Facing a transportation system grappling with debt and customers disgruntled over recent fare hikes, Beverly Scott begins her first full week as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s new general manager on Monday.
With the MBTA facing up to an $84-million deficit for fiscal year 2013, finances remain a huge issue for the MBTA, but Scott’s past work experience could help shore up finances.
“There is nothing unusual about what the T is experiencing relative to all of the issues on the financial side of the house,” Scott, who begins her job in December, said. “The T can handle that and reinvest that in American infrastructure and everybody will benefit.”
Scott worked for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority for five years during a very difficult economic downturn, said Cara Hodgson, manager of communications for MARTA.
“During a very difficult financial time for MARTA and all other transit systems throughout the country, Dr. Scott has helped MARTA and the region to successfully right size the transit system, stabilize its finances and reposition itself for a better future,” Hodgson said in an email.
Hodgson said Scott “actively engaged the public” throughout this process, working with customers, employees and stakeholders to get their input on difficult decisions, including internal and external cuts and fare increases.
Scott graduated Magna cum laude from Fisk University in Tennessee and received a Ph.D. in Political Science with a specialization in Public Administration from Howard University, according to her biography on MARTA’s website.
Scott, the first female to fill the general manager position, said she got her start in transportation through a fellowship in Houston, where she requested to work in either sanitation or transportation at a time when many African American women were pushed to community relations-type jobs.
Scott said it feels good to be the first female general manager at the MBTA, but is excited for a time when that distinction will not have to be made.
“I can tell you what’s going to make me feel even better is that, and I say this all the time, is that eventually when it’s not the first anymore and it becomes not the exception,” she said. “It’s wonderful that I can be the trailblazer, there always does have to be the first, but the big thing that you want to make sure of is that you’re not the last.”
Scott announced in 2011 that she was stepping down as the general manager of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority and was not looking for new work, but she said the MTBA was too good to pass up.
“I mean it when I say that the T is transit royalty,” Scott said. “It truly is. I mean, it’s the oldest subway system in the United States.”
Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors voted Scott into her new position in September, replacing MBTA General Manager Jonathan Davis.
MassDOT Secretary & Chief Executive Officer Richard Davey said in a September press release after the appointment that he looks forward to working with Scott.
“Her vast expertise in transit management is the right fit at a critical time as we manage our transportation challenges in the Commonwealth,” he said.
Scott said she was excited to get back to New England after serving as general manager of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority in Providence from 1996 to 2001.
“Believe it or not, the favorite place I lived was Rhode Island,” she said. “Because I love the people, I love the architecture and all that.”
Scott has been involved in the transportation industry for more than 30 years, working at the Sacramento Regional Transit District, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the New Jersey Transit Corporation and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to her biography on MARTA’s website.
She said she loves working in the transportation sector, citing public transportation as the most effective change people can make for the environment.
“I tell people all time, you can change as many light bulbs as you want, but if you want a make a difference with climate change and global warming we need to change our personal behavior, our travel behavior,” she said.
Scott said she hopes to make a connection with Boston-area students to show them what opportunities transportation can offer.
“We have so many students here to make a connection,” she said. “We have so much leadership here, there’s so much innovation, there’s so much creativity and I want to really be able to kind of openly help the minds of young people, K–12 as well as colleges and universities, to the tremendous opportunities that there are in terms of transportation.”
Scott will receive a three-year contract and an annual salary of $220,000, according to the MBTA website.