Crisis-Hit MBTA to Be Led by Man Who Turned Around Long Island Railroad

"This is probably the most important appointment I've had to make since I've become governor, and I say that knowing how desperate the public is for leadership and a turnaround here," Gov. Maura Healey said of Philip Eng

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The MBTA has gotten its long-awaited new general manager, a New Yorker with experience turning around another troubled transit system.

Gov. Maura Healey announced Monday she's tapped the former Long Island Rail Road President Phillip Eng to take over the embattled agency following a monthslong search.

"It's the best transit system in the world and that's why I'm here," Eng said at his introductory news conference at a Green Line station in Newton, adding, "We are going to work every day to provide the service that the public expects."

Between 2018 and 2022, Eng took the New York City commuter rail service from its worst on-time performance in years to its best record ever, the Healey administration noted. His resume also includes serving as chief operating officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Phillip Eng is a transit veteran with four decades of experience. He takes over a system plagued with problems, but he says he's up to the challenge.

Asked what his first priority would be, Eng said it's everything from safety and communication to partnering with the workers and investing in infrastructure, finding a way to balance the needs of today's riders and tomorrow's with urgency.

Officials touted his track record as they announced he was joining, with a start date of April 10 as he moves from Long Island to Massachusetts.

"This is probably the most important appointment I've had to make since I've become governor, and I say that knowing how desperate the public is for leadership and a turnaround here," Healey said.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey introduced Phillip Eng, who helped run the

She noted that he's a commuter himself, even riding the T to Monday's announcement.

With experience managing massive budgets and tens of thousands of employees, Eng has "a proven track record of taking on challenging problems, taking over the reins of transit systems in times of crises and turning them around," Healey said.

Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca said the announcement was the celebration of "the start of a new day at the MBTA."

The LIRR is the largest commuter rail in the country, and serves nearly 90 million rides annually, according to the MTA, which manages public transit in the New York City metro area.

According to his biography on the MTA's website, Eng led the LIRR during the railroad's "Forward program," a set of initiatives aimed at "improving service reliability and enhancing the customer experience." Eng oversaw the delivery of a $6 billion capital program to modernize and expand the railroad's infrastructure.

Healey has missed her own deadline to find a new chief for the agency - which would have been March 6.

Eng also had a lengthy tenure with the New York State Department of Transportation, eventually holding positions such as chief engineer and executive deputy commissioner.

When he begins, Eng will face a multiple of challenges, including staffing shortages, project and maintenance delays and reduced speeds.

With speed restrictions impacting all of the MBTA's subway lines, the T is currently offering riders alternative options. The commuter rail and ferry will be available at the slow zones; all riders need to do is show their CharlieCard.

Additionally, buses will be replacing trains on the Orange Line for five stops, from North Station to Wellington, from Monday night through Thursday night beginning at 8:45 p.m.

To succeeed, said Brian Kane, the head of the MBTA Advisory Board, Eng will have to at least consider unpopular but necessary solutions like more shutdowns like the one ordered for the Orange Line last year.

"What we do need is a vision and an approach to get us moving again and I hope he's the right maan for the job," Kane said.

Advocacy group A Better City announced its support for Eng, with Rick Dimino, its president and CEO, saying his selection "shows the Healey Administration is leaning in on its commitment to rebuilding a reliable system and public confidence in it.”

Eng's salary will start at $470,000 — an increase from his predecessor's that the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce had recommended as a way to attract talent. Eng also stands to make more in retention payments and bonuses as his tenure increases.

Eng started his remarks by noting he is not a Yankees fan — but admitted later, when asked, that he's a Mets fan.

"We'll work on him," Healey quipped.

NBC10 Boston's Kathy Curran and Oscar Margain contributed to this report.

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