Testimony: MBTA Implementation of FTA Directives

Prepared by Caitlin Allen-Conelly, Project Director ON July 19th 

MBTA Board of Directors, July 19, 2022, Agenda Items 3 and 8

Yesterday, the Joint Transportation Committee held the first of three hearings on safety management deficiencies at the MBTA and the recent FTA Safety Directives, and today the General Manager and MBTA staff will provide an update on the safety management inspection.

This is a good start because we need more transparency and accountability; however, direct oversight and involvement of the Governor is needed to oversee implementation of the FTA Directives and to ensure as well as to sustain a robust safety culture at the T.

In June, A Better City and its members called on the Governor to Appoint a Special Safety Directorate to Oversee MBTA and DPU Implementation of FTA’s Safety Directives, and we continue to urge the Baker Administration to take immediate action to put to in a place an oversight person.

In the same letter to the Governor, A Better City directed the MBTA to Restore Full Service by July 18th on the Blue, Orange, and Red Lines by Adding Additional Dispatch Resources. When service is reduced on the MBTA or is considered unsafe, the riding public suffers. It also exasperates underlying challenges related to equity, public health, mobility, economic growth, and climate emission goals. The system should be up at running at full service by now.

Many of the issues the MBTA is facing today were identified in 2019 Safety Review Panel Report, which the T reported were addressed or being addressed, and some are a direct consequence of misplaced priorities and policies. There is no need for another study or commission to tell the public what is obvious: this Board, the MBTA, DPU, and the Governor must act urgently to permanently rectify to safety issues, from staffing shortages to the system’s state of disrepair, at the MBTA.

We are grateful that the legislature is providing $266 million to address the FTA safety recommendations, which will enable the Authority to quickly move past these struggles. As admitted by the MBTA, there is a conflict between capital budget needs and the pressure to address the challenges in the operating budget. This was also identified in the 2019 Safety Review Panel and has remained an issue under this Board.

Now is the time to appoint one person to oversee DPU, MassDOT, and the MBTA in fixing the T, and to develop and communicate to the public a deadline-drive schedule that gets the MBTA back on track to delivering a public transit system that is safe, affordable, and reliable. This will help to create a culture of action and accountability. As always, A Better City stands ready to lend our support.

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