Attorney General Maura Healey said Friday she welcomed a Federal Transit Administration inspection into the MBTA, and called for additional protocols to increase safety at the public transit agency after a string of incidents.
“There is something seriously wrong at the MBTA and the federal government is investigating,” Healey said during an interview on GBH’s Boston Public Radio. “There are serious issues, and we need a transportation system that is safe, that is reliable. And the incidents reported are just really, really alarming. And we need to as a state get to the bottom of that and steps need to be taken.”
The Federal Transit Administration announced a safety management inspection of the MBTA in an April 14 letter sent to MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. The letter said federal officials are “extremely concerned with the ongoing safety issues” at the transit agency following a series of safety-related incidents.
At a virtual hearing earlier this week, MBTA Chief Safety Officer Ron Ester said the FTA report could surface sometime later this summer, and the inspection would continue over the “next few weeks.”
Healey said if the goal is to move people away from fossil fuels and reduce the use of cars, then public transportation needs to be safe and reliable.
“You cannot expect people to not take their cars, when you don’t have a commuter rail or a T that runs on time, that is running routes at times that actually work for workers, and that’s safe,” Healey said. “It is both an environmental imperative and certainly an economic imperative because we’ve got to have a better transportation system.”
The MBTA previously said the T shares the “desire to make public transportation as safe as possible” and pointed to billions in infrastructure investments the agency made over the past five years like new tracks and revamped stations.
“The MBTA fully supports the FTA’s review of the Authority’s safety-related processes and practices and welcomes a constructive and collaborative process that focuses on making the T a transit industry leader in safety and reliability,” an MBTA spokesperson said earlier this week in response to the FTA’s inspection.
After one Orange Line trolley experienced issues with its braking units Thursday, the MBTA pulled all new Orange Line cars out of service “out of an abundance of caution,” the T said in a statement.
“While the MBTA works to determine the exact cause of the failure, a proactive decision has been made to keep all of the new trains out of service while the vehicle engineering and technical teams troubleshoot the problem,” the statement said. “With safety being the top priority, the MBTA took this action out of an abundance of caution.”
The National Transportation Board is investigating the death of Robinson Lalin, who was dragged to his death in April after getting stuck in the door of a Red Line train car. A preliminary NTSB report said Lalin was dragged about 105 feet.
Healey said her “heart goes out to the Lalin family.”
“Imagine if your son was dragged along a platform for 100 feet and not even noticed for a long period of time, because that train went all the way out to Alewife, I think, before returning. This just shouldn’t happen,” Healey said. “We’ve got trains that are super old, investments not made, management issues over time, and this has got to be addressed immediately.”