The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and its Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) accepted a report from the MBTA Safety Review Panel that offers 34 recommendations with 61 corrective actions to improve safety for MBTA riders and staff.
The panel, commissioned by the FMCB in June after a series of derailments and other safety incidents, comprises three nationally recognized experts in transit safety: former US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; former Federal Transit Administration Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers; and former NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco.
“While the agency performs 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,” the report stated. “In almost every area we examined, deficiencies in policies, application of safety standards or industry best practices, and accountability were apparent.”
Drawing on 100 interviews, six focus groups, and extensive site visits throughout the MBTA system, the panel makes six major safety policy recommendations intended “to move the organization to a place where safety is a priority and is culturally integrated into every aspect of their mission.”
The recommendations include having the MBTA:
- Establish safety objectives, safety performance targets, and safety performance indicators that are aligned with industry best practices, closely monitored, and provided with enough human capital and funding to be carried out.
- Identify all areas where deferred maintenance is occurring.
- Ensure enough resources are devoted to expediting implementation of data collection systems, particularly in the maintenance-of-way, training, and medical departments.
- Consider adopting Federal Railroad Administration standards that now govern commuter rail operations for rapid transit as well, in order to provide standards and guidance for MBTA transit safety.
- Build up the MBTA’s leadership team, including by adding more seasoned transit professionals with operations and safety expertise and experience.
- Petition the Legislature to reduce the mandated 36-times-per-year frequency of FMCB meetings, or make meeting preparation less burdensome on staff, because the large time demands on senior staff to prepare for the board meetings divert attention from operations and safety.
The panel’s report notes that the MBTA has had nine GMs since 2010 and states that this turnover “may be the overarching reason that we see the level of safety deficiency at the agency.”
Along with all other U.S. transit systems, the MBTA is required by the Federal Transit Administration to have a written Safety Policy and Transit Safety Plan, a precursor to a Safety Management System (SMS), certified by the Department of Public Utilities by July 20, 2020.
Defined as “a formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risk and assuring the effectiveness of the agency’s safety risk mitigation,” SMS includes systematic procedures, practices, and policies for managing risks and hazards and promoting safety.
The panel found that the MBTA commuter rail operation, operated by private contractor Keolis, “does not face many of the challenges that were identified on the transit side of the house” because of the clear safety structure provided by FRA regulations.
To view the full report, click here.