Report: MBTA Has the Most Breakdowns of Any U.S. Transit System

New data from the National Transit Database shows that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is the transit system with the greatest number of breakdowns compared to other transit systems across the U.S., according to a report.

Boston Business Journal says the numbers come from 2014, when the MBTA recorded 219 major mechanical failures, when the average for the 24 transit systems across the country was 52.

The second highest number of failures? That would be the New Jersey Transit, which had 213 failures that year.

The data did not include breakdowns in the winter of 2015, which saw record snowfall. 

"The T has retired dozens of old locomotives and deployed 40 new ones," since the 2014 data was collected, MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said.

It's important to make clear that the figure is a total number of major breakdowns -- without taking into account how many millions of miles of service each city's transit agency is operating, or the average age of their equipment, or prevailing local weather or other factors. Operating a much bigger system with far more trains in an area with harsh winter weather, Boston's MBTA is of course likely to have more total breakdowns than cities with smaller transit systems or cities that don't face snow and ice.

The T wouldn't comment on the federal data methodology but spokesman Pesaturo said: "The ages and conditions of the MBTA's fleets are well documented ... MBTA machinists and repairers will continue to work very hard to keep the aging fleets operating."

Jim Rooney, CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and a former top MBTA manager, said the bottom line is "you need to make sure the data is really useful data, not just sort of a highlight number." Rooney said it's also significant that the data come from 2014, when the T was still running dozens of breakdown-prone locomotives, some 30 years old, that have been replaced this past year with 40 new locomotives.

"When your private car gets to 50,000 or 75,000 or even 100,000 miles, you know stuff is going to start breaking,'' Rooney said. "Well, trains and buses are very much the same."

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