‘Immediate Attention' Needed in MBTA's Approach to Safety, Panel Finds

The full report of the probe's findings was released Monday

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The public transportation system in metropolitan Boston needs to step up efforts to improve safety along its network of subways, buses and commuter rail trains.

That's the finding of a panel of transit experts hired in June by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's fiscal and management control board to review safety on the system after a series of subway car derailments and other safety concerns.

The report released Monday found that while the MBTA performs what it called "the necessary core functions to be considered a relatively safe system, many aspects of the T's approach to safety and operations need immediate attention."

"In almost every area we examined, deficiencies in policies, application of safety standards or industry best practices, and accountability were apparent," the report added.

The report pointed to a number of reasons for the deficiencies but said a major concern was turnover in the top position at the MBTA.

The report pointed out that since 2010 the MBTA has had nine general managers, saying the changes may be the overarching reason for the level of safety concerns.

"In essence, safety is not the priority at the T, but it must be," the report said. "The GM must make safety his number one priority and realize there is nothing more important to the T's customers and employees than safety."

The panel urged the MBTA to take a number of steps including setting safety objectives, identifying areas where maintenance is being deferred, and asking lawmakers to reduce the number of 36 mandated meetings each year of the fiscal and management control board. They said those meetings divert the attention of senior staff away from operations and safety.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a written statement accompanying the report that the agency has been working to improve safety.

"We have already implemented or begun implementing many of the recommendations of the Safety Review Panel," Poftak said, adding that the highest priority of the MBTA is "making the T a world leader in transit safety."

In June, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a plan to speed up construction projects on the MBTA after a pair of subway car derailments increased calls for improvements to the aging system.

The Republican said the plan included a one-time injection of $50 million for additional workers to focus on construction and infrastructure projects.

About 1.3 million riders use the transit system daily.

Severe delays are in place after an MBTA Red Line train derailed in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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