MBTA board member raises safety questions
McCready cites disconnect between safety hires, outcomes
A MEMBER of the MBTA’s oversight board on Thursday questioned whether all of the people being hired by the transit authority to address safety issues are actually improving safety.
At a meeting of an MBTA subcommittee that oversees workforce development, T staff rattled off numbers about the large number of planned safety hires over the last three years – 151 in fiscal 2021, 125 in fiscal 2022, and 148 planned for fiscal 2023.
Travis McCready, a member of the subcommittee, said the numbers sound good but don’t necessarily tell the full story.
“While I appreciate the data points in terms of the number of positions we’re adding, can you reflect a little bit about the disconnect between the number of safety positions we’re adding and what seems to be our safety outcomes?” he asked.
The Federal Transit Administration is preparing to launch a safety management inspection of the agency’s subway and trolley systems. A letter announcing the FTA’s inspection was sent to the MBTA, the MBTA board, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the Department of Public Utilities on April 14 but wasn’t publicly disclosed until a copy was leaked to the Boston Globe three days ago.
In a WBUR radio interview on Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker defended his administration’s heavy investments in the MBTA since 2015 and welcomed the FTA inspection. “What the FTA will bring, among other things, is a lot of information and a lot of knowledge about what the rest of the country does and how other systems manage their older lines and their older units,” Baker said. “I think in the grand scheme of things, a focus on core operations and that sort of thing, especially with an organization that’s actually seen a lot more than certainly anybody has at the T, is a good thing,” he said.
McCready, during the MBTA subcommittee meeting, said merely adding bodies is not a sufficient response to safety concerns.
“I am not trying to be a jerk here, but we’re saying we’re throwing a lot of bodies at the problem and that’s great but only if outcomes are going to improve,” he said.McCready said it would probably make sense for the MBTA board as a whole to discuss the issue.
David Panagore, the chief administrative officer at the T, said human resources officials at the T are trying to provide the needed staff to address safety concerns but other parts of the T would be better equipped to answer how much progress is being made. “It is a larger conversation with other departments on follow through,” he said.