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Oops, they did it again: Feds once again threaten to be very stern with the MBTA after yet more safety lapses involving track workers

The Federal Transit Agency is once against threatening to treat the MBTA very harshly after once again learning of incidents in which T workers on the tracks faced possible death.

This time, instead of a Blue Line worker getting shocked while doing maintenance on overhead wires, workers on the Red and Green Line tracks were nearly mowed down by trains in four separate incidents that the T not only allowed to happen but failed to notify the feds about as they had promised the last time the FTA threatened to send the T to its room.

Based on these incidents, FTA has determined that a combination of unsafe conditions and practices exist such that there is a substantial risk of serious injury or death of a worker.

As with the Blue Line incident, the FTA is threatening to prohibit the T from letting track workers work on the tracks if it doesn't take immediate action - including reporting any serious lapses to the FTA. Its latest communication, in fact, bans the T from lone track workers out on the tracks until the feds give the OK.

The FTA also ordered the MBTA to peer into its soul and write a detailed analysis of "each near miss that has occurred since August 1, 2023," which is also similar to what it ordered the last time it got mad at the T over track safety issues back in the spring after both the near-fatal electrocution of the Blue Line worker and several near misses involving trains and workers on the tracks.

Also, the T has to "immediately provide training to all Operations Control Center (OCC) dispatchers and supervisors" on how to key in the location of track workers in a T computer system - and has to provide proof that it's not only taught the dispatchers and supervisors how to do this but provide proof it then tested them to make sure they were actually paying attention.

Oh, and the T has to prove that workers on the tracks and the OCC are actually communicating with each other during track work, "from the time the crew enters the [right of way] until protection is no longer required." Also, the T must prove train drivers are alerted at the start of their shifts to the location of workers on the tracks.

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I think we are facing a full shutdown. Thoughts?


It should've been shut down completely last Spring just after the Marathon.

Instead they wait until the week school starts to do dumb s#!@ like shut down the Haverhill line for 2 months.

If I didn't know better I'd venture a guess that the people making these decisions are just simply idiots. Perhaps they're just out of their depth legacy hires because I really don't get it. And I'm not trying to be mean but NOTHING they seem to put in motion makes a lick of sense.


convert the entire subway system to bike paths


Bus paths


Elevated semi-covered bikeways over paved buslines.

Train paths


A group of whiz kids take over the MBTA after winning first place at the MIT junior science fair with their fantastic Train-bus!

Can they run a public transit system better than the adults? Find out on Train-bus 2023. Tuesday nights this fall 9PM Eastern 8PM Central on CBS.

It seems that the only message that gets the T to take any action is a threat of a complete shutdown and/or putting the T under Federal receivership.

A complete shutdown (no buses, trolleys, rapid transit trains, and commuter rail) would cause outright chaos in the city, as passengers would be forced to find other modes of transportation. A partial shutdown (only buses and/or commuter rail OK to operate) would cause less chaos, but still have a huge effect in the city as the regular buses would replace train service and short-shrift the other bus routes. For Federal receivership, the FTA would run the MBTA and even have the power to shut service down early or not run it at all. It may also supersede and remove the managers sitting comfortably at 10 Park Plaza and their "happy the way things are" attitudes.

Whatever happens, there's going to be a lot of pain, and hopefully the FTA will force the attitudes of 10PP to change.


Honestly, we need something to fire up the rage. People are just sleep walking into this calamity. Is it just bc the ridership is so powerless and everyone else already started driving?


I think you make a good point here...people have gotten so used to the vagaries of the MBTA they feel they have no voice, or if they have a voice or engage in protest, they fear the T will take away their service for speaking up. Then, when the heat is off, the T goes back to treading water.

Perhaps the FTA taking over all T service, even for a short amount of time, will be an incentive for ridership to demand changes from the top down. The main sticking point is middle management who doesn't do much other than sit at their desks and give off a vibe of "everything's OK, nothing needs to change," even when a T worker dies on the tracks.

(Full disclosure: I admit I work from home all the time now, compared to pre-Covid times, where I took the T every day, so I have not felt the effects of these changes.)


I'm not the only one on the roads with an e-bike. I see all sorts of cargo models, sport models, and also high speed e-scooters.

That doesn't even get into the BlueBikes and acoustic bikes out there.

It was pouring already when I left the office on Wednesday. Everyone in the bike area was securing stuff against getting wet before leaving. I asked if anyone would rather take the T home and there was a solid chorus of NO WAY.


What is an accoustic bike?


Acoustic vs electric.

I find it a bit silly, but we'll see if it catches on more.

Keytar Bear's little cousin pedals through on a Schwinn while playing a ukulele.


Acoustic vs. Electric

It also has to do with this song, if you are a Geez-Xer like me:

When I saw Luka Bloom at the Somerville Theater in the mid-90s, the cyclists in audience lined the balcony railing with bike helmets facing the stage.



Wait for the statehouse to be in session. Mass demonstration blocking them from leaving in cars.

I also wonder if the peasants decided to hold a referendum on their travel reimbursements if the jackasses would get the message that MA needs more and better transit everywhere?


is truly capable of fixing anything? They are only interested in feathering their own nests and taking care of their friends. The Cannabis Commission is a perfect example, The Governor is no better, talking about $250Million for migrants when the Cape bridges are beyond obsolete and lower income citizens are being gentrified out of Mattapan, with Lynn and Brockton well on the way to the same situation.


Three guesses as to who is responsible for those Cape Cod Canal Bridges:

HINT: it ain't the Commonwealth

Nice anti-migrant strawman, hon.


... they seem to have had no (and still have little or no) inclination to do so.

You do understand they're not binding on the legislature? The voters of the Commonwealth repealed the mandatory seat belt law in 1986 but the legislature passed a new seat belt law in 1994. Similarly rent control was prohibited by the voters in 1994 but that hasn't stopped new rent control legislation from being filed.

As long as your local legislator doesn't fear being ousted over their vote then they'd just institute new travel reimbursements. Plus the fraction of registered voters in the state who care about the state of the subway (i.e. they ride it regularly) is probably under a quarter.


Referendums are an effective way to troll the legislature when they are avoiding their duties.

Like when they sat on their thumbs and spun rather than legalize and regulate weed.

Having their privileges challenged and having people sign their names in solid numbers to that end is a good way to wake them the eff up, even if all it means is that they have to some legal work to quash something.


Would an FTA takeover come with a budget to pay for all the changes that everyone knows are needed but unfunded? And hundreds of staff ready to fill in all the positions identified by previous audits as currently unfilled?


I’d like my monthly pass refunded if that happens


I think the Feds on on a power trip.Perhaps track workers need to pay better attention to trains? Life is full of risks. Everything can't come to a standstill.

MBTA and the Feds have had ample time to get the job done. Who is raking in $ from all this?

You can't just "look out" for trains while doing track work. Maybe we should fire all air traffic controllers too, and let pilots just look out for other airplanes.


We tried the whole "maybe track workers should just keep their heads up out there" strategy. It didn't work, and a whole lot of people died.


Should know when trains are approaching. We obviously have the technology. For shit's sake the train can even blast it's VERY LOUD HORN. It's ridiculous. And if that's not good enough, DON'T RUN THE TRAINS when tracks are being worked on

The MBTA has implemented a ton more procedures, additional safety training, and new standards since the issues last spring. I’m not aware of the latest incidents but every day and night there’s dozens of crews in dozens of locations. If we’re not shutting down service, then people will coexist with trains.

Their definition of a “near miss” is also like the second line of safety had to prevent after first line had an issue. It’s not someone pulling their head back moments before a speeding train.

is pretty damning, and the MBTA has a real bad history overall, so I'm going to have to take the Feds' word here.


On double secret probation.


The MBTA's predicament is a full on hair on fire emergency. Other than Universal Hub, I'm not seeing news coverage , at least not on-line, nor any sense of urgency from politicians. The situation absolutely warrants a shut down which of course would be a catastrophe. I really don't understand the T's pathetic response and apparent complete disregard for employee safety.


And I did so a day before Adam decided to post on it. Nothing against Adam, but if you aren't seeing other reporting on the T, you aren't looking in the right places.

As for the T's way of doing things, it's a decades old tradition of "safety somewhere on the list, but way down the list." Maybe Eng will be able to change things. I hope he can change things. I'm not betting that he will succeed, though.


like Wilson North Carolina.


Wouldn't solve all problems but it would be a great addition/replacement for the MBTA in much of Greater(?) Boston.


That's a RURAL solution. Not an urban solution. Not a suburban solution.

That's something that would work well in Franklin County, rural parts of Bristol and Worcester and Berkshire counties. Not Middlesex or Suffolk or Norfolk county - or the southern Pioneer Valley for that matter.

The suburban and urban solution is to fix and expand transit. Full stop.

Traffic pollution is bad enough without more cars. Unsafe driving and roads that are unsafe for anything but cars are not solved by more cars. Economic losses due to too much traffic on roads not built for cars are not resolved by more cars.


without telling me you’ve never been to Austin, TX.



or rural Detroit

or rural Amsterdam.

Continuing to follow the same failed approach will only lead to more failure.


There are transit deserts throughout the greater Boston area, including many areas of Boston, where micro-transit would make a considerable difference without decades of planning and $multi-$billions.

It would also result in transit services being more equitably distributed throughout greater Boston and Mass.




Austin and Detroit and Amsterdam both have conventional public transportation systems too, and since Austin has been growing extremely fast in the last few decades it's actively trying to build a larger rail system. Detroit on the other hand has had its population dropping since the 1960s, so it doesn't really have the same problems, although it still has a streetcar line and a people mover.

And you know what city also has a public rideshare program? Newton, Massachusetts. (NewMo.) And people use it, but it's enough of an afterthought that nobody's really bringing it up as an alternative to the MBTA.


the most heavily served area for transit, unlike most of greater Boston and the rest of the state. I can see why it is lightly used.

The rest of greater Boston and the state have many significant transit deserts that this could address.

The interim Secretary for Transportation, Monica Tibbits-Nutt ran a micro-transit system along route 128 aimed at businesses so there is some hope.

I realize that micro-transit will not solve all problems but it could address many and would result in a fairer and more equitable system.

Imagine what it could do for the people waiting on the 7 bus.

Originally NewMo was only for seniors. It was expanded over the past few years and was very popular, including for getting kids home after school when they needed to stay past bus departure. Unfortunately, the funding has run out and it's been cut back to just serve seniors and people with disabilities.

I just read an article about Los Angeles's microtransit..


Not sure how I feel about this b/c the article kinda makes me feel this is for people 'who feel they are above riding buses or trains' and creates a class of riders. And in the end this service is like expensive to run (and of course heavily subsidized). @ 43/passenger on some vans on some days, you might have just as well paid for the rider to take an Uber.

And while these routes only serve areas that had local bus service removed, I feel like this is siphoning away more precious transit dollars from normal modes (i.e. bus, subway, streetcar), and is there $ to continue to fund it without cutting things elsewhere.

This just feels like a luxury service.

Realisticly, to get the rail/subway services people want would take many $billions and many years (decades).

This could be implemented quickly at a fraction of the cost and is flexible enough to change as the market changes. Try moving a rail line to a new location.

Also this could be used for late night service.

It is expensive but the real issue appears to be that it uses the funds serving the needs of transit consumers rather than funding someone’s pet project.

Its transit service in 2019 carried 140,000 passengers.

Less than 400 per day.

The T carries 140,000 passengers in a typical hour of rush hour (approximately).

2021 Wilson's vans carried 117k.

Shared vans are a nice edge case but usually only carry a couple of people per vehicle-hour. This is fine for edge cases in rural areas. The Amsterdam case, if you click the clicky, is 24,000 people per month across 5 cities, or 160 per day. GVB (Amsterdam trams, metro and buses) carried about 1m people per day pre-pandemic (and probably back close to that; ridership in Europe is doing better than here). Plus the national railroad carries an additional 1m people per day (not all to Amsterdam, of course). So 160 is not even a rounding error.

That isn't new, towns in the Boston area have been doing it for years. Newton currently has NewMo, which was available to everybody during the pandemic but just got cut back to seniors/those with mobility issues because funding ran out. That's probably what will happen to Wilson's program within a few years too, because believe it or not buses on fixed routes are more efficient and reliable than a large fleet of vans. There's a reason transit systems use them and it's not because they're idiots.

Obviously you couldn't simply copy it, but in southern Vermont there is a bus system called the MOOver, which is perhaps a bit like the PVTA in the Pioneer Valley. I believe both systems are subsidized by the businesses or students whose workers/students are the heaviest users of the system. Right now some businesses offer T passes to their employees as a perk, but not that many, and that doesn't cover infrastructure upkeep...but maybe it's time to look at getting the businesses whose workers use the T to contribute more than they are doing now.

A friend of mine that follows the DB rail network (he lives there) tells me that similar issues are befalling that system as well with safety issues, shut downs for repairs, and operators not minding the signals.

I think we will also find that SEPTA in PA and NJT in NJ are also in a similar boat. One has to wonder if this is just coincidence.

So it's not just us.


Depends what you mean by signals. Part of the problem here now are the damn slow zones caused by overly cautious signage. I for one would ride the T more if the trains would just come more often and go faster. The consistence between trains is awful. Could it be new operators vs old operators who drive so differently? Too many people supervising and threatening the operators job’s? Or just bad drivers? Don’t *even* get me started about the drivers they are hiring for the busses… got merged into a few months ago while honking the whole time from a instruction bus that decided it was done idling and needed to take over the left turn lane.

As for the safety concerns, well yea. I guess both the trains and the stations are falling apart still. Constantly hearing about fires on the T is nothing new though. We don’t need massive reform, we just need more basic maintenance, like always.

It's sort of a cottage industry these days in Germany to complain about what bad shape DB is in.

Imagine if there was high-speed service here between major cities every hour and if you could get to Philly from Boston in 3:55 (Frankfurt to Berlin, 341 mi) or NYC in 2. If moderately-sized cities all had regional services which ran at up to 100 mph every hour connecting them to large cities and the high speed network.

Sure, DB has its issues, and it's no NS or SBB, but it is orders of magnitude ahead of what we have here.


Do the majority of people who ride bikes to and from work (via Southwest Corridor for example) take the train, drive, or work from home when winters drop the ice, slush and snow mess? Who's going to be out plowing bike lanes all night for the small number of bikes commuting in a snow storm? Should be interesting.

When one thinks of what you left behind, it was the T in a state of total disrepair after repeated neglect.