North Shore business leaders know transportation is the key to the area’s economic future and on Tuesday, through the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, they got to hear from someone working on improvements for the MBTA.
Joe Aiello, Fiscal Management Control Board chair, for the MBTA gave insights into the MBTA operations during a speech at the Lynn YMCA.
The forum was planned after the Lynn Transit Action Plan Study announced in Nov. 2018. The investment plan is to meet the needs of the MBTA in the Greater Boston Area by 2040.
Aiello and his board were formed in 2015 with the charge of investigating why the MBTA was struggling and how it might improve.
“We can continue to work and see great things happen in Lynn,” said Mayor Tom McGee. “In this city transportation is the key driver and make things happen in the region.”
A water ferry is also another topic. Salem, which also sent representatives to the forum, is looking to expand to two ferries and Lynn is hoping to bring the ferry back.
Aiello said the MBTA ferry is the most cost-effective service in the MBTA system.
“We have to collaborate on the issues that we face and care about together,” McGee said. “We’re like a bridge for 750,000 people above us,” adding he’s looking to water, rapid transit and regional solutions are what he’s looking for.
Former Lynn Mayor Thomas Costin Jr. said discussion about extending the Blue Line from Wonderland to Lynn has been going on since the 1940s. He called for a letter to be written to Gov. Charlie Baker to set up private and public partnerships.
Developer Michael Procopio, whose company is developing a large apartment building on Munroe Street, said he favored a review of the high cost of service on the Lynn commuter rail and he favored water transportation.
“We understand in this region that transportation is the key driver to our economy,” McGee said.
Aiello mentioned the newer Better Bus Project that includes lowering fares and propose bus route changes.
Aiello is a recently retired partner and board member at Meridiam Infrastructure, where he had worked since 2007, overseeing strategic development and investments in transportation, water, and social infrastructure. He is currently a Senior Fellow at Meridiam.
Before joining Meridiam, Aiello served in several capacities for 13 years with AECOM where he last served as president for the firm’s global, public-private partnership business. He also worked at the MBTA as Assistant General Manager of Planning and Budget and Assistant Director of Construction for Special Projects and Finance.
Aiello is an alumnus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the Harvard Kennedy School. Gov. Baker appointed Aiello to the Board.
“The T is in a very different place than it was five years ago,” Aiello said, adding directives and guidance have helped. “The T needed to reform itself and it’s in a much better place than it was awhile back.”
Aiello outlined some of the things the MBTA has done such as the commuter rail service that provides a much better level of service than did five years ago.
“We have added more than 6,000 annual trips on the rail system around the region,” he said.
The buses are newer replacing worn out ones. “We now have late night service, early morning service directed towards people working in service industries.” “In the world of transit trying to do big things takes a long time,” Aiello said.