Safety shouldn’t be stuck in T ‘slow zone’
“Slow zones” are not just speed restrictions in place until track repairs at made, they’re part of the MBTA’s mission statement.
T riders have followed — and endured — the beleaguered transit agency’s torturous saga of accidents, derailments, delays, special panels, probes and scathing safety reports. We need to trust that actions are being taken in a timely manner and the T is pulling up its collective socks.
Shutting down subway lines for repairs was one such move, and while it put a kink in many commutes, it was a visible testament to the agency taking steps to improve safety.
However, the MBTA has always had a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, as Federal Transit Administration Chief Safety Officer Joe DeLorenzo learned first hand.
As the Herald reported, DeLorenzo wrote to MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng that the agency’s work plan, intended to address right-of-way violations that led to five nearmisses and left one employee seriously injured over a onemonth period, as “insufficient.”
“MBTA’s submitted work plan includes efforts to develop a long-term plan to strengthen protections for workers and contractors on the rail transit system, including items with completion dates into late 2023 and into 2024,” DeLorenzo wrote earlier this month.
“Given the immediate risk to worker safety on the ROW, FTA requires direct and focused actions.”
DeLorenzo told MBTA officials to submit a new version of the work plan by June 5 with safety improvements that would take effect within 60 days.
MBTA officials said last month that the near-misses were largely brought on by a breakdown in safety communication between construction workers, their supervisors, and subway dispatchers in the operations control center.
As the State House News reported, MBTA spokesperson Lisa Battiston said Tuesday that the agency’s first submission for an action plan to address right-ofway safety hazards “included both immediate and longer term actions to complete.”
“The FTA has directed the MBTA to focus the workplan on the immediate actions only,” Battiston said.
Granted, the T has a lot on its plate. There’s a plethora of operational issues amid a worker shortage and a drop in revenue. And as DeLorenzo pointed out in a separate letter, focusing on safety staffing will “help alleviate the capacity challenges the MBTA is facing,” and enable it to better address the safety issues identified in last year’s federal investigation.
Still, it’s rare that a month goes by without news of a train problem, station accident, or news that something that should have been done, wasn’t.
On the bright side, thank goodness the FTA has stepped in and is holding the T accountable. Passengers can’t ride promises, and apologies only go so far.
The T needs to get up to speed — on many fronts — stat.