Safety Improvements Recommended for Boston’s Green Line

Front view of a

A power outage forced MBTA officials to close down parts of the Green Line on Saturday. The problem was caused by an overhead cable near Arlington Station. At least one trolley was evacuated through the tunnels during the two hours the service was shut down.

The Green Line has been in the news lately, as the MBTA’s union has won a victory at the expense of management when the NTSB sided with them that better technology could have prevented last year’s fatal Green Line crash in Newton. The Green Line has little safety protections, and has drivers obeying a system of traffic signals long the lines, similar to automobiles. Most transit lines have systems preventing cars from colliding with each other.

On May 28th, 2008, at about 5:51PM, a westbound Green Line train traveling at about 38mph struck the back of another train which had stopped for a red signal. There was one employee in each of the two cars that made up the trains. The operator of the striking train was killed.

The NTSB defined that in addition to the lack of a positive train control system, to prevent trains from hitting each other, the system lacked coordination between crewmembers with regards to signals and requirements for operators to report possible malfunctions. They concluded the probable cause of the collision was “the failure of the operator of the striking train to comply with the controlling signal indication, likely as a result of becoming disengaged from her environment consistent with experiencing an episode of micro-sleep. Contributing to the accident was the lack of a positive train control system that would have intervened to stop the train and prevent the collision.

Earlier this year, on May 8th, another rear-end crash happened on the line at Government Center. That crash has been attributed to the operator texting his girlfriend in violation of regulations, but a safety system would have prevented the crash.

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