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Richard Davey's report, Feb. 8, 2011

Mr. Chairman, in lieu of my normal format, I will report to the Board about safety, service, employees, fiscal responsibility and innovation in the context of the record amounts of snow that feel in the metropolitan Boston area during the month of January.

Certainly, the last five weeks have been one of the most challenging months at the MBTA in recent memory. Between December 27th and February 2nd, the region has experienced four major storm events, sub-zero temperatures, and ever piling up snow along our rights of way, yards and parking lots.


Despite the increased hazards related to severe weather conditions, the MBTA was able to operate all modes of transportation and maintenance activities. During the month of January we had 52 weather-related reported employee accidents/injuries. It should be noted that these are only reported accidents and that many of which did not result in any lost time. Additionally, during January we reported 32 customer injuries of which only 2 appear to be weather related. This is significant as it demonstrates the major efforts of Engineering & Maintenance and Operations personnel in keeping platforms clear of snow and ice.

Finally, the Safety Department initiated two new proactive programs. The first is the safety liaison program which dedicates a safety inspector to each subway line, garage and facility. The second program is the snow safety field team that assists in station safety, fire life safety and snow removal safety. This is part of our ongoing approach to preventing both employee and customer injuries and making the MBTA a leader in transit safety.


On the heavy and light rail service, the sustained extreme cold we experienced on January 23rd-25th exposed weaknesses in our fleet, particularly in our Orange and Red Line. Jeff Gonneville, recently appointed the Chief Mechanical Officer for the MBTA, is undertaking a fleet assessment of the Red Line #1 cars purchased in 1969 and the Orange Line fleet purchased in 1979. Not surprisingly, the Blue Line cars, purchased in 2005 and 2006, performed very well during the month.

Commuter rail struggled throughout the month, and posted the lowest on-time performance in four years. While the weather has certainly played a factor, we believe MBCR can, and must, do more to improve service. Secretary Mullan and I are scheduled to meet with the MBCR Board of Directors next week to discuss the situation and ensure local management has sufficient resources to overcome the challenges. In the meantime, MBCR had crews out this past weekend steam cleaning snow, ice and debris clogged in brake shoes, hoses and electrical cables. Crews have been working to clean ROW and switches. And,

We are doing our part. Two new locomotives that this Board authorized to purchase last summer have arrived. One is in service, and the other will be in service within the next week. We continue to scour the nation to lease additional locomotives to improve service reliability. The number one reason for a delay on commuter rail is due to locomotive failure.

The Authority has also reversed its policy on leaving bus stop cleaning to cities and towns. Over the last week, the MBTA has cleared over 100 bus stops that were previously left to melt. I want to commend the Engineering and Maintenance team for mobilizing and deploying carpenters, painters, bricklayers, machinists, electricians, and sign shop employees who picked up a shovel and jumped in on behalf of our customers. MassDOT has also committed to assisting in our clean-up efforts as well. We are preparing a new standard operating procedure to prioritize cleaning bus stops with high ridership and on key routes. Working together with MassDOT and our municipal partners, our bus customers should experience improvements in future storms and coming winters.


While I am pleased to report that for the first six months of the fiscal year the budget by 1.0%, we have much work to do in the second half of the year. Negative trends continue in revenue, while The RIDE is trending to be over budget by $6M. Finally, the MBTA has already spent over $5M in wages, OT, materials and contract service related to the storms. I will ask Jon to address the Board at the end of my report to discuss the FY11 budget and also to update the Board on our efforts regarding the FY 12 budget.


During weather-related service delays, we must do a better job of communicating with our riders. Over the last few weeks, T-Alerts should have been sent in a more timely manner, LED signage could have been used more effectively, and our website experienced three outages. Alongside these challenges are areas where we are communicating better than ever through real-time bus information and social media.

One of the most common complaints I hear is that T-Alerts are often sent late, which means that information is stale by the time it reaches customers on a cold or snowy platform. This is particularly true on commuter rail. It is clear to me that there are process improvements we can make to the entry of T-Alerts to ensure more timely notification of service interruptions.

My team is focused on streamlining this process by, "taking out the middle man" whereby MBCR calls our Operations Control Center to have alerts entered. Starting in March, MBCR's dispatching facilities will take full responsibility for entering commuter rail T-Alerts. I have also asked my team to think about creative ways to dedicate staff solely towards ensuring the timely entry of T-Alerts during winter and/or extreme weather. Lastly, we are thinking longer term about improvements to the technology behind service alerts to ensure the most timely information gets to our riders.

In addition to improving T-Alerts, we need to ensure that quality information is being pushed to LED signs on station platforms throughout the system. We will be taking the same approach to station signage that we are taking to T-Alerts and making sure MBCR has the right process in place to ensure timely information is pushed to signs and that we have the right staffing for emergencies.

Prior to this winter, the all-time high for traffic to MBTA.com was approximately 105,000 visitors. During this year's storms on January 12, January 27, and February 1st, MBTA.com experienced unprecedented traffic resulting in customers being unable to reach the site. On February 1st, MBTA.com had more than 189,000 visitors (even with a period of time when customers could not reach the site).

As a result of these outages, the MBTA.com team has worked around the clock to make both software and hardware improvements so that the site can handle extremely high volumes. Upgrades include the installation of additional CPU to the website database, the installation of two new web servers to double capacity, and tuning of our load balancer to better handle traffic. These upgrades have already paid off and site performance is improving already. The team is focused on making continuous improvements to MBTA.com and has put in place an emergency plan to monitor the site during future storms.

While recent storms have highlighted areas where we need to improve customer communication, there are other areas where we are providing customers with vastly improved information than what they have had in previous years. The more than 30 apps, websites, and services using real-time information have proved a valuable asset to our customers this winter. During last week's storm there were more than 80,000 visitors to the MBTA's real-time apps and services. While the project is still in beta form and we are still working to improve how best to tune predictions for winter weather, we are clearly providing a tremendous benefit to customers by telling them where there bus is.

Finally, social media has allowed me to have a direct conversation with our riders to hear what they are seeing out in the system. In the last month alone, the mbtagm Twitter account has doubled its followers to more than 4,000. During storms, we have started providing regular updates on service to customers and for customers to update us on what they are experiencing. These update provide value beyond just my followers, and was posted live on boston.com throughout the most recent storm.

My team realizes that we need to do better communicating with our riders. As we have learned with our website, improved information and new technologies grow the demands and expectations of our riders. As we continue to make improvements, we are going to place an especially strong eye on reliability, specifically during bad weather and other situations when our customers need information the most.


Despite our challenges, our employees did a tremendous job in operating vehicles, cleaning snow, working around the clock to repair vehicles, switches and signals. I am proud of the effort that our employees have put forth during the last several weeks. They left their own snowy driveways and roofs, to come to work and make sure our customers were served.

In that spirit, I also want to take this opportunity to recognize two groups of employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help our customers.

I would like to recognize Silver line bus inspector James Finn and the Manager of Maintenance Control & Asset Management, John Doherty, and AFC technician, William Cullity.

On the morning of December 14th John Doherty was exiting South Station on his way to work and heard a woman screaming. He followed the scream and soon realized that a customer had been robbed. He saw the suspect and ran after him. The suspect ran down a flight of stairs that lead to a dead end. Jimmy Finn and William Cullity followed suit as well and ran down the stairs and Jimmy Finn told the suspect "You've been caught" as John was on the phone calling transit police. Transit police arrived moments later and arrested the suspect. It turned out that the suspect held a female passenger up by knife point and stole her IPhone. Our brave employees John and Jimmy jumped into action without thinking twice to assist in apprehending a suspect with a dangerous weapon.

At this time I would like to present them with this award as a small token of the Authorities appreciation for their bravery.

John... Jimmy.... and William…

At this time I would like to recognize three MBCR employees for their quick thinking and response that contributed to saving the life of a commuter rail customer:

On January 5, 2011 at South Station, train 041 reported a passenger in cardiac distress. Conductor Joe Cavanaugh called for medical assistance. A nurse on the train started CPR and Senior Trainmaster Billy Rae and Trainmaster Bobby Huggan both responded and they took turns providing CRP. Cavanaugh brought the AED and they applied it to the passenger's chest and activated it twice and continued CRP between shocks. By the time Boston EMT's arrived about 8-10 minutes after being called, the man was breathing weakly. The EMT's took over and stabilized the man and transported him to the hospital.  

William (Billy) Rae – Senior Trainmaster

Robert (Bobby) Huggan – Trainmaster

Joseph (Joe) Cavanaugh – Conductor

Finally, I would like to say a few words in remembrance of Access Advisory Committee to the T Vice-Chair, John D. Kane, who passed away unexpectedly on Monday Jan. 31, 2011.

John served as a member of the Access Advisory Committee to the T (AACT)'s Executive Board for two years (2006-08) before being elected AACT's Vice Chair in 2008. John was very active and very involved with our accessibility training programs. John's wife indicated the morning he passed that he was readying himself to give a wheelchair tie down demonstration to members of our staff. John gave much of himself to both THE RIDE in training drivers on persons with disabilities and to initiatives in System-wide Accessibility which included his input on the Emergency Evacuation plan coordinated with SWA and First Responders, which led to the creation of the Access Guide, evaluation of vehicles. He was also the AACT liaison to the ROC. John Kane will be greatly missed.



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