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Timeline: How the MBTA reached a crossroads with federal regulators over safety issues

Officials with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority are facing a Monday deadline to submit a revised strategy to address a host of workplace safety issues after federal officials rejected a previous plan, saying it didn’t address the problems quickly enough.

The transit agency has been under federal oversight for more than a year after a succession of mishaps, crashes, and fatalities that drew the attention of the Federal Transit Administration, which in a report last summer blasted the MBTA for poor management and prioritizing long-term projects at the expense of daily safety and operations.

Here is a look back on the major events for the transit system since the summer of 2021 and what led to this critical juncture.


July 30, 2021: Two Green Line trolleys collide on Commonwealth Avenue

Twenty-five people are injured after one Green Line train rear-ended another by Boston University during a Friday evening commute. The National Transportation Safety Board later concluded that the train was traveling more than 20 mph over the speed limit and the driver did not apply the brakes before the crash.

Sep. 26, 2021: Escalator malfunction at Back Bay station

An ascending escalator at the Back Bay MBTA station suddenly reversed at a high speed, sending a crowd of people tumbling to the bottom. Nine people were taken to the hospital with injuries and witnesses described a terrifying scene.

Jan. 21, 2022: Woman killed by commuter rail train while crossing tracks in her car

Robbi Sausville Devine, 68, is killed when a commuter rail train struck her car as she was passing through a railroad crossing in Wilmington. Officials said a worker failed to restore a railroad crossing safety system less than an hour before the fatal crash.

April 10, 2022: Man killed after Red Line doors close on his arm, dragging him across the platform

Robinson Lalin, 39, is killed after his arm became stuck between the sliding doors of a Red Line train and he was dragged across the platform at Broadway Station. His family is now suing the MBTA, alleging that Lalin’s death was caused by the MBTA’s negligence.


The operator of an inbound Red Line train watches activity on the platform before departing the Broadway station in on April 12, 2022. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

April 2022: FTA begins safety inspection

Shortly after Lalin’s death, the FTA informed the MBTA that it is “extremely concerned with the ongoing safety issues” and will assume “an increased safety oversight role.”

May 7, 2022: Construction vehicles derail three times in three days during Blue Line maintenance

Construction vehicles carrying tools derail three times in as many days from May 7 to 9. No injuries were reported.

June 2, 2022: Trains collide at Government Center

Two Green Line trains crash at Government Center station, sending three train operators to the hospital with injuries, according to the MBTA. No passengers were injured.

June 15, 2022: FTA releases preliminary report on MBTA safety, orders immediate changes

In a grim assessment of safety at the MBTA, the FTA said it found dispatchers logging 20-hour days, runaway trains injuring workers, operators and supervisors working with expired safety certifications, and no immediate plans to fix track sections in disrepair. The FTA orders the T to increase staff at its operations control center immediately, improve general safety operating procedures, and address delayed track maintenance and safety recertifications for employees whose credentials have lapsed.

July 21, 2022: Orange Line train catches fire while crossing Mystic River

Passengers knocked out windows and scrambled to escape an old Orange Line train after it caught fire while crossing the Mystic River into Somerville. One person leapt from the bridge into the river and swam to safety. The MBTA said a metal side panel on the train broke off and touched the high-voltage third rail, causing the flames. Governor Charlie Baker called the fire a “colossal failure.”

An Orange Line train caught on fire approaching a station in Somerville on Thursday, July 21, 2022. (Sian Bernard)Sian Bernard

Aug. 19, 2022: Orange Line shuts down for four weeks for repairs

The entire length of the Orange Line from Malden to Jamaica Plain is shut down for 30 days of repairs. The work included upgrading thousands of feet of track to eliminate slow zones.


Aug. 31, 2022: FTA issues scathing report on MBTA safety

Federal transportation officials release a 90-page report that details broad failures at the agency — too few workers, too little training and maintenance, and weak safeguards — while condemning management in recent years and the state’s oversight. The FTA orders the MBTA to increase staffing, improve communication with front-line workers, and bolster safety checks, among dozens of directives.

Oct. 14, 2022: Warren, Markey grill T officials, state regulators over safety failures

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey hold a hearing in Boston to question MBTA leaders and state regulators. Warren says the “list of management failures is a long one” and Markey presses MBTA leaders to improve communications with the public. The hearing, which focused on safety concerns and how the MBTA will address them, came as the MBTA reached its deadline to submit its response to the FTA’s August report.

December 2022: FTA rejects over half of MBTA’s corrective action plans

Federal transit inspectors reject more than half the MBTA’s proposals to improve safety and efficiency sending the agency back to the drawing board to address shortcomings outlined in the August report.

Jan. 3, 2023: MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak steps down

The end of Steve Poftak’s tenure as head of the MBTA coincided with the end of Charlie Baker’s second term as governor of Massachusetts. The Baker administration appointed Poftak to lead the MBTA in 2019 after former general manager Luis Ramirez left the post after just 15 months.

March 13, 2023: Subway trains come close to T workers

An MBTA official reports miscommunication between dispatchers and construction crews led to trains coming dangerously close to workers in four separate incidents on March 13, March 21, March 24, and April 7.


April 10, 2023: Phillip Eng takes over as MBTA General Manager

Eng spent his first morning in the job riding the Blue and Green lines while talking to passengers and MBTA employees. He said he understands the public’s frustration about the continued safety incidents and reliability problems and pledged that riders will “start to see meaningful improvements.”

“It’ll be slow at the beginning,” he said. “But as you start to see them come, I think people will regain that trust.”

New MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng commutes from Park Street station to Boylston station on the way to the Massachusetts Transportation Building on his first day. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

April 18, 2023: Federal officials say there is ‘substantial risk’ of death or injury to MBTA workers

In a letter to Eng, the FTA warned there is a “substantial risk” of a death or injury on the agency’s tracks, citing the close calls in recent weeks and reports of hazardous conditions from the MBTA’s state oversight agency, the Department of Public Utilities.

May 5, 2023: Deadline for MBTA’s updated response to the FTA

The MBTA faces a Monday deadline to propose critical new workplace safety measures after federal regulators rejected an earlier plan as insufficient because it would take too long to implement. The MBTA has two months to adopt more rigorous protections for crews working along its tracks.

Jeremiah Manion of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Material from previous Globe stories was used in this report.

Nick Stoico can be reached at Follow him @NickStoico.