Lawmakers hear from MBTA employees for first time since FTA safety report

BOSTON — Lawmakers heard from front line workers and other MBTA officials for the first time since the federal report that raised enormous safety concerns was released. But the legislative oversight committee made it clear they are not happy with the federal agency who conducted the investigation because they are not agreeing to take their questions.

Toni Hobbs has worked for the T for 23 years, a job she used to love. “Honesty, if I was offered this job today, would I take it? Absolutely not,” said Hobbs. A legislative oversight committee heard from two MBTA employees as lawmakers try to get a better handle on the safety and maintenance issues uncovered in a federal investigation. Workers say the biggest issue is not enough people, leaving them with too much on their plate. “We just need you guys to listen to us, hear from us,” said Hobbs.

Right after the FTA concluded its report the MBTA announced the month long shut down on the orange line and part of the green line. The maintenance overhaul is scheduled to be completed by Monday.  MBTA Board of Directors Chair Betsy Taylor testified things are happening. “That can change the pattern of behavior that we all find deeply regrettable,” said Taylor.

The federal report also placed blame with the agency tasked with overseeing MBTA safety, the Department of Public Utilities. DPU Commission Chair Matthew Nelson took questions from the committee. “We have met our requirements but given the circumstances more needs to be done,” said Nelson, “MBTA is still the primary and first line of defense on all safety activities. We are an auditing department. We don’t have hundreds of employees”.

The committee chairs, State Representative Bill Straus and State Senator Brendan Crighton, say everything is on the table. “Should the DPU had been doing this? It’s an open question, because we know they have plenty to do in regards to energy and utility issues,” said Straus. “It’s the same themes over and over again. We can’t blame this on the pandemic. We can’t blame this on one individual,” said Crighton.

The committee plans to ask FTA again to come up and answer their questions so they can better understand the report. The next hearing is expected in the fall.

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