“We can have the best business climate in the world, but if commuters can’t get to work, what’s the point?”

James E. Rooney, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, speaks at the organization’s 2022 meeting. Rooney’s 2023 business outlook address took aim at the MBTA’s recent safety and finance issues. Barry Chin / Globe Staff

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce criticized the MBTA in its annual business outlook address and called on the new state administration to institute a number of reforms.

In a Tuesday livestream, Chamber President and CEO James Rooney called the MBTA an “underinvested, mismanaged transit system” that creates problems for employers and employees.

“We can have the best business climate in the world, but if commuters can’t get to work, what’s the point?”

To combat future safety issues and closures, Rooney supported Governor Healey’s initiatives to bring on an experienced general manager and a C-Suite safety position. But the Chamber and the new administration still have another agreement to make. 

Rooney said that the Chamber will continue to advocate for a mobility pricing commission, which will create a long-term plan for transportation finance. The proposal has passed through the legislature twice, he said, but still needs a signature from the governor.

Opponents of mobility pricing have argued that the move could increase tolls during busier times of the day and in more congested areas. 

The Chamber criticized regional transit, saying that “it might be time” to separate the commuter rail from the MBTA to focus on statewide connections operations and contract management.

This isn’t the first time the Chamber has taken aim at the MBTA — last summer, Rooney called for more federal oversight following safety incidents and cited distrust in the T among employees.

“It is unacceptable that the options for commuters are to choose between nation-leading — really, world-leading — congestion on highways or nation-leading safety incidents on public transit,” Rooney said.

In a statement to Boston.com, a spokesperson for the MBTA referenced the agency’s recent safety reviews and initiatives. 

“Safety has and continues to be the MBTA’s top priority, and the MBTA recognizes that providing best-in-class transit service is crucial to enabling a thriving region … The MBTA is committed to making continued investments that prioritize safety, modernize the system, allow for improved reliability, and enable a thriving region for the communities that the T serves.”

Rooney’s address also covered the millionaire’s tax, high housing costs, and a partnership with Boston Public Schools.

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce represents more than 1,000 employers and hundreds of thousands of employees.


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