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MBTA had high rate of breakdowns in 2014

A Green Line train made its way through Waban Station.
A Green Line train made its way through Waban Station. Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The MBTA’s trolley, subway, and commuter rail systems experienced more major mechanical breakdowns per train mile traveled than most other transit systems in the country in 2014, according to newly-released federal data.

The T’s light rail lines — the Green Line and Mattapan-Ashmont trolley — ranked third worst in terms of major mechanical system failures per train mile traveled among 23 light rail systems nationally, according to the 2014 National Transit Database, which is maintained by the Federal Transit Administration.

The T’s heavy rail lines — the Red, Orange, and Blue — ranked as the sixth worst among 15 heavy rail systems nationally, the figures show.


The commuter rail system ranked sixth worst among 24 commuter rail systems nationally in 2014, the latest year for which data was available.

Mechanical failures can cause frustrating delays for passengers.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo questioned the national figures, saying that “there is no uniform practice for reporting mechanical failures” to the National Transit Database. “What one rail service provider considers a failure, another one may not,” he said.

He also said the agency would continue efforts to keep old trains and equipment from failing by either repairing or replacing them.

The commuter rail fleet has added 75 new bi-level coaches in the last three years, he said in an e-mail. Over the past 14 months, the T “retired the oldest and most unreliable locomotives in the commuter rail fleet,” and put 40 new locomotives in service.

Last month, “the commuter rail system had its highest on-time performance rate in all of 2015,” Pesaturo said. “The T and Keolis are completely focused on continuing to improve service reliability.”

As for the heavy and light rail systems, the “ages and conditions” of those fleets “are well documented,” he said, pointing out how the Red Line features “the oldest heavy rail cars in the nation.”


“MBTA machinists and repairers will continue to work very hard to keep the aging fleets operating,” he said.

Pesaturo said that hundreds of new Orange and Red Line cars as well as dozens of new Green Line trolleys are “on their way,” and the agency is rehabilitating a hundred existing trolleys.

The data did not include 2015, which began terribly for the MBTA as the aging system was hammered by recordbreaking snow and cold.

The T’s light rail fleet recorded 983 failures in 2014, which translated into one breakdown for every 6,050 miles traveled.

The T’s heavy rail fleet experienced 472 failures, which translated into one breakdown for every 50,328 miles traveled.

The commuter rail system had 219 such failures, or about one failure for every 109,193 miles traveled.

MBTA has high rate of breakdowns compared to other US transit systems

Light rail systems
System name/owner Miles traveled per major mechanical system failure Major mechanical system failures miles
San Francisco Municipal Railway 3,061 1,539 4,710,732
Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads 5,484 68 372,914
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority 6,050 983 5,947,628
Charlotte Area Transit System 8,525 111 946,240
New Jersey Transit Corporation 8,783 59 518,174
Port Authority of Allegheny County 13,270 156 2,070,100
Maryland Transit Administration 13,914 223 3,102,717
Sacramento Regional Transit District 18,310 215 3,936,754
Bi-State Development Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District, d.b.a.(St. Louis) Metro 20,951 298 6,243,285
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority dba: Metro 24,152 574 13,863,381
Metro Transit 28,818 139 4,005,704
Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon 35,593 217 7,723,744
Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority 35,967 75 2,697,552
Valley Metro Rail, Inc. 36,830 67 2,467,628
New Jersey Transit Corporation 38,561 51 1,966,622
Denver Regional Transportation District 40,139 278 11,158,766
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority 41,501 20 830,016
Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas 56,343 28 1,577,592
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority 57,478 59 3,391,181
Dallas Area Rapid Transit 87,683 105 9,206,750
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority 303,138 3 909,413
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System 473,123 18 8,516,212
Utah Transit Authority 803,667 8 6,429,332
Heavy rail systems
System name/owner Miles traveled per major mechanical system failure Major mechanical system failures Miles
Port Authority Transit Corporation 20,762 209 4,339,204
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority 22,814 822 18,752,983
Maryland Transit Administration 24,330 217 5,279,621
Miami-Dade Transit 37,587 224 8,419,487
Alternativa de Transporte Integrado -ATI 48,349 41 1,982,316
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority 50,328 472 23,754,603
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority 54,209 1,406 76,217,650
Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority, dba: MTA Staten Island Railway 78,206 35 2,737,221
Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation 84,536 164 13,863,846
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority dba: Metro 97,446 75 7,308,484
MTA New York City Transit 145,681 2,443 355,897,509
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority 153,419 112 17,182,928
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority 188,344 13 2,448,468
Chicago Transit Authority 214,176 334 71,534,943
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District 365,222 182 66,470,479
Commuter rail systems
System name/owner Miles traveled per major mechanical system failure Major mechanical system failures Miles traveled
Regional Transportation Authority 66,623 3 199,870
Connecticut Department of Transportation 69,267 27 1,870,204
Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority 89,100 18 1,603,802
Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board dba: Caltrain 94,105 72 6,775,525
South Florida Regional Transportation Authority 106,964 32 3,422,858
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority 109,193 219 23,913,160
Maryland Transit Administration 136,361 43 5,863,504
Southern California Regional Rail Authority dba: Metrolink 151,889 87 13,214,358
Rio Metro Regional Transit District 153,741 9 1,383,665
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation 160,299 23 3,686,878
North County Transit District 174,369 8 1,394,955
Dallas Area Rapid Transit 192,005 6 1,152,028
Utah Transit Authority 242,400 22 5,332,805
New Jersey Transit Corporation 295,186 213 62,874,564
Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District 335,872 11 3,694,590
Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation dba: Metra Rail 382,182 113 43,186,609
Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company, dba: MTA Metro-North Railroad 402,713 169 68,058,540
Altamont Corridor Express 475,192 2 950,383
Metro Transit 528,744 1 528,744
MTA Long Island Rail Road 748,495 89 66,616,031
Virginia Railway Express 1,045,042 2 2,090,084
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority 1,269,859 15 19,047,891
Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority 2,139,537 1 2,139,537
Central Florida Commuter Rail at least 99,456 0 99,456
SOURCE: National Transit Database

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele