September 23, 2022

MBTA opens new office to meet Federal Transit Administration safety guidelines

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has launched a new monitoring office to respond to the findings of the Federal Transit Administration’s Safety Management Inspection (SMI) report, which was released on August 31, 2022.

MBTA’s Office of Quality, Compliance and Oversight will operate outside of the current authority structure and will be led by Katie Choe, who will act as Director and report directly to MBTA’s Managing Director, Steve Poftack.

The office will provide a monthly public report detailing MBTA’s progress in implementing the FTA guidelines outlined in its final SMI report, which include:

  • Manage the impact of operations, maintenance and capital projects needs on the available workforce;
  • Prioritization of security management information;
  • Effectiveness of safety communication; and
  • Operating conditions and policies, procedures and training.

“The Office of Quality, Compliance and Monitoring will help support MBTA’s more than 6,000 employees, from walkers and inspectors to operators and motorists, by giving them the tools they need to succeed, including training, documentation and support systems as we continue to implement the recommended actions outlined in the FTA report,” Choe said. “I have seen with my own eyes through countless New England winters, events such as championship parades and in their daily work, the perseverance, effort and focus of the workforce of MBTA and I am confident they will rise to the occasion again.”

Who is Katie Choe?

To be clear, Choe brings more than confidence and optimism to his new role. She has over two decades of experience in construction management and safety oversight. Prior to becoming Director of MBTA’s Office of Quality, Compliance and Oversight, she served as MBTA’s Head of Capital Provision. MBTA says it has led and delivered infrastructure projects that have supported and transformed MBTA’s subway, commuter rail and bus systems and the authority attributes its success to its leadership and collaboration across multiple departments.

Prior to joining the MBTA, Choe worked as Chief Engineer and Director of Construction Management at the City of Boston’s Department of Public Works, where she led the development of the award-winning Public Works Climate Resilient Design Standards, StreetCaster’s equity-based infrastructure investment strategy and was responsible for a $40 million annual construction program.

Choe has also held various positions at the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), including as construction project manager, sustainability program manager, and deputy director of capital programs, overseeing the development of sustainable design standards and guidelines. award-winning companies and responsible for the development and implementation of Massport’s five-year, $1 billion capital plan.

Measures taken to address security issues

While the FTA SMI report focuses on four key areas, it includes a total of 53 actions MBTA needs to take to improve its security challenges. Poftak said MBTA has implemented or is beginning to implement half of these actions. He noted that MBTA has facilitated several new security risk management workshops over the past two months, that MBTA’s security department has expanded its security meeting framework to include performance-based security data reviews. and that radio dead spots have been confirmed with frontline personnel, and regular reporting and confirmation has been established with MBTA reporting that the majority of spots have been resolved.

SMI’s report noted the observed imbalance between MBTA’s focus on completing capital projects versus safety-critical operations and maintenance activities. According to MBTA, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will engage with a consultant to assess the potential benefits of a large multimodal construction unit outside of MBTA and other MassDOT agencies. The objective of such a unit would be to remove the management of large projects from agencies such as MBTA. This model is similar to that which MBTA has adopted with the Green Line Extension and South Coast Rail projects, but this new engagement would explore opportunities to extend this model.

MBTA management and authority unions began meeting in late August to engage stakeholders in workforce safety communications and meetings on topics and issues. security issues. According to MBTA, the goal will be a workforce that fully embraces a safety-focused culture and embraces its practices for lasting improvement. MBTA also says it is developing a series of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to support MBTA staff with input from stakeholders and union groups. MBTA is targeting the end of the week to post RFPs directly related to the scope of MBTA’s Office of Quality, Compliance and Oversight.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker tables supplementary budget that includes $200 million proposal for MBTA to support MBTA’s work to meet FTA safety guidelines and $10 million to establish an academy training, under MassDOT, which will create a talent pipeline to meet MBTA staffing challenges.

“MBTA’s number one priority remains the safety of our riders and employees. We are grateful to the FTA for their recommendations as we build on many actions and initiatives already in place across the organization to strengthen our safety management,” Poftak said. “Under Katie Choe’s leadership, I am confident that through the Office of Quality, Compliance and Oversight, the MBTA will be better positioned to address the challenges it has faced and implement changes in the organization and the system in order to provide a safer and more reliable T.”