MBTA GM vows ‘new beginning’ for troubled agency

The MBTA has six weeks to come up with a plan to fix all the problems outlined in a 90-page report released by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA). During a video conference with reporters, Paul Kincaid, FTA Associate Administrator, Communications and Congressional Affairs said, “it’s our hope that today is a turning point for the safety culture at the MBTA”.

The FTA found, “overworked staff and aging assets has resulted in the organization being overwhelmed, chronic fatigue for key positions in the agency, lack of resources for training and supervision, and leadership priorities that emphasize meeting capital project demands above passenger operations, preventive maintenance, and even safety”.

The FTA began inspecting the T in April following numerous derailments, crashes, mechanical failures, and other safety incidents, including the death of a man who got his hand caught in a train door on the Red Line.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak addressed the report at a meeting of the MBTA Board of Directors.

Poftak noted work already underway to improve safety and said, “everything put forward in this report is something the MBTA will benefit from and something we should be doing.”

Poftak said he is committed to following the FTA’s special directives. He expects it will be a multi-year process to correct all the problems and the T will continue to engage with the FTA during that time.

The FTA also faulted the MA Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for failing to properly monitor the MBTA. According to the FTA report, “the MBTA’s lack of effective safety risk management has been compounded by the DPU’s at times inadequate safety oversight”.

Chris Dempsey is a former Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Massachusetts and a candidate for State Auditor. He said the T needs a change of leadership but he doesn’t expect that to happen under the Baker administration. Governor Charlie Baker has remained a staunch supporter of the T, highlighting successes like the system’s on-time performance and infrastructure upgrades. Baker has announced he will not seek reelection in November.

“I think the system is worse off today than it was when Governor Baker took the reins in 2015.” Dempsey said. “I’m not going to put all of that blame at Governor Baker’s feet. Anytime you have an agency like the T with a $2 billion a year budget and 1000s of employees, there’s going to be a lot of responsibility for when things go wrong.”

Today, Governor Baker proposed giving the T another 200 million dollars to help with safety improvements detailed in the FTA report

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