September 15, 2023
On September 13th, Patrick Lavin, MassDOT’s new Chief Safety Officer, participated in an A Better City Conversation to discuss plans to improve safety on the MBTA system. CSO Lavin is a no-nonsense kind of guy, and he’s got his eye on the ball. What’s he playing? Fix the MBTA. He starts his workday with a 7:45 AM all hands-on deck call with the safety team and asks hard questions. With 40+ years of experience that began with the MTA in New York City, he’s straightened out public transit agencies from Washington, DC, to Honolulu.
The conversation with A Better City members left no doubt that Chief Lavin is an expert in the field. He is focused on solidifying the T’s safety foundation starting with bolstering key performance indicators (KPIs) because what gets measured, gets done. He is also strengthening the MBTA’s ability to manage safety risk, which is a key component of any Safety Management System (SMS) and currently a weak link at the T. At the same time, he is putting in place the tools the T needs to successfully and productively tackle the 500+ corrective actions plans (CAPs) that resulted from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) safety management inspection (SMI), while simultaneously keeping regular preventative maintenance a top priority.
The FTA SMI forced institutional change in Washington, DC, and it’s bound to do the same at the MBTA. Chief Lavin noted new MBTA General Manager Phil Eng is bringing on board the right people to bring about the cultural shift the T needs to navigate the current safety emergency and put in place the systematic programs our region’s public transit agency needs to provide safe, reliable, and robust service.
At the T, it’s not one stop shopping when it comes to addressing safety issues. The Red and Orange Line have different issues than the Blue Line, the Green Line, and the Commuter Rail. Bus and ferry services need attention, too. With the right workforce, equipment, and methodology, though, Chief Lavin believes the T can and will turn around. The MBTA should be an employer of choice, not default, and if the applicant surge after the recent contract with the Carmen’s Union is any indication, it seems to be heading in that direction.
Chief Lavin understands that the riding public wants and deserves better service, and he knows the T needs to be transparent and deliver on its promises to build back trust. He’s confident that with General Manager Eng’s leadership, the MBTA will be able to show results after service disruptions, and he believes the T is on track to win back riders and reestablish trust. “We are all in this together,” he said. As a Green Line rider, he doesn’t want disruptions either, but he knows they are necessary to fix the system.