Senators Warren and Markey demand MBTA safety improvements

By Maeve Lawler, Kasteel Well Bureau Chief

Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey held a hearing in Boston on Friday with MBTA officials to address riders’ ongoing safety concerns. 

Warren decided to hold the hearing after the release of a Federal Transit Administration report in August mandating the MBTA and Department of Public Safety implement 53 safety and operative improvements including increasing staffing, safety regulations, staff training, and transit maintenance. 

The FTA’s report was prompted by MBTA incidents in recent months, citing a collision on the Green Line B Branch that injured 27 people, a derailment at Broadway Station, a roll-away train at Cabot yard injuring three workers, and the death of a Red Line passenger caught in a door on a moving train. The report also found that the MBTA is between 1,500 to 2,000 employees short of managing its activity levels. 

The Orange Line shutdown was also discussed at the hearing. Warren and Markey raised concerns about persistent delays even after the 30-day shutdown for repairs.

The senators questioned MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak and other transit officials, including Department of Public Utilities Chairman Matthew Nelson. Both Warren and Markey critiqued MBTA managers’ safety decisions, calling for better communication regarding Orange Line delays. 

Mayor Michelle Wu and Executive Director of TransitMatters Jarred Johnson said the MBTA’s safety and management issues have caused problems for the city of Boston. 

FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez also testified to explain the FTA’s demand for the MBTA’s much-needed improvements but clarified that the transit system is still safe to ride for the time being. 

Next week, a to-do list of work needed to eliminate Orange Line slow zones will be provided, according to Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA representative. Poftak was unable to provide an exact date for when they will be eliminated. According to Poftak, the MBTA will submit its plans to address the FTA’s demands on Friday; however, this plan will not go public until the FTA approves it.