MBTA Safety

In July 2020, in accordance with FTA final rule 49 CFR 673, the MBTA published a revised Transit Safety Plan which utilizes Safety Management Systems (SMS) principals to ensure the safety of customers, employees, contractors, and the public.1 The plan, which is reviewed and updated annually, provides strategic and management performance objectives to affirm and execute the MBTA’s commitment to provide a safe, reliable, and sustainable regional transportation service, and ensures compliance with federal, state, and local regulations and appropriate industry best practices. Since the plan’s publication, the MBTA has continued to implement SMS across the authority, through the development of dedicated SMS training, Safety Risk Management tools, and improvements to Employee Reporting resources and hazard tracking. These improvements continue to strengthen the MBTA’s hazard identification and reporting, strengthening the safety culture across the authority.

MBTA safety measures are reported on the calendar year rather than the fiscal year. Mean miles between failures, fatalities, and injuries are submitted to the National Transit Database (NTD) along with safety events, as required by the Transit Safety Plan.

1 The Commuter Rail System falls under 49 CFR 270, the Railroad System Safety Program Plan.

Mean miles between failures (MMBF) measures the ability of transit vehicles to travel in service without being interrupted by mechanical failures. Higher values are better, indicating that vehicles travel longer distances between each failure on average.

Heavy Rail vehicles saw a 22.6% increase in MMBF to 55,222 miles in CY22 compared to CY21. Meanwhile, there were major reductions in MMBF for other vehicles. MMBF for bus in CY22 dropped by 35.5% to 18,718 miles compared to CY21, and MMBF for light rail drops by 14.9% to 6,618 miles in CY22 compared to CY21. The greatest drop in MMBF is seen with the RIDE in CY22, 50% compared to CY21, to 40,900 miles.

Fatalities are reported to the National Transit Database (NTD) and are defined as a death due to a collision, derailment, fire, hazardous material spill, act of God, personal security event, or other NTD-reportable safety event.2 Fatalities that occur due to an illness or other natural causes are not reportable. In accordance with FTA guidance, trespassing and suicide-related fatalities are also excluded from the fatality measure. 5 fatalities occurred in CY22, of which 4 took place in the Commuter rail system, and 1 on the Heavy Rail system.

MBTA fatality rates vary across transportation modes due to distinct operating environments and the inherent safety risk exposure associated with each. The MBTA is committed to reducing the number of fatalities across its system to zero. Every year, the MBTA partners with Operation Lifesaver, a national nonprofit dedicated to educating the public on the dangers of trespassing on railway properties, with the goal of reducing the number of collisions, fatalities, and injuries on or near railroad tracks. In addition, the MBTA partners with Samaritans, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing suicides. Additionally, during the summer of 2022, FRA held the Greater Boston Trespass Prevention Summit with multiple agents in New England Area to discuss on prevention method that will help to reduce such tragic incidents. The MBTA continues to invest in proactive solutions to reduce the number of fatalities to zero.

2 The Commuter Rail reports to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Any harm to persons that requires immediate medical attention away from the scene because of a reportable event is considered a reportable injury. For heavy and light rail, bus, and the RIDE the MBTA reports to the National Transit Database (NTD) anytime a person is transported away from the scene for medical attention as an injury, whether or not the person appears to be injured. For the purpose of this performance measure, injuries resulting from assaults and other crimes have been excluded. More information on differences in reporting requirements for rail and bus modes can be found in the NTD Safety and Security Policy Manual.

In the CY22, 603 injuries occurred, a 6.7 percent increase over CY21. MBTA safety committees (e.g. the Bus Accident Reduction Committee (BARC) and the Safety Management Working Group (SWMG)) continually meet to identify trends and analyze data to support injury reduction. Through Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) initiatives in the workplace, the MBTA invests significant resources in employee health and safety. Additionally, as part of the Building a Better T capital investment program, the MBTA is investing $8 billion over the next 5 years to renovate stations and improve safety and service. These projects include: the Green Line Train Protection System, which will actively monitor train speeds to prevent train overspeed and reduce the risk of train-to-train collisions; intersection and grade crossing improvements across the Green Line B, C, and E branches to reduce pedestrian injuries; and core station cleaning and repair to reduce customer injuries. Additionally, track replacement work on all rail lines continues to allow for removal of existing track speed restrictions, resulting in smoother rides for customers. The MBTA is also in the process of updating its bus and rail fleet, including new Orange and Red Line trains that feature wider doors for improved boarding, more spacious interiors, additional handrails, and improved audio and visual communication to assist with emergency management.


Mainline Revenue Derailments

Vehicle derailments are defined as a non-collision event in which one or more wheels of a rail transit vehicle unintentionally leaves the rails. Mainline revenue derailments indicate that the train was accepting passengers when the derailment occurred.

There was one mainline revenue derailment that occurred in CY22, compared to two mainline revenue derailments in CY21. The derailment involved a Light Rail train in September 2022.

Non-Revenue Derailments

MBTA Safety investigates all derailment events, regardless of severity, including those occurring on mainline track or in yards. In non-revenue derailments, the train was either on mainline rail but not in revenue service at the time, or in the train yard or shop. The total number of mainline non-revenue derailments as well as yard and shop derailments is 4 in CY22, with one Non-Revenue Heavy Rail Train Derailment in April 2022, one Non-Revenue Light Rail Train Derailment on December 2022, and two derailments in a Yard/Shop.