BOSTON – The MBTA this week launched the Quality, Compliance, and Oversight Office to address the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) findings contained in the Safety Management Inspection report. MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak also detailed the MBTA’s progress to date on addressing the report’s findings, several of which the MBTA has already completed or is undertaking now. The MBTA announced Katie Choe, an over-20-year veteran of construction management and safety oversight, will focus solely on launching the Quality, Compliance, and Oversight Office, which will operate outside of the T’s current organizational structure and implement actions to address the report’s findings. The Office will also report publicly every month on the T’s progress toward implementing the FTA’s directives.
“The MBTA’s number one priority remains safety for both our riders and our employees. We are grateful to the FTA for their recommendations as we build on numerous actions and initiatives already in place across the organization to strengthen our safety management,” said General Manager Poftak. “Under the leadership of Katie Choe, I am confident that through the Quality, Compliance, and Oversight Office, the MBTA will be better positioned to address the challenges it has faced and implement changes to the organization and system to provide a safer and more reliable T.”
The FTA’s August 31 SMI report found four categories for the MBTA to improve upon. They included:
- Managing the impact of operations, maintenance, and capital projects requirements on the available workforce;
- Prioritization of Safety Management Information;
- Effectiveness of Safety Communication; and
- Operating conditions and policies, procedures, and training.
To address these areas, the FTA ordered the MBTA to carry out 53 total actions. Today, the MBTA has either implemented or began the process of implementing half of those including:
- Safety has facilitated multiple new safety risk management workshops over the past two months in coordination with management and subject matter experts from outside departments. The workshops have allowed for proactive hazard identification and mitigation in areas including hiring, training & certification, and field-based exercises working with Operations, Maintenance, Training, and Human Resources.
- The Safety Department has also expanded its safety meeting framework to include performance-focused safety data reviews with senior managers and executives, and will continue to use this meeting framework for review and discussion of data-driven safety analyses and risk management.
- Radio dead spots have been confirmed with frontline staff, and a regular reporting and confirmation has been established with the majority of spots resolved.
The MBTA will begin working on the additional actions immediately and will continue to seek FTA approval as it progresses through the directives.
Building on the MBTA’s safety management plan as well as initiatives and projects in place, the MBTA has established the Quality, Compliance, and Oversight Office led by Katie Choe, reporting directly to the General Manager to implement all of the FTA’s recommended actions. The Quality, Compliance, and Oversight Office will focus on assessing, recruiting, and hiring as part of workforce management, collecting and analyzing safety data, instilling safety culture across the organization, and improving operating practices. Progress on these initiatives will be reported monthly to the MBTA Board of Directors.
“The Quality, Compliance, and Oversight Office will help support the MBTA’s over-6,000 employees, from track walkers to inspectors to operators and motorpersons by giving them the tools they need to succeed, including training, documentation, and support systems as we continue to implement the recommended actions presented in the FTA’s report,” said MBTA Director of Quality, Compliance, and Oversight Katie Choe. “I have seen first-hand, through countless New England winters, events like championship parades and in their everyday work, the perseverance, effort, and focus of the MBTA workforce and I am confident that they will rise to the occasion again.”
Katie Choe has currently served as the MBTA’s Chief of Capital Delivery since January 2020, where she has led and delivered on many major infrastructure projects that support and transform the entirety of MBTA’s subway, Commuter Rail, and bus systems through her successful leadership and collaboration with and across multiple MBTA departments on the same project. She has served in a number of transportation construction roles in the public sector for over 20 years. Prior to joining the MBTA, Katie worked as Chief Engineer and Director of Construction Management at the City of Boston Public Works Department where she oversaw a range of sectors including construction management, asset management, utility coordination, and resiliency initiatives. At Boston Public Works, Choe led the development of the award-winning Public Works Climate Resilient Design Standards, the StreetCaster equity-based infrastructure investment strategy, and was responsible for an annual $40 million construction program. She began her career in various roles at Massport, including as a construction project manager, Sustainability Program Manager, and Assistant Director of Capital Programs, overseeing the development of the award-winning Sustainable Design Standards and Guidelines and responsible for the development and implementation of Massport’s five-year, $1 billion capital plan. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering through the Construction Management Program from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is an active member of Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) and WTS, serves on the CMAA Board of Governors, and served as Chair of the Construction Management Certification Institute Board of Governors. This year, she was honored as the WTS-Boston 2022 Woman of the Year.
In addition, the MBTA has taken several other immediate steps to address these actions, including engagement with stakeholders and union groups and development of a series of Requests for Proposals (RFQs) designed to provide support for MBTA staff. The MBTA is targeting the end of the week to issue RFQs directly related to the scope of the Office. With a goal of the T’s workforce fully embracing a safety-first culture and adopting its practices for sustained improvement, the T’s unions and MBTA leadership, including the General Manager, began meeting at the end of last week in order to engage these groups on workforce safety communications and meetings on safety themes and issues.
Also, based on the FTA’s concerns regarding the MBTA’s ability to balance larger capital projects and day-to-day maintenance, MassDOT will lead an engagement with a consultant to investigate the potential benefits of a multi-modal large construction unit apart from the MBTA and other agencies of MassDOT that would develop, design, construct, and deliver large capital assets to the operating agencies, relieving them from the burden of managing large capital projects while also trying to maintain day-to-day maintenance. The MBTA has already employed this type of project management with the Green Line Extension and South Coast Rail projects, as they are separate projects reporting directly to the General Manager, but this new engagement will investigate the opportunities to expand this model.
Today, Governor Charlie Baker is filing a supplemental budget that includes $200 million for the MBTA to provide additional resources towards addressing the FTA’s safety directives and ensuring a safe, reliable transit network for its riders. The supplemental budget also includes $10 million for MassDOT, in collaboration with the MBTA, to develop a training academy to create a talent pipeline to address the staffing challenges at the MBTA.
Over the last several months, the MBTA has continued to make progress on the FTA’s initial safety concerns through safety plans to address track conditions and maintenance, updated safety trainings and directives, and has addressed staffing shortages. The MBTA has met all the FTA’s deadlines and requirements to date in response to the four special directives issued.