BACK IN APRIL, when he was first introduced as the general manager of the MBTA, Phillip Eng was asked if he would be bringing in his own team to help run the agency.
“It’s just me,” he said then.
On Thursday, however, he announced the hiring of four new executives who, like Eng, come out of New York transportation agencies.
“It is apparent that we need reinforcements,” Eng told the MBTA board of directors. “Today I’m pleased to announce we are starting to restructure our organization.”
The four hires include Dennis Varley, the new chief of stations; Doug Connett, the new chief of infrastructure; Sam Zhou, the assistant general manager for engineering and capital; and Rod Brooks, who will serve as senior advisor for capital, operations, and safety.
All four men are transportation veterans. Varley and Brooks come from the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Long Island Railroad and Zhou is coming from the New York State Department of Transportation. Connett is coming from the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, but he previously worked at the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Eng made the hiring announcement after announcing new inspection protocols in the wake of fires at the Charles/MGH Station on July 13 and the JFK/UMass Station on July 25. The Charles/MGH fire was caused by a broken fan and firefighting efforts were hampered by a broken standpipe used to supply water to firefighters. The JFK/UMass fire was caused by a defective heater cable for the electrified third rail. Eng said fans, standpipes, and heater cables are being inspected across the system. He said the standpipe at Charles/MGH had last been inspected in 2019 so annual inspections will be required going forward.
Thomas Glynn, the chair of the MBTA board, joked that the reinforcements being called in from New York are really only leveling the playing field between Boston and New York.
“It may seem like four people from New York is a lot of people from New York, but historically we sent four people from Boston to New York,” he said. One was baseball legend Babe Ruth, he said, and the other three were Bob Kiley, the former chair of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority; David Gunn, a former president of the New York City Transit Authority; and Rich Davey, the current president of the New York City Transit Authority.
“You have finally leveled the playing field,” Glynn said.