Feds scrutinize Atlanta’s transit

Previously unreleased federal audit cites “safety concerns”

Transportation Management News www.ajc.com February 02, 2012
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The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has been under federal scrutiny lately after a transit death raised safety concerns, according to the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's website.


A 2010 Federal Transit Administration (FTA) audit referenced such issues as faulty indicator lights that tell controllers whether the “third rail” is hot, and a “near miss” between a train and a work vehicle in a rail yard.


In response, MARTA officials cited limited resources that contributed to the transit death and contended that, despite the concerns raised by auditors, employees were never in danger because of safety redundancies built into the system.


Channel 2 Action News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution secured the previously unreleased 2010 audit through the Freedom of Information Action earlier this month.

Among the problems noted in the 2010 audit was that MARTA ?neglected to fully report the 2008 death of a man to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), which is its oversight agency.


The death involved an unidentified man who fell on an escalator in the Georgia State University station and was strangled to death when some clothing around his neck was pulled into the escalator comb plates.


Georgette Gregory, ?MARTA assistant general manager of safety and quality assurance, provided the AJC and Channel 2 with an explanation: “We don’t have specific people who monitor the cameras,” she said. “We don’t have the resources to continually watch the cameras.”


The 2010 audit also raised questions about the safety of MARTA track workers, who had reported to auditors that indicator lights that tell the rail control center whether the electrified third rail is hot often malfunctioned.


Rich Krisak, MARTA assistant general manager of rail, said the workers were never in any danger because of the malfunctioning lights because on-site workers ensure the power is shut off before touching the rail regardless of what the indicators read. The lights, he said continue to malfunction because of aging infrastructure.


MARTA has had an ongoing $117 million capital improvement project since last year to upgrade infrastructure but the warning lights are considered “nonvital” because they do not deal directly with worker safety, Krisak said.


Krisak also said that the near miss in the South Rail Yard between a train and work-utility vehicle on the same track at the same time did not involve any risk to workers.


The train was going only 15 mph and the danger was spotted when the two vehicles were still 200 feet apart, he said. Trains in the rail yards are not monitored electronically but are monitored visually by controllers.


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