BOSTON (WHDH) - MBTA workers told a state oversight committee Wednesday that the transit system’s leaders are ignoring issues on the T, saying they’ve raised concerns but felt nothing was done.
Bus driver Toni Hobbs said she and her coworkers often have suggestions to make the MBTA better but she said those in positions of power don’t want to hear from them.
“We’re on the front line. Our boots are on the ground,” said Hobbs. “Talk to a T worker, a front line worker because we have information for the board that will say this can help us out a lot.”
Machinist Jeb Mastandrea, joined by Hobbs, testified before the joint committee investigating problems at the T outlined in a safety report from federal investigators following years of derailments and other accidents including deaths.
Mastandrea said low staffing levels force his team to continuously fix problems rather than working to prevent them. He said, like Hobbs, he never thought anyone was listening to his suggestions.
“I personally have reported stuff through the hotline and in other instances and three years later it’s still a problem,” Mastandrea said.
The chair of the Department of Public Utilities, which was supposed to be policing the T, said low staffing meant the DPU couldn’t do much more than react to T accidents.
“We’ve done what we are required to do but I think facing the challenges of what has been happening on the MBTA need to do more,” said DPU Chair Matthew Nelson, who admitted his agency only opened two enforcement cases with the T over the last few years despite all of its problems.
“Given the level of safety violations and tragedies it should seem surprising, and I’m choosing the word carefully, surprising to anyone on the outside that our safety reviewing agency reviewing the T only stepped in twice,” said state Rep. William Straus, D-Mattapoisett, who’s also the co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation.
“I wish it didn’t take a series of tragic accidents including one that resulted in a fatality to do this, but the tone has changed and people are speaking out,” said state Sen. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn, also a co-chair of the joint committee.
Lawmakers said big changes may eventually have to come to the Department of Public Utilities in order to make sure it’s willing to get tough with the T when things go wrong.
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