Critical report calls for improved security on Boston subway

BOSTON — The aging Boston-area subway system has for years neglected safety and maintenance while focusing on long-term capital projects, federal transportation officials said in a highly critical report based on a review earlier this year in response to various accidents and other problems. with the system

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority “is not effectively balancing safety-critical operations and maintenance activities with its efforts to deliver capital projects,” the Federal Transit Administration report said. “This lack of balance is at the heart of many of the MBTA’s security challenges.”

“The system has to become more secure. It’s just not an option,” Paul Kincaid, the FTA’s associate administrator for communications and congressional affairs, said at an online news conference.

While the capital budget has quadrupled in four years, funding cuts in the operations and maintenance budget have resulted in a reduction of hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of positions.

“The combination of overworked staff and aging assets has resulted in an overwhelmed organization, chronic fatigue for key agency positions, lack of resources for training and supervision, and leadership priorities that emphasize meeting the demands of construction projects. capital over passenger operations, preventative maintenance, and even safety,” the report says.

The FTA report includes four “special guidelines,” requiring 53 separate actions the transportation authority must take, including addressing worker shortages, prioritizing safety management, safety communication and operating conditions, policies, procedures, and training.

The authority, on which hundreds of thousands of people depend every day to get to work, to medical appointments and to reach the main tourist attractions in the city, is committed to working with the FTA and has already begun to address some of the directives , General Manager Steve Poftak said at a separate news conference on Wednesday.

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“The FTA has given us a series of special directives and a series of findings that will allow us to improve the way we operate as an organization,” he said.

The transportation authority completely closed the Orange Line for 30 days to complete maintenance work that would otherwise take five years.

The agency also established an Office of Quality, Compliance and Oversight to formulate and implement actions to address the report’s findings and “will focus on assessing, recruiting and hiring as part of workforce management, collecting and analyzing safety data, instill a culture of safety throughout the organization and improve operational practices,” it said in a statement. The office will report directly to Poftak.

An $840 million supplemental budget proposal submitted by Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday included $200 million for the MBTA to address FTA directives and another $10 million to help recruit and train staff.

“I appreciate the FTA’s comprehensive review of the MBTA, and this report will make the system safer and more reliable for riders and the T workforce,” said the Republican governor, who has promised improvements since 2015 after a Severe winter will paralyze the system. in a sentence.

Poftak and Kincaid said there are no overnight solutions and the process could take years.

“We want today to be the beginning of rebuilding the infrastructure, culture and, critically, trust around an important community asset that the people of Massachusetts support with their tax dollars and ridership,” Kincaid said during an online news conference.

There shouldn’t be a “false choice” between capital spending and financing operations, said Josh Ostroff, interim director of Transportation for Massachusetts, a transit advocacy coalition.

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“We urge our partners in state government to keep the focus on capital investment, which is urgent and overdue, but not at the expense of passenger safety and public trust,” it said in a statement.

The report also criticized the state Department of Public Utilities, which is responsible for security oversight, saying “the DPU has not consistently required and applied timely security risk assessment and mitigation for passenger operations to prevent organizational blindness to emerging security concerns”.

The report is specific to the metro system and not to the bus or commuter rail networks.

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