The runaway overtime train in Boston has been diverted in New York City by using high-tech controls, a Herald payroll analysis found.
In Boston, 38 MBTA employees earned $100,000 or more in overtime last year — including three who topped $200,000-plus.
In New York City, two MTA employees clocked in OT just over $100,000 — and that came during a hiring freeze.
“It’s absurd we have seven times more super overtime people here on the T,” said Greg Sullivan of the Pioneer Institute. He called on the Boston brass to study what New Yorkers do and adopt it, fast.
“T management should hire the firm New York did and ask them to make a bid to do an independent analysis and put an end to overtime abuse here,” Sullivan, a former state inspector general, added.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in large part, runs New York City’s massive subway system. Facing growing OT costs pre-pandemic, the agency hired the law firm Morrison & Foerster in 2019.
The result? “We were able to hold the line,” said MTA boss Lisette Camilo in an MTA announcement. He added OT has dropped to a “manageable” level.
The MTA’s strict controls include:
The MBTA, responding to a Herald request this week for steps it is taking to cap OT, said safety and capital projects drive added hours.
“MBTA experience is that OT hours have been consistent at approximately 14-15%; recent increases moving to the far end of that range are responding to robust capital program, safety and vacancies due to the challenging labor market,” T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an email.
He added, “to help improve service reliability while reducing the use of OT, the T is also ramping up hiring of new employees” in the new fiscal year.
Pesaturo said the T is looking to hire 152 positions “directly for service and transportation” along with 76 for the bus fleet, 41 for heavy and light rail, 119 for maintenance and security, 64 for system, power, and facilities maintenance, 41 for bus and rail maintenance.
He said finance managers “review and analyze overtime expenses monthly and they regularly report year-to-date and year-over-year trends” to senior management.
Louise Baxter of the T Riders Union agreed more drivers need to be hired, but she added there’s “too much top-down” leadership in Boston where bus drivers aren’t given “enough discretion.”
A Herald analysis also shows the T’s overtime tally is dominated by a who’s who of foremen overseeing painters, pipefitters, wire and track workers. A few transit cops crack the $100,000 OT list with crime on the T an issue, but that’s even more so in New York City.
But it’s not apples to apples when compared to New York City’s MTA, where the overtime top dogs work in the warehouse, storerooms and data centers. The top OT transit cop in NYC pulled down $67,000 in overtime last year. The top OT officer in Boston earned $142,000 in OT.
The MTA OT bible stresses that a “modern timekeeping system” has held the agency to “greater accountability and validation of overtime spending” — and spreading the extra hours around.