BOSTON (WPRI) — The push to cut costs, while moving ahead with long-overdue projects has put safety on the back burner at the MBTA. A report released Monday found, ” …safety is not the priority at the T, but it must be.”
The independent panel that drafted the safety review was brought together in June following a series of derailments and other safety issues on the T. The panel consisted of transportation experts including former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood, former Federal Transit Administration acting administrator Carolyn Flowers, and former NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco.
During the course of their investigation, they found the MBTA’s safety department drastically understaffed, with personnel lacking expertise. The panel also blamed frequent turnover in leadership at the T. Since 2010, the MBTA has had nine general managers. The current GM has been in the role for less than a year.
“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 states. “In almost every area we examined, deficiencies in policies, application of safety standards or industry best practices, and accountability were apparent.”
The 63-page report offers 34 recommendations with 61 corrective actions to improve safety.
“The MBTA has been working aggressively to improve safety across the board, and we have already implemented or begun implementing many of the recommendations of the Safety Review Panel,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said.
The panel found the commuter rail, operated by private contractor Keolis, “does not face many of the challenges that were identified on the transit side of the house” because of clear safety regulations provided by Federal Railroad Administration.
Mass transit systems across the country are facing a July deadline, set by the Federal Transit Administration, to have a certified safety management system in place.