Watch: Sen. Warren grills FTA administrator on state of MBTA

“Prioritizing safety and service should not be ‘either, or,’ it should be ‘both, and.'”

Federal Transit Administration administrator Nuria Fernandez, with Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building n Washington in March. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

After a number of recent incidents, including deaths, on the T, the MBTA has come under increased federal scrutiny, with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) sending a letter to General Manager Steve Poftak raising concerns about “ongoing safety issues.”

And this week, Senator Elizabeth Warren dug into these concerns, and more, in a meeting of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. 

The letter the FTA sent on April 14 said the organization would be assuming “an increased safety oversight role of the MBTA system,” which includes conducting inspections and gathering data to help the MBTA become a safer institution. At the committee hearing July 12, Warren interrogated Nuria Fernandez, administrator for the Federal Transit Administration, on the issues with the MBTA. 


Warren agreed with the conclusions the FTA made in the letter, but pushed for Fernandez’s administration, which aims to “improv[e] America’s communities through public transportation,” to do more.

Warren quizzed Fernandez on how it could be possible that the MBTA even reached this point, and how the FTA would get it back on track. Fernandez asserted that she recognized the issues and emphasized that the MBTA’s lack of safety is something the FTA is taking seriously. 

She promised a report is coming in August with the safety management inspection findings that will inform how the MBTA can improve. 

“Prioritizing safety and service should not be ‘either, or,’ it should be ‘both, and,’” Warren said.  

Warren suggested that investing in electrification of the system, though expensive, would benefit the MBTA and solve many of these issues with just one change. Using electric trains and buses in place of the vehicles currently used by the MBTA would help with creating jobs, improving service, and reducing maintenance costs, said Warren.

Fernandez agreed that even with the increased costs of electrification, it would be helpful in the long run. 


“I know it’s not going to be easy, but we have to use every tool in the tool box to avert these disasters and give Massachusetts residents the first-class infrastructure they deserve,” Warren said.

Watch the full exchange here:


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