Safety panel will look into MBTA

June 25, 2019
MBTA's Control Board says the panel of experts will bring outside perspectives to T safety practices and seek ways to build upon the safety culture.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board announced the formation of a Safety Review Panel that will undertake an independent and transparent review of MBTA safety practices and past incidents, and will also engage in a forward-looking exercise in an effort to drive change within the MBTA to inculcate safety into every facet of the T’s culture.

The panel will work collaboratively with federal and state oversight partners and regulators, including the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to ensure a comprehensive effort that takes advantage of the expertise that resides within those partner organizations.

While recognizing the MBTA’s existing safety management protocols in place meet various federal and state requirements for MBTA vehicles and infrastructure, the FMCB is initiating this effort to determine to what extent the T should expand those protocols. Given the age of many MBTA assets, the panel could consider adopting new or modifying current standards to exceed existing requirements to ensure the safety of MBTA customers and employees.

The three panelists are:

  • Former United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood;
  • Former Acting FTA Administrator and transit operations veteran Carolyn Flowers; and
  • Former New York City Transit President and career safety expert Carmen Bianco.

All three members have significant experience focusing on safety in the transportation and transit arenas. With each panelist having a reputation for candor, the group brings an independence of thought, as well as disparate backgrounds that will provide invaluable perspectives and insight.

Chairman Joseph Aiello and Vice Chair Monica Tibbits-Nutt led efforts on behalf of the FMCB to recruit the panelists that represented industry leaders in transportation with a special emphasis on safety. The 3 panelists were identified with the assistance of the American Public Transportation Association, Northeastern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University.

“I am heartened that these 3 professionals that are leading this effort agreed to do so,” said Chairman Aiello. “Their professional accomplishments and personal integrity will assist us in bringing our safety culture to the next level to meet the best-in-class domestic and international best practices in transit safety.”

“A fresh look at rail safety by experienced and independent professionals will assure the Board and the public that we continuously and rapidly modify any and all practices found wanting,” said Vice Chair Tibbits-Nutt. “Safety must resonate throughout the entire organization: from our front line employees, up to the Board level. We must make sure that our own actions and priorities reflect the strong safety culture we seek.”

“Our first priority will always be ensuring the safety of the MBTA system, and the FMCB’s efforts to assemble this panel of well-regarded experts to lead an independent review is an important next step,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration looks forward to reviewing any recommendations made by the Safety Review Panel.”

“Bringing in fresh, outside perspectives will help transform the MBTA’s safety culture, and I’m pleased the Control Board is launching this assessment,” said MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack. “In light of the age and condition of many MBTA assets, this is a critical step in raising the caliber of the T’s maintenance and inspection protocols to ensure the safety for T customers and employees.”

“I want to thank the Fiscal and Management Control Board members for their leadership on this critical matter,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “There is no substitute for experience, leadership, and expertise. We look forward to working closely with this distinguished review panel to ensure the MBTA is doing everything it can and should to provide safe and reliable service on a daily basis.”

The panel is expected to finalize a scope of work, preliminary schedule, and list of deliverables that it expects to issue in the coming weeks.