After Orange Line closure, more apologies from the T
On safety, Poftak blames himself for focus on control board meetings
MBTA GENERAL MANAGER STEVE POFTAK apologized repeatedly for a construction accident that prevented weekend work on the Orange Line from wrapping up as planned Sunday evening, snarling Monday morning commutes on the Orange Line, the Green Line, and the T’s bus network.
The T is in the midst of weekend shutdowns on the Orange Line between Sullivan Square and Tufts Medical Center to replace track and upgrade four stations. On Sunday night, two vehicles operated by the T’s contractor slammed into each other between the Community College stop and North Station, making it impossible to wrap up the work as planned in time for the Monday morning commute.
One driver was taken to the hospital complaining of chest pains after the collision and the work was completed and stations reopened Monday afternoon at approximately 2:30 p.m. Poftak said the rush hour closure Monday morning not only slowed service for Orange Line riders, but overwhelmed service on alternative routes on the Green Line and the T’s bus network.
“We know we made a lot of people late this morning,” Poftak said in a public apology at a regular meeting of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board.
The general manager used the Orange Line incident to draw attention to the T’s efforts to improve safety overall at the agency. “It’s clear the MBTA needs to make significant improvements to promote and ensure safety as a core value. And, frankly, that starts with me,” Poftak said. “I’ve allowed a dynamic to develop where, as a management team, we are focused on these meetings and it comes, at least for us, at the expense of a focus on operational performance and contact with our workforce.”
Some officials at the T have begun pushing for fewer monthly meetings of the control board. State law currently requires the board to meet three times a month.Poftak said he and other top managers have also begun meeting with front-line employees to learn from them where safety efforts can be improved and to rebuild trust with workers. He also said he has sought guidance from the independent safety panel that the control board hired in the wake of the Red Line derailment in June. He also visited the Chicago Transit Authority to learn how officials there track safety indicators.
While the safety work is ongoing, the general manager said the T’s existing safety department will need to be restructured and more workers added. He said he had no cost estimate yet on how much that will cost.