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Feds release startling new details about T-safety lapses and demand shift

On Wednesday, the FTA officially issued four “special directives” for the MBTA to immediately implement, a “result of continued security breaches and a failure to take urgent corrective action,” Kincaid said.

Citing two recent runaway train incidents at MBTA yards that resulted in worker injuries, Kincaid said the T did not have “adequate written procedures for safety processes and training.” .

“Failing to have written rules leads to a lack of understanding of what is required, as well as a lack of safety culture throughout the agency, which sets the stage for breaches of security,” he said.

The FTA directs the MBTA to increase the staffing of its operations control center, improve general safety operating procedures, and address backlogs of critical lane maintenance and safety recertifications for employees whose credentials have expired.

The DPU will need to ensure that the MBTA implements the changes.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an email that the T was “developing immediate and long-term mitigation measures to address these issues.” The agency expects all active rail transportation employees to be certified by this week.

Spokespersons for Governor Charlie Baker did not respond to a request for comment.

Kincaid said staff at the operations control center sometimes work 20-hour shifts with only four hours off in between, “which obviously can create safety issues due to fatigue.” AFC found that the control center is understaffed; as of April 29, four dispatcher positions out of 18 heavy trains and two supervisor positions out of 11 were vacant.

“MBTA has created a management process in which OCC staff members are required to work without certification, in a fatigued state and often fulfilling multiple roles at once,” said the directive says.

Since January 2021, the MBTA has reported five runaway train events that occurred at worksites or during maintenance, the ALE found, including two since the ALE began its inspection of the T in mid- april.

A runaway Red Line train in the rail yard on Dec. 17 injured three, the FTA said.

The FTA found that around 10% of MBTA’s subway tracks are subject to speed restrictions due to defects, including a year-long slow zone on Orange Line tracks between the Tufts Medical Center and Back Bay resorts and over 2 miles of greenway. Track maintenance crews are using a 2 or 2.5 hour window to complete repairs overnight, which is nowhere near enough, the FTA said. The Green Line works train used for maintenance has been out of service for at least eight months, the FTA found.

In its guidance, the FTA said MBTA’s investments in capital projects eclipse investments in day-to-day maintenance of its older equipment, limiting critical maintenance.

At some point during the investigation, the FTA found that 80% of subway dispatchers had expired security certifications, FTA Chief Security Officer Joe DeLorenzo said.

On the Green Line, the FTA found that 41% of operators, 26% of inspectors, 50% of supervisors and all yardmasters had expired safety certifications. Twenty-five percent of orange line supervisors, 14% red line supervisors, and 33% of blue line supervisors were “non-compliant with recertification requirements.”

The tentative conclusions are frustrating similar to the conclusions issued by another group of external experts who audited safety at the T, in 2019, after a series of derailments. This panel also found that the T lacked a safety culture and issued 61 recommendations, the majority of which say it was done.

DeLorenzo said the FTA will assess whether meaningful progress has been made on those previous recommendations.

If the MBTA fails to complete the actions issued by the FTA, it could lose 25% of its federal funding.

Each directive includes a time frame by which the MBTA must submit its plans to the FTA ranging from 15 to 35 days. In some cases, the MBTA must report information to the AFC daily or weekly in the future, including information about personnel in its operations control center.

Rick Dimino, president of A Better City, a business group that focuses on transportation issues, said he was grateful for the delays.

“If we expect people to come back to the T, we need the T to be committed to safety first with real results, so we can prove to the public that the T is safe,” he said. .

Ridership on the T remains well below pre-pandemic levels. In April, average weekday trips on the MBTA transit system, including commuter rail, were just 55% of April 2019 levels, according to MBTA dataand metro ridership remained at approximately 47%.

The FTA’s assessment came less than 24 hours after passengers on the Green Line in Boston were forced to walk on tracks through an underground tunnel between Park Street and Government Center Stations on Tuesday night after two trains “coupled inadvertently” at a slow speed while at the Government Center Platform.

Two two-car trains accidentally attached to each other while on the platform, forming a four-car train. The MBTA temporarily suspended service between Government Center and Park Street while T staff untied the trains, according to Pesaturo.

A passenger on a train between the two stations shared a social media video of people walking along dark underground pathways.

Security incidents have persisted since the FTA began investigating.

The federal agency initially told the T that it would “immediately assume an increased safety oversight role for the MBTA system” in an April 14 letter to the MBTA, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the DPU and to the MBTA board, but authorities hid the news from the public.

The FTA inspection, first reported by the Globe last month, is only the second time the FTA has intervened locally in this way. In 2015, the agency conducted an inspection of the security management of DC’s Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority that led to the federal government taking over security oversight for nearly 3½ years. .

In its letter, the FTA cited a “sequence of security incidents” at the T, including the dragging death on April 10 of Robinson Lalin, whose arm was caught in a red line car at the train station in Broadway.

Kincaid said the FTA’s interim findings should not discourage people from taking the T.

“FTA’s actions provide system-wide measures to address long-standing issues with the T’s program and overall safety culture that will make it an even safer ride for Bostonians,” it said. -he declares.


Taylor Dolven can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @taydolven.

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