MBTA officials say train derailments trending downward

FTA urges immediate T action in 4 safety areas

MBTA OFFICIALS said on Monday that the number of derailments has been trending downward over the last few years, falling by more than 50 percent since 2019.

According to figures released at the safety, health, and environment subcommittee of the MBTA board of directors, the total number of derailments declined from 32 in 2019 to 21 in 2020 and 12 in 2021. The numbers are expected to bounce up in 2022, as 12 have been recorded so far this year.  The numbers don’t reveal much about the severity of individual incidents and details on them are not available on the T’s website.

The latest derailment occurred June 1 on the Green Line when a two-car train headed west from Haymarket to Government Center traveling 9 miles per hour slammed into another two-car train going 5.7. miles per hour on a loop track at Government Center.

“It’s still undetermined why [the car heading west] did not stop at a red signal,” said Steven Culp, chief investigations officer at the MBTA.

Overall, however, Culp said the number of derailment investigations at the MBTA has fallen dramatically. “A lot of our derailments right now are contractor related,” he said, suggesting derailments of passenger-carrying vehicles are declining.

The Federal Transit Administration is wrapping up the on-site portion of its safety investigation of the T this week, and T officials said their federal counterparts have already highlighted four areas the transit authority needs to address even before a final report is issued.

Ronald Ester, the chief safety officer at the MBTA, said the FTA wants the transit authority to maintain adequate staffing at the operations control center, place greater emphasis on safe train operations within rail yards, address delayed track maintenance, and make sure employees are being recertified for their work assignments.

The FTA is expected to have a meeting on Friday with T officials before returning to Washington, with a full report on their findings due this summer.

T officials delivered safety reports on bus and subway service that identified a few problem areas.

The two bus routes with the most collisions over the past 12 months were the Route 28 bus running between Mattapan and Ruggles stations, with 70 collisions, and the Route 111 bus that runs from Woodlawn to Haymarket, with 48. The Route 28 bus is free to riders under a pilot program paid for by the city of Boston.

On the Green Line, the collision rate per million revenue miles exceeded target levels every month between January and April, with the rate averaging 6.15 over three of the months and ballooning to 11.82 in February.

Scott Darling, the chair of the subcommittee, said he wanted the T to develop a written plan to address any safety category that trends above target levels for three consecutive months.