back at what happened, spending that time with families who have been forever impacted and also … making sure that we’re not staying stuck in the past, but using those eyes to look forward to the future.”

P.S.— Our Cognoscenti team is working on a special project reflecting on the 10 years since the marathon bombing — and they want to hear from you. Whether you’re a runner, spectator, or fan, please consider filling out this form to share what you love about the marathon, what you remember about 2013 and what the race means to you in 2023.