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Riders Upset After Panel Finds Metro-North Didn’t Prioritize Safety

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — MTA commuters said Thursday there is no excuse for the agency not making rider safety a top priority.

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released a report saying the Metro-North Railroad has sacrificed safety for on-time performance.

“Obviously, safety comes first,” Laura Delgado, who rides into the city from Westchester County, told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell.

Transit Advocate: Why Does MTA Operate In Silos?

spuyten duyvil station Riders Upset After Panel Finds Metro North Didnt Prioritize Safety
Paul Murnane reports

“We pay enough, so why shouldn’t they fix the tracks?” Delgado added.

The report was issued by a blue ribbon panel of experts commissioned to review the agency after a series of accidents last year. The report accuses the MTA of prioritizing schedules and not leaving enough time for needed inspections and track work.

The experts laid out a list of recommended improvements, including:
• Creating a better data system to monitor track conditions
• Providing more time for track work
• Improving the culture of safety within Metro-North

“You want to be able to rely on service safety, No. 1,” said commuter Dennis Jacque.

The MTA panel examined safety and maintenance practices at Metro-North, the Long Island Rail Road and the city’s subway system. It found that the “safety culture” at the LIRR and the subway system “appears to be performing fairly well.”

But at Metro-North, the panel said, “there is strong evidence to suggest that this is not the case.”

The panel identified tension between train operations and maintenance at all three agencies but said the issue is “magnified” at Metro-North, where on-time performance has been paramount.

In December, a Metro-North train derailed in the Spuyten Duyvil section of the Bronx, killing four and injuring 70. In May 2013, two Metro-North trains collided in Bridgeport, Connecticut, leaving dozens hurt.

Transit advocate Jim Cameron said he wonders why the MTA doesn’t do a better job of sharing resources to ensure safety is more uniformed across the Metro-North, LIRR and subway system.

“Why do they operate like silos?” he told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane. “They have so much in common.”

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg insisted the MTA is safe to ride.

“Our No. 1 goal is to operate trains safely, and everything else comes second,” he said. “That’s how you get to the higher level of safety we need.”

MTA leaders say they have already made some adjustments, including changing train schedules to allow for more time to make track repairs and buying more automated track inspection equipment. The MTA has also created the position of chief safety officer for all of its operating agencies.

“You need to have sustained attention not just to make sure that all the agencies are paying the appropriate attention to safety, but also that they’re sharing information,” Lisberg said.

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