Through the appointment of these new roles, the MBTA aims to close management gaps and improve the quality, reliability, and safety of T services.  -  Photo: Canva/METRO

Through the appointment of these new roles, the MBTA aims to close management gaps and improve the quality, reliability, and safety of T services.

Photo: Canva/METRO

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) announced the appointment of four transit industry veterans into new leadership positions at the T responsible for stations, infrastructure, engineering, capital program enhancement, operations, and safety.

Starting within their positions later this summer, Dennis Varley is the new chief of Stations, Sam Zhou is the new assistant general manager of Engineering and Capital, Doug Connett is the new chief of Infrastructure, and Rod Brooks is the new senior advisor for Capital, Operations, and Safety. 

Through the appointment of these new roles, the MBTA aims to close management gaps and improve the quality, reliability, and safety of T services.

In addition to these four new leaders, the MBTA also announced several new, internal role changes that represent an investment in the general manager’s commitment to improving service quality for riders: 

  • Katie Choe, acting chief of staff,  
  • Meredith Sandberg, acting chief of the Quality, Compliance, and Oversight Office,
  • Angel Donahue-Rodriguez, assistant general manager of External Affairs,
  • Frenia Hunter, division chief of Training,
  • Sean Mills, assistant general manager, Bus Operations, 
  • Patrick Richmond, assistant general manager, Rail.

“Since joining the MBTA, I have continued to experience first-hand how our system operates, both as General Manager and as a daily T rider. I understand the gravity of resolving our safety issues, and I am committed to restoring public faith in our system and bringing our infrastructure back to a state of good repair that is safe, reliable, and meets the needs of our riders,” said MBTA GM/CEO Phillip Eng. “I join the rest of the T’s dedicated workforce in welcoming Dennis, Sam, Doug, and Rod to the MBTA, and appreciating the work of Katie, Meredith, Angel, Frenia, Sean, and Patrick. We have added significant combined decades of transportation experience to the team, and it is important to note that I also believe deeply in the team that we have already at the T. Each of the new hires and internal role changes has a wealth of experience and expertise in multimodal public transportation that I am pleased to see deployed at the T in order to deliver on our commitment to our riders.”

Dennis Varley's Role with MBTA

With over 30 years in the transit industry, Dennis Varley is the MBTA’s new chief of Stations, a newly created role with the responsibility of ensuring all MBTA stations provide riders and employees with the safest and best user experience.

The Chief of Stations ensures station safety, security, and cleanliness.

The role will also address station concerns raised by riders and employees and ensure in-station customer communications are clear, timely, and informative.

The Chief of Stations’ efforts will help to avert recent station issues such as the ceiling incidents on the Red Line and the standpipe issue at Charles/MGH station.

Varley comes to the MBTA most recently from the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), where he served in engineering leadership roles, including deputy chief engineer, assistant chief engineer-Structures, and assistant chief facilities operations officer. 

Sam Zhou, New Assistant GM at MBTA

Reporting directly to the GM, Sam Zhou will be the MBTA’s new assistant GM of Engineering and Capital, who is responsible for the safe engineering and delivery of MBTA assets.

Zhou will oversee the planning, engineering, and execution of engineering, construction infrastructure, and Capital Investment Plan (CIP) programs, including asset planning and management. 

With more than 30 years in transportation project development, operations, and asset management, Zhou joins the MBTA most recently from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), where he served as assistant commissioner for Operations, Regional Affairs, and Asset Management.

Doug Connett as New Chief of Infrastructure

Reporting to the chief of Operations, Doug Connett is the MBTA’s new chief of Infrastructure. This new position will provide direction to the entire Infrastructure Directorate, which is comprised of over 1,000 employees within the track, signals and communications, power, facilities, and logistics teams.

Connett will be responsible for executing programs to improve service quality, reduce costs, increase employee productivity, and increase revenue and ridership.

Connett has nearly four decades of operations, safety, and maintenance experience in the public transit industry, most recently joining the MBTA from a state safety and security consulting firm and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, where he has served as VP and assistant chief safety officer of Operations and Investigations.

Rod Brooks' Role at MBTA

Rod Brooks has been named as a new senior advisor for Capital, Operations, and Safety. He will assist with leading the Rail Operations team in making capital, operations, and safety decisions.

As a senior advisor to the team, Brooks will help ensure the on-schedule and on-budget management of the Capital Delivery Program, the South Coast Rail project, and other Capital Program initiatives.

With over 32 years of rail experience, Brooks has led organizational efforts, navigated safety challenges, and developed programs, among other accomplishments. Brooks most recently served as senior VP of Operations at the LIRR, holding additional LIRR operations leadership positions as executive director – ESA Harold Operations and Chief Transportation Officer.

A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Brooks began his transit career as an entry-level assistant railroad signalman before ascending into higher-level roles.

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