Mayor Wu Calls for ‘Drastic Action' to Address MBTA Safety Issues

"It is time to talk about just ripping the Band-Aid off and taking drastic action," she said during an appearance Monday on WBUR's "Radio Boston"

NBC Universal, Inc.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu called for "drastic action" Monday to address safety issues with the MBTA, including a potential complete shutdown of the system until improvements can be made.

During an appearance on WBUR's "Radio Boston," Wu was asked about a series of recent problems on the T, most recently an Orange Line train that caught fire last week.

"We are where we are because we have an aging system -- many of the train cars decades past their useful life, the tracks needing to be replaced, technology very, very out of date," the mayor said. "And we are now seeing that that funding which didn't get put in along the way to upgrade, improve and maintain is now all coming due in a huge bill right now that has not just cost but safety issues and credibility for the entire system."

Wu said she supports a pending bill that would allow the mayor to appoint a delegate to the MBTA's board since Boston makes up the largest part of its service area and because the T is key to everything the city is trying to do.

"It's really past time," she said. "We've seen such frequency of incidents now that we can no longer tolerate tinkering around the edges. We need large scale track maintenance and signal upgrades just on the Orange Line alone. That is probably, I'm hearing, the most urgent of the needs."

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak addressed a startling Orange Line train fire that had passengers evacuating down the tracks from the middle of a bridge over the Mystic River Thursday.

"It is time to talk about just ripping the Band-Aid off and taking drastic action," Wu added. "If we need to have a larger scale shutdown rather than just trying to do a little bit of track here and there every weekend or late at night -- actually doing it all in one sweep, getting it done -- that would then free up resources at the T to focus on improving other parts of it."

"I know the train cars are on order and they're coming, but it all comes back down to infrastructure. As long as that track still is questionable in terms of how old it is, and as long as those signals still require extra staffing power because they're not the most updated digital types of signals, we are going to be held back."

Wu said she knows temporarily shutting down the MBTA train system to make these fixes would be painful, but delaying it any further is only going to exacerbate things.

"It would be tremendously disruptive, but we are at the point where prolonging this will make it worse and continue to bring about safety issues," she said.

The mayor said the city can play a role in helping to provide reasonable, temporary alternatives to T service, including giving over street space for shuttle buses.

"We will do everything we can to work hand in hand with the T," Wu said. "It's time to think at that scale -- large scale, disruptive."

Contact Us