25 Investigates: MBTA waiting on parts to install Green Line’s crash avoidance system, source says

The technology could have prevented Wednesday night’s Government Center crash

BOSTON — The MBTA is in the process of installing a new safety package on Green Line trolleys that includes an automated crash avoidance system.

A source familiar with MBTA operations tells 25 Investigates the design of the system is complete and the company implementing it is waiting parts coming out of Germany.

A spokesman for the MBTA confirms “the Green Line train protection system is not operational yet. The Board awarded a contract to accelerate the installation work…”

According to the agency, the “Green Line Train Protection System (GLTPS) is a suite of safety features that overlays the existing signals system with additional protection. This will include protection from train-on-train collisions, red-light signal overrun and overspeed. The system is designed to alert a motor person of a threat and if necessary apply the brakes. GLTPS only differs from GPS-based Positive Train Control in that it uses a radio-frequency based system with vehicle onboard equipment processors which is better suited for the Green Line as it operates in tunnels and often in close proximity to other vehicles”.

Meanwhile, a federal probe is currently underway examining MBTA’s safety management.

The probe was launched by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) in early April after the death of Robinson Lalin, the 39-year-old man who died after getting his arm trapped in the door of a Red Line subway car at the Broadway Station. Lalin was dragged to his death.

The FTA said it was extremely concerned with systemwide safety issues.

Some more recent MBTA mishaps include:

January 21, 2021 – A 68-year-old woman died in January when a commuter rail train struck her care at a rail crossing in Wilmington. The MBTA said the crossing arm failed as a result of human error.

September 28, 2021 – A slow-moving train car derailed at Broadway Station in South Boston and hit the platform.

September 27, 2021 – An escalator at the Back Bay Station malfunctioned and abruptly reversed, causing a pile-up of people that sent 9 to the hospital.

September 11, 2021 – A Boston University professor was killed when he fell through a closed-off staircase near the JFK/UMass Station.

July 30, 2021 – A Green Line trolley crash near Babcock Street injured 27 passengers. One of the train operators was charged with negligence for the speed he was travelling.

25 Investigates spoke to Gus Ubaldi, a railroad safety and engineering expert. He says the FTA’s probe will look at a number of things at the MBTA, including the “safety culture.”

What the FTA investigation will do is say, ‘what is going on here?’ and try to pick out a trend. They’ll look at the overall approach and the overall operation. Do people apply themselves to the letter or the spirit of the regulation?” said Ubaldi.

25 Investigates asked the union that represents train operators about this latest incident on the Green Line. In a statement, Local 589 Carmen’s Union said: MBTA operators have been calling for additional and expedited investments in key sensor and safety systems for years to provide the highest level of protection possible for both passengers and operators and supplement the systems’ current safety systems and robust protocols. Restoring the onboard safety personnel, who the MBTA cut in recent years, is one provision we are actively championing. Additional and expedited investments in sensor technologies for the MBTA fleet will also help to complement the training programs that MBTA management currently provides to its dedicated frontline workforce, who transport more than 1 million passengers per day and whose number one priority is safety.

We will carefully review the details of this particular incident and will be communicating to MBTA officials any, and all additional recommendations for how to best avoid such incidents in the future. Along with passengers, operators also naturally want to see the MBTA allocate even further training, technology, and onboard safety personnel resources to create the maximum level of protection against any chance of collisions or other adverse safety events.

25 Investigates checked with the FTA regarding the probe. A spokesperson told us the agency is closely monitoring Wednesday night’s accident and all safety incidents.

“At this time, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is still on site in Boston, MA collecting information as a part of the ongoing Safety Management Inspection (SMI). FTA is committed to improving safety at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and is closely monitoring all activities as a part of the SMI.”

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