Metro, Featured Story, The T, Boston

Report: After Two Derailments in One Week, MBTA Issues Persist

One of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Association (MBTA) Red Line trains was derailed Tuesday morning at the JFK/UMass station, according to multiple outlets. This is the second derailment of the week and the fifth of 2019, according to MBTA data analyzed by The Boston Globe. Only one rider suffered an injury.

2019 is currently on pace to see the most derailments in Boston since 2009, according to the Globe. The Globe analyzed federal statistics that showed there have been 45 derailments in the last five years—only New Orleans’ transit system has had more issues in that time. The MBTA reported 13 derailments last year, according to the Globe.

Discounting incidents involving maintenance vehicles that passengers don’t travel on, the MBTA still has the third-most derailments nationally, according to the Globe.

Red Line service was restored at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, though an MBTA tweet showed workers continuing to work on removing the derailed train late Tuesday night. In the meantime, commuter rail trains made extra stops and shuttle bus service was provided, according to the Globe. Lyft ride fees escalated to more than $100 in the wake of the incident, according to the Globe.

The MBTA sent out a thread of tweets early Wednesday morning detailing the extent of necessary repairs. The derailment damaged the signal system and tracks, requiring repairs to both before full service resumes. Riders will have the option to switch trains at JFK/UMass before continuing their commute or taking a shuttle bus. Commuter rail trains with nearby stops will accept payment through CharlieCards during the repairs as well.

The MBTA said it could not confirm how long repairs would go on for, but said that service should be restored in some capacity by Wednesday afternoon.

A Green Line D train was derailed last Saturday in the tunnel between the Fenway and Kenmore stops. MBTA officials told the Globe that a preliminary investigation into the Green Line incident found that the derailment was due to operator error, leading to the train driver’s suspension. Eleven riders were injured, including the driver.

For a time, shuttle buses replaced service on the B, C, and D lines Saturday afternoon and evening—the B line is under construction on weekends and had already had services between the Boston College stop and Babcock Street stop shifted from trains to shuttles.

The reason behind Tuesday’s incident was not as clear, and Steve Poftak, general manager of the MBTA, told the Globe that regardless of the internal investigation into the derailment outcome, the MBTA will bring in a third party to conduct an investigation into the increase in derailments.

“I believe the system is safe,” Poftak said to the Globe.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker told the Globe that improvements to the T were moving in the “right direction.” Boston city councilors and Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09, disagreed with the governor on Twitter—Walsh said the incidents were “unacceptable.”

Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell called on Baker to support more funding, and Michelle Wu, a city councilor, echoed the sentiment while pointing out that the derailments had occurred just before T fares are increased at the end of June. She said she believes a new MBTA governance structure subject to more accountability measures—as well as a new funding plan—are necessary no matter the outcome of the outside investigation, thanks to the frequency of derailments.

Wu previously spoke out against the fare hike before the increases were approved, circulating a petition she presented at a public meeting where MBTA officials answered questions from riders regarding concerns over fare hikes, according to previous Heights reporting.

The Globe’s reporting said that Baker has been resistant to increased funding for the T in the past, but yesterday Baker called for the state’s bond cap to be increased by 3.8 percent to $2.43 billion. The change would give the state increased borrowing power that can pay for improving infrastructure issues, according to The Salem News. That report and Globe reporting stated the MBTA said that $10 billion is required to conduct all necessary repairs to infrastructure. Baker has not yet indicated is a potential recipient of any projected capital expenditures, according to The Salem News.

Past Heights reporting said that MBTA officials are projecting a $29.2 billion revenue increase from the oncoming fare hike, approved in March. Since the approval of that increase, three derailments have occurred, according to the Globe.

All Images Courtesy of Jacquelyn Goddard

June 12, 2019