WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller talks to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
JON KELLER: Welcome back. We're talking with Governor Charlie Baker. Governor, a couple of other topics I want to slip in while I have this chance to talk with you. We just had yet another orange line derailment involving one of the new cars. When we were taping this interview, it was unclear exactly what caused it.
But you'll correct me if you disagree I'm sure, but it's been a nightmare with the new red line and orange line cars going back several years. At what point do you say, this manufacturer isn't cutting it, is not delivering, contract voided, forget it, we'll start fresh with someone else?
CHARLIE BAKER: I think part of the issue there and part of the challenge there, Jon, is new vehicles are generally a complicated exercise everywhere. The pandemic, which obviously screwed up all kinds of global supply chains and sort of international business period, has been a tremendous burden for us and for the manufacturer during this period.
But I think in many ways it's up to us to work with them to figure out how to make sure we get these cars into service. I mean, we've put billions of dollars into modernizing and upgrading the MBTA since we took office, far more than any administration's ever spent over any five year period of time.
And we did it because it was way, way overdue. And, I mean, a lot of the stuff we were replacing and fixing hadn't been touched for 30, 40, or 50 years. And I think it's going to be really important that we made all those investments and continue to make them in the what I would call the infrastructure of the T.
Those orange-line trains, red-line trains, green-line cars, which we also have new ones of as well that are in service, they need to work, because they're going to be riding on a platform that's going to be a heck of a lot better than the one that we started with.
JON KELLER: Are we clawing back any money because of these blunders by the manufacturer and failures?
CHARLIE BAKER: There have been penalties on them that have been implemented on a number of occasions, and that'll continue to be the case going forward. Yeah.
JON KELLER: Well, my sources at the T say that the capital planning, usually we have like a five-year capital plan at the MBTA, that that whole process has sort of stalled due to uncertainty. They're not clear about how much money they're going to have anticipating revenue problems with the collapse of ridership.
Does any of this prompt you to reconsider your past resistance to revenue-raising measures like rush-hour tolling and congestion pricing?
CHARLIE BAKER: Well, we did a pretty significant study on congestion pricing, which obviously the pandemic is sort of turned on its head a bit. We really haven't had a lot of congestion of the kind that we had prior to the pandemic. And one of the reasons we're doing this future of work study is to try to figure out exactly what the world, based on best available data, is going to look like going forward.
Because I certainly believe that work is going to be different, where people are going to work, where they're going to live, how they're going to think about their job. And, you know, the five days in the office thing, what's that really going to look like? And that has real implications for transportation and for public transportation as well as private transportation.
And that study I think will help us inform the path forward we ought to take on some of this stuff. The other thing I would say is we do have uncertainty, but some of that uncertainty is driven by the present, you know, where we're going to be a year from now.
That's part of what I want this future work thing to help us figure out, because it will help answer some of the questions you just raised. The capital program we put in place has been extraordinary, and it was way overdue, as I said before, but it's going to be important to continue to invest heavily in modernizing what was an incredibly old and to some extent decrepit system that we inherited back in 2015.
JON KELLER: So you don't know where we're going to get the money for the future and you won't know. That's what I'm hearing for a while.
CHARLIE BAKER: I think it's important for us to try and answer some of these. I mean, one of the big questions here is going to be what is going to happen to ridership, right?
JON KELLER: Yeah.
CHARLIE BAKER: And I don't want to make big decisions. And I don't think we should make big decisions without having any visibility into that question at all, because it's a billion dollar a year question.
JON KELLER: Does that mean you figure on still be making these decisions come 2023?
CHARLIE BAKER: I would like to hope and think that most of the time we make our decisions based on what we think is going to be the best interest of the system for the long haul and not the short haul. I've been very focused, as you might expect, on the pandemic and all that came with that as well as the other issues associated with trying to maintain an operating state government for the past year.
And I think in some respects, I know at some point the lieutenant governor and I need to figure out some of those other issues with respect to our futures, but that's not been what we've been focused on at all.
JON KELLER: Well, you notice I haven't asked you if you're running again, and I'm not going to because I know what the answer is. But before I let you go, I do want to ask you--
CHARLIE BAKER: You say to me about that one, Jon, is just make sure I let you know first.
JON KELLER: Well, that goes without saying, so please you better watch your step on that, governor. I do want to ask you though, Geoff Diehl the former state rep, former US senate candidate is making noises about how he might challenge you in a Republican primary next year if you do run again. Could you beat him in a Republican primary right now?
CHARLIE BAKER: Like I said, I'm not really spending a lot of time thinking about this stuff. And once the lieutenant governor and I get around to figuring out exactly what we want to do, we'll plan accordingly. But I've been incredibly blessed to have this chance to serve, and the people of Massachusetts have been overwhelmingly kind and gracious to both me and the lieutenant governor over the past five years, almost six years now.
And what I would say is that these are extraordinary times, and they create tremendous opportunity along with tremendous challenges. And I think anybody who's interested in serving in public life needs to recognize and understand that the challenges that we face are significant. But the challenges that our citizens face, our residents face, go way beyond the challenges that we face.
And, you know, again bringing a little bit of that humility to these roles, I think would make everybody a lot better off.
JON KELLER: Governor, thanks for taking the time. Let's do it again soon.