Robert Prince served as the GM at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston from 1997 to 2001, culminating a 25-year career that began as a bus operator and progressed through over 20 jobs at the authority. As GM, Prince oversaw the management of over 6,500 employees at an agency that transported over one million commuters each day. He is currently retired from AECOM where he served as VP, transit business development director. He continues work with Gannon Consult. In his past role as Chairman of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, Prince continues to give back to the industry.
How did you get involved in the industry?
Having used the T all my life, from going to school to shopping with my mom, the T was my only means of transportation. So when the opportunity became available for bus operators, I signed on, although I’d never driven anything larger than a Volkswagen.
What did you take away from the experience?
As a user of the system, I had an appreciation for safe, on-time service delivery.
What pivotal moment in your career helped you get to where you are today?
I would have to say the blizzard of 1978. At that time, I was an operator living in Brookline, Mass. The Governor had declared Martial Law and the only people allowed to drive were emergency personnel, fire, police, and EMTs. I had informed the garage I worked out of, which was in Quincy, Mass., that I would be in. Well, the National Guard had other thoughts, and I was instructed to put my car away. I will point out he was armed, and even back then, I knew not to argue. So, I walked to Quincy through the storm approximately seven miles. The story went around the authority and it was clear to managers that I was a person of his word, committed to go that extra mile, pardon the pun. I’ve carried that ethic throughout my career.
Name an initiative you worked on that you’re proud of?
I am proud of spearheading Massachusetts’ first bus rapid transit system. I am also proud of bringing attention to and making ‘State of Good Repair’ a priority at the MBTA.
Running the ‘Oldest subway system in America’ had its challenges, to say the least. Most important was the investment into the infrastructure. Not a popular issue back then as expansion was more important to most. For me, it was fixing and maintaining our existing infrastructure. Today, it’s a transit must.
What key lessons have you learned from your career?
I learned to listen, and appreciate the men and women who provided the service daily. Humility, leaving things better than you found them, and not being caught up on who cuts the ribbon. I learned to stay true to your beliefs, even though they may not be popular at that time.