A slow-moving MBTA train car derailed at Broadway station in South Boston Tuesday and hit the platform, according to an MBTA spokesman. The mishap upended commutes as delays spread throughout the line and brought about a lament familiar to generations of Boston subway riders: A problem on the T again?
The derailment of the second car in a six-car train took place around 9:45 a.m., and 47 passengers were able to exit the train safely, spokesman Joe Pesaturo wrote in an e-mail. No injuries were reported, he said. The T was using shuttle buses between Park Street in downtown Boston and the JFK/UMass station in Dorchester. The cause is under investigation, according to Pesaturo.
Tuesday’s derailment is the latest in a series of safety incidents in and around Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority stations.
On Sunday, an ascending escalator at the Back Bay station suddenly reversed, causing a bloody pile-up of people that sent nine to the hospital. Earlier this month, Boston University professor David Jones fell to his death through a rusted, closed-off staircase near the JFK/UMass T station in Dorchester. And in July, a Green Line train crashed into the one ahead of it near the now-closed Pleasant Street Station, sending 27 people to the hospital.
Advocates used the episodes to press Governor Charlie Baker to announce his five appointments for the new MBTA board of directors created by Baker and the state Legislature in July. In the MBTA board’s absence, the state Department of Transportation’s board of directors is in charge of T oversight.
Through their spokespeople, Baker and Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler declined to comment and referred questions to the MBTA.
“The MBTA’s top priority is ensuring the safety and reliability of the system, and [it] continues to invest billions of dollars on major infrastructure projects and procurements of new vehicles,” said Pesaturo, citing the MBTA’s record-setting $1.92 billion of capital spending in fiscal year 2021.
However, despite the investments, safety incidents have persisted. The MBTA has also struggled to regain prepandemic ridership. As of the week of Sept. 6, the Red Line had 46 percent of the weekday station entries that it had in late February 2020, according to MBTA data analyzed by TransitMatters, a transportation advocacy group.
In a statement Tuesday, TransitMatters called on the governor to announce his five appointments to the new board of directors and for more investment in transportation infrastructure.
“A series of recent events disrupting MBTA service underscores the urgent need for the Governor and Legislature to provide the T with the necessary resources to step up critical repair and maintenance activities,” the group’s statement said. “This should include an ambitious agenda to inventory and repair or replace aging infrastructure across the system.”
Politicians including Boston mayoral hopefuls Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu, and state House Speaker Ronald Mariano weighed in. Both Essaibi George and Wu called for more investment in transportation infrastructure. Mariano said, “Getting the MBTA Board up and running is essential to ensuring that financial decisions are made that promote safety, accessibility, and reliability.”
Rail safety expert and consultant Keith Millhouse, who formerly served as board chairman for Southern California’s Metrolink commuter rail system, said having a board of directors in place is crucial to safety.
“There has to be oversight, because otherwise you’re giving the general manger cart blanche, and that’s not working,” he said.
On Tuesday morning outside the Broadway MBTA station, the site the Red Line derailment, four transit police were parked as MBTA personnel worked to re-rail the train inside and assess damage to the platform.
“No Red Line trains,” the electronic sign read. “Use shuttle bus.” Around 10 a.m., the T first reported the Broadway station incident as a mechanical problem.
Elisabeth Boyce-Jacino was three cars back from the site of the derailment when she felt the train, which she said was already decelerating, lurch to a sudden stop.
“The train very very suddenly just stopped and slammed on its brakes and jostled everyone,” she said.
Twice after the train stopped, Boyce-Jacino said, it lurched forward about a foot, and she smelled something burning.
After around five minutes, an MBTA operator instructed passengers to walk forward through two cars and exit the train into the Broadway station.
One of the cars, Boyce-Jacino said, appeared to be badly scraped and missing a window, which she later saw cracked and strewn underneath a bench.
The derailment left her shaken.
“It’s terrifying to think that just by chance I wasn’t in this car and I wasn’t hurt by this — like thank God,” Boyce-Jacino, a graduate student at UMass Boston said. “But it all very easily could have been me or someone else who was hurt and that’s pretty freaky to think about.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is “gathering information about the derailment,” but the extent of the safety agency’s involvement in the ongoing investigation was not immediately clear Tuesday, a spokesman wrote in an e-mail.
At the Red Line stop inside the MBTA’s Park Street station, confused passengers boarded a stopped southbound train that never departed.
An MBTA worker on Tremont Street, clad in a florescent yellow jacket, corralled crowds of riders emerging from the Park Street station toward a line of MBTA buses that were stopped in the righthand traffic lane. “Red Line, this way today,” she yelled, gesturing toward the fleet of buses.
Passengers poured out of crowded inbound buses from JFK/UMass. Some said their commutes were extended by at least 30 minutes.
“I’m at the end of a long trip carrying all of this luggage onto a bus, it’s just exhausting,” said Garnette Cadogan, who moved to Boston recently. “I think it made my trip 30 minutes longer. I had to wait for a second bus because the first one was too crowded.”
Cadogan said the derailment and other recent safety incidents involving the MBTA have made him hesitant to continue taking trains.
“I’ve always been a walker, but this just makes me want to walk more,” he said.
Emily Baldini, who commutes into the city from Salem, said Tuesday’s trouble caused her to miss a train.
“It’s frustrating for sure,” she said. “Thankfully, I’m not in a rush, so I can deal with this today.”
The most recent Red Line derailment happened in June 2019, caused by a broken axle that a routine inspection one month prior failed to uncover. The MBTA previously planned to replace all 404 Red Line and Orange Line cars by September 2023. A handful that entered service late last year had to be pulled off the tracks after one derailed from the Orange Line in March. They’re now all expected to be in service by September 2024.
John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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