Articles Posted in Public Transportation

State Police continue their investigation into last weekend’s bus accident on Soldiers Field Road in Allston, which injured more than 30 passengers.

The Calvary Coach bus, which was carrying approximately 40 students and chaperones from the Philadelphia area, was returning to Pennsylvania Saturday night when the crash occurred. The vehicle reportedly struck the Western Avenue bridge on the road which leads to the Mass Turnpike.

The Boston Fire Department released photos on Twitter showing firefighters standing on the bus and ladders, extricating passengers, some trapped in the vehicle for more than an hour. Several passengers were transported to local hospitals with injuries. At least one 17-year-old remained in critical condition in a Boston hospital on Monday, The Boston Globe reported.

The students were with the Philadelphia area non-profit, Destined for a Dream Foundation, which spent the day visiting Harvard University and Cambridge.

Massachusetts State Police said the bus accident occurred after the driver passed signs posted prohibiting the bus from traveling on that road, which has a 10-foot height limit, according to the Associated Press. State Police are investigating and have not determined whether to file charges or issue a citation against the 66-year-old driver, Samuel J. Jackson. CBS Philadelphia reported that the owner of the company, Ray Talmedge, said Jackson had looked down at his GPS and saw the bridge too late.

Calvary Coach apologized after the bus crash but defended the driver, reported the Boston Herald. The company’s buses have not been involved in a crash in the two years prior to the Boston accident, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. An unidentified driver was written up for unsafe driving.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which maintains Soldiers Field Road, told the Boston Globe it installed rubber signs as a warning for truck drivers. For a period, they also used cowbells to sound an alert, but these were discontinued.

But the Western Avenue bridge never received rubber warning signs, an official with the state agency said. Agency officials told the Boston Herald they would contact GPS navigation companies to ensure the bridge’s height restrictions are recorded.

Related:
Bridge at site of crash lacked height warning, The Boston Globe.

Bus driver may have been distracted by GPS before Soldiers Field Road crash, CBS Boston.

Parents of bus crash victim pray for recovery, Boston Herald.

MassDOT: No plans to raise height of overpass after bus crash, CBS Boston.
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State officials are investigating a MBTA Green Line crash that sent 37 people to area hospitals Thursday, according to The Boston Globe. One trolley rear-ended another parked in the Boylston Street station, causing dozens of injuries as passengers boarded. Media reports described the injuries as non-life threatening.

An MBTA spokesman told the Boston Herald there is “no evidence of cell phone use” by the 46-year-old operator whose trolley drove into the parked train.

The operator has been placed on paid leave until the investigation is complete. He has been operating trolleys with the MBTA for six years and has no accidents on his record, the MBTA spokesman told the Boston Herald.

A few hours after the subway accident, The Boston Globe reported that MBTA inspectors had ruled out track and signal problems as a cause and were investigating whether equipment failure or operator error was to blame.

The MBTA has experienced several accidents on the Green Line in recent years which have caused passenger injuries. In 2008, a Green Line trolley slammed into another trolley stopped at a red light in Newton. The driver was killed and one passenger was seriously injured. The property damage was estimated at $8 million, according to WBZ.

In May 2009, 68 people were hurt in a train crash at the Government Center Green Line station. This was blamed on an operator who was texting while operating his trolley. He was fired and later pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of negligence in exchange for two years probation and 100 hours of community service.

According to media reports, the MBTA has settled some claims from injured passengers in the 2009 trolley crash, while others have filed personal injury lawsuits. In the first case that went to trial last June, a jury awarded a $1.2 million judgment to a Scituate woman who was seriously injured. She suffered a herniated disc and neck injuries which left her unable to return to work as an airline ticket agent.

Over the last twenty years, Breakstone, White & Gluck has represented several clients in cases caused by the negligence of the MBTA. In 2008, our firm obtained a $3.98 million verdict for a woman who was struck by a MBTA bus while crossing the street and lost her leg as a result. The final award with interest after the MBTA exhausted appeals was $7.1 million. Click to read a report and past blog entry on the case.
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Boston has a new bicycle sharing program, implemented on July 28th, and it is off to a great start. The program, which is known as Hubway, stations bicycles throughout the city at terminals. You can rent a bike for a short period of time, or become a member and have a year of privileges.

Nicole Freedman and David White at the Government Center Hubway Station in Boston

Hubway is another step in making Boston a bicycle-friendly city. The city, under the inspiration of Mayor Menino and with the guidance of Olympic cyclist and Bicycle Program Director Nicole Freedman (shown at right with David White, at the Government Center Hubway Station), has expanded its bicycle lanes and its bicycle parking, and it now has added convenient bicycle rentals. 

Hubway deploys 600 bicycles at around fifty stations around the city. A bike can be picked up at one station and parked at another, making the program convenient for commuters, students, and tourists. There is even an phone application called Spotcyle which gives up-to-the-minute data on which terminals have bikes or available parking docks.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has concluded a three month investigation into a scheme resulting in 200 buses not receiving inspections for mechanical problems and routine maintenance services. The MBTA provides public transportation services to Massachusetts residents throughout the Greater Boston area.

At the close of the investigation, 13 managers were fired for falsifying the mileage records of 200 buses to avoid scheduled inspections. Six other managers received three day suspensions for lesser roles in the scheme. Unless additional information becomes known, the MBTA does not anticipate terminating any other individuals. 

According to MBTA General Manager Richard Davey, the MBTA has mostly caught up with the inspection backlog. Officials also stated that the deferred inspections did not cause any known safety problems or accidents because bus drivers visually inspect the buses before use. The MBTA requires bus inspections every 6000 miles. According to reports, some of the affected 200 buses went over 35,000 miles without inspections.

An anonymous terminated superintendent is claiming that the disciplined managers are taking the fall for a widely recognized policy of pushing off routine inspections and were reacting to pressure from higher management to keep buses in service. He says he is considering legal action against the MBTA.  The terminated superintendent says it is common within the MBTA to treat serious issues immediately but postpone the scheduled inspections if the buses were needed for service due to emergencies or track repairs and that management was aware of this policy.

State Transportation Secretary Jeffrey B. Mullan said several government departments have been notified about the inspection issue and the agency is reviewing whether any criminal or civil laws have been violated by the false records or missed inspections.

For more information on the MBTA inspection issue, see this Boston Globe article

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Baby boomers are taking to the open road on motorcycles at greater rates than ever before and as they do, their personal injuries and fatalities resulting from motorcyle accidents are increasing.

The American Motorcyclist Association reports its average membership age is now 48. The Motorcycle Industry Council trade association, meanwhile, reports the average age of all motorcycle owners increased from 33 to 40 years old between 1998 and 2003.

motorcycle rider.jpgThe Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports the rate of motorcycle-related deaths and injuries in the state for riders between 55 and 64 quadrupled between 1998 and 2007.  Additionally, although nationally there was a decline in motorcycle related fatalities regardless of age, Massachusetts experienced an increase in fatal motorcycle crashes.

The state Department of Public Health is not the only one to notice a correlation between age and severity of injury.  Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center recently found that motorcyclists over the age of 40 sustained more serious personal injuries, spent more time in the hospital, and were up to twice as likely to die from a motorcycle accident than riders under 40.

Dr. Mark Gestring, the lead author of the study and director of the trauma center, noticed older riders and more severe injuries in the emergency room.  His research team examined records in the National Trauma Databank and noted several disturbing trends:

  • Riders over 40 were 5% more likely than riders under 40 to require hospitalization in the intensive care unit.
  • Riders over 40 were more likely to suffer complications such as blood clots, pneumonia, or infections.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found a 145% increase from 2000 to 2006 in death rates for motorcyclists over 65.

Doctors report that there are several factors accounting for the increased severity and fatality of injuries sustained by older riders.  First, older riders have less resilient skin, bones and blood vessels and cannot handle as much physical trauma as their younger counterparts.  Additionally, older riders come into the hospital with more preexisting heath problems and take more medications that can complicate injuries.

For more information, read this recent Boston Globe article about aging motorcyclists in Massachusetts.
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We were pleased to see city officials convene a Boston bicycle safety summit last week to discuss ways to improve public safety on the roads.

As Boston personal injury lawyers, we spend our days handling cases of wrongful death and serious personal injuries resulting from Massachusetts bicycle accidents. But our work only helps victims cope with circumstances that could have and should have been prevented.

We know the best remedy for victims of serious bicycle accidents is meaningful dialogue and education. We applaud the city of Boston and Mayor Thomas Menino for providing this after a handful of Boston bike accidents, including one fatal collision that killed cyclist Eric Hunt.

News of the Boston bicycle accidents brought a couple hundred bicyclists to last week’s Boston bicycle safety summit. Menino and Nicole Freedman, director of the city’s Boston Bikes program, showed they were ready to listen along with state Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan, Boston police commissioner Edward Davis and several other state and city officials.

As Boston personal injury lawyers with over 30 years experience, we have seen many well-intentioned efforts and discussions spring from wrongful deaths and serious personal injuries. But as the media spotlight fades and we start our work of seeking compensation to help the victims and their families go on with their lives, we’ve also seen these good efforts subside.

The city has promised to hold another summit in three months. The Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck hope this summit takes place as planned. We call on bicyclists and officials to participate as widely as you did last week to make sure the important gatherings continue. Your input will make Boston safer for cyclists and drivers alike.

Our firm supports several bicycle safety programs in Massachusetts. We are proud supporters of MassBike, the Northeast Bicycle Club, the Charles River Wheelmen, Bikes Not Bombs and the New England Mountain Bike Association.
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The Federal Government is taking a firm stand against the dangers caused by texting drivers. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Tuesday that, effective immediately, commercial bus and truck drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. Texting truck and bus drivers face civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750. 

The goal of the new law is to reduce truck accidents and motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving.  According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every six seconds while texting.  This means drivers who text are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than nondistracted drivers.

This is not the first move that the government has made to reduce the dangers of texting drivers.  Nineteen states have passed laws banning texting while driving.  President Obama has also signed an executive order requiring federal employees not to text while driving government-owned vehicles or with government-owned equipment. 

The attention on texting comes after several high profile accidents caused by texting motor vehicle operators.  In September 2008, a California commuter train engineer missed a stop signal while trading text messages with a friend, leading to a train accident resulting in the wrongful death of 25 people.  In May 2009, 62 people suffered personal injury after a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority trolley driver collided with another trolley while texting.

For more information about the dangers of distracted driving, see the Transportation Department’s website www.distraction.gov.

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There has been another train accident on the commuter rail, this time at South Station in Boston. The Boston Herald reports that approximately 9AM, train 512, which originated in Worcester, failed to stop in time and collided with the end-of-track bumper at South Station, the last stop on the route.  Of the approximately 100 passengers on the train, at least 18 people suffered personal injuries, many of whom were treated at local hospitals. 

Although the train was allegedly traveling at a speed of 5 miles per hour at the time of the collision, many passengers were standing in preparation for getting off the train and were thrown to the floor and suffered personal injuries.  Many patients were taken off the train on backboards by emergency personnel.  Boston Medical Center activated its emergency plan in case a large number of injured passengers.

Transportation officials have already suggested that operator error contributed to the collision.  Investigations by the MBTA and the National Transportation Safety Board are underway.  Preliminary reports have ruled out signal, dispatching, or equipment problems as a cause.  The Boston Herald has reported that the train’s engineer told supervisors that he misjudged the stopping distance at the South Station platform. The engineer will be tested for drugs and alcohol.

Despite recent accidents, the MBTA continues to maintain that the automated operating systems that have been very successful at preventing accidents in other parts of the country are an unnecessary expense for the citizens of Boston. It is no secret that these systems could have prevented two serious rear end crashes on the Green Line in the last year alone. These systems would virtually eliminate driver error by automatically stopping trolleys from running red lights or getting dangerously close to other trolley cars. While some MBTA officials have argued that the safety systems would not be a good allocation of funds, recent events have made it fiscally irresponsible for these delays in adequate safety to continue.

 There have been five crashes since 2007, and the most recent crash will cost the agency more than 10 million dollars in property damage and the medical claims of the victims. The crash on May 8th near government center epitomized the need for the system upgrades as nearly 50 peoples were admitted to the hospital as a result of their injuries sustained in the crash. The accident appears to be the result of carelessness by the operator who was text messaging at the time. This is the exact type of accident that would have been avoided with this proven technology in place.

This is hardly the first time that the safety regulations at MBTA have been brought into question. Last year, following the death of MBTA operator Ter’rese Edmonds, former MBTA engineer John Weiser could not hold back his criticisms of the way MBTA is falling behind the safety standards followed by their peers in other parts of the country. Weiser, who personally investigated more than a dozen crashes and more than 1,200 derailments during his twenty-six years of service to the MBTA, argued that the lack of modern equipment was directly responsible for the injuries sustained by its patrons. The Boston Globe quoted Weiser as saying “…from a safety point of view, had the T installed positive train stops, when the train went through the red light, the brakes would automatically be applied.”

Implementation of the new safety measures in other cities has been very successful. One example of this is San Francisco. The Muni Metro in San Francisco was experiencing many of the same problems in 1998 that Boston is dealing with now. After a week of the new system, even initial critics of the state spending were glad to have the automated system in place. Not only were the trains safer, but they were actually able to reduce the time between trains for their customers. Instead of two minutes or more between trians the automated system was able to run them every minute. Since the inception of this safety precaution in 1998 there has not been a single rear end crash. It is past time for the MBTA to invest in the safety of its system to protect its passengers.

For More Information

Trolley safety system put off The Boston Globe May 25, 2009

Safety review ordered after Boston trolley crash Associated Press May 27, 2009

Safety Review Ordered After Boston Trolley Crash Associated Press May 26, 2009

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Two MBTA Green Line trolleys collided in the tunnel near Park Street Station in Boston, and the accident is being blamed on the operator of the train who was texting his girlfriend while driving. His recklessness forced the train he hit 100 feet down the tunnel, derailed both trains, and injured dozens of passengers on both trains.

The train crash occurred at about 7:18 PM, and the westbound trolley cars were full of commuters headed home and families headed to the Red Sox game. Dozens of people were taken to area hospitals, some with orthopedic injuries.

According to investigators, the first trolley, which consisted of two cars, was stopped at a red signal short of the station. The second trolley, which also had two cars, rear-ended the stopped train. The 24-year-old driver was looking at his cell phone, texting his girlfriend, and when he looked up it was too late to stop. Investigators have not yet determined the speed of the train.

MBTA drivers are forbidden to use cell phones or to text while driving. According to T General Manager Daniel Grabauskas, the driver will probably be fired (we hope so!), and he may also face criminal charges.

The MBTA will be held liable for the injuries sustained by the passenges on the trains. The T is vicariously liable for the negligence of its operators, and operator negligence seems extremely clear in this case. As a common carrier, the MBTA has a high duty of care to its passengers to prevent accidents.

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