Despite Accidents, T Renews Contract

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) renewed its contract with the company that maintains its escalators and elevators on Friday, despite three accidents at T stations in the last two months, one of which was fatal.

Massachusetts officials said yesterday that the accidents had not resulted from mechanical failures.

“Public safety officials determined that there were no defects with the escalators,” said Jon Carlisle, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation.

The MBTA’s board of directors approved a five-month extension of its five-year contract with Kone Corporation, an Illinois-based company that is responsible for the upkeep of the subway system’s escalators and elevators.

But MBTA officials also expressed disappointment with Kone’s maintenance record. The MBTA recently fined the company $567,000 for failing to perform regular repair operations, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo confirmed yesterday.

“We’re faced with a difficult challenge,” said Anne Herzenberg, chief operating officer of the MBTA, according to Saturday’s Boston Globe. “We clearly need to push harder to get them to perform.”

Officials from the MBTA said they had to rehire Kone because two other companies were too expensive.

Regardless of where the blame lies, the three recent accidents on the MBTA’s escalators and elevators have drawn attention to safety concerns on the subway system.

In late February, a man was strangled to death when his hood snagged the escalator at the Porter Square stop on the Red Line, Pesaturo said.

“It was found that alcohol was a factor in that accident,” Pesaturo added.

In the most recent accident, a young woman tripped on the escalator at the Harvard Square station on the Red Line early Friday morning after her garment caught on the machinery, Pesaturo said. She was treated for cuts on her shoulder at Massachusetts General Hospital and was released later that day.

Pesaturo attributed both these accidents to “human error.”

“We will continue to remind people who use escalators to use them properly,” he said.

Carlisle said the Transportation Office hopes to address the recent problems.

“We’re very concerned about the incidents,” he said, “and we will continue to keep an eye on causation.”

In the first of the three recent accidents, an elevator at the Harvard Square station crushed an electric wheelchair in early February. The owner was not injured in the incident.

—Staff writer Daniel J. T. Schuker can be reached at dschuker@fas.harvard.edu.