More Stair Struggles: Back Bay Escalator Failure Injures 9

On Sunday evening, an escalator failure at the MBTA’s Back Bay station sent nine people to the hospital, according to to Boston’s Emergency Medical Services.

The incident reportedly happened around 6 p.m. on the escalator that connects the Amtrak and commuter rail platform with the station’s street-level lobby.

Two weeks earlier, David Jones, a professor at Boston University, died in a fall from another broken staircase adjacent to the MBTA’s JFK/UMass station.

In the aftermath of Jones’s death, the MBTA denied responsibility for maintaining those stairs: “the staircase is not MBTA property,” a T spokesperson told StreetsblogMASS.

But it wasn’t clear who actually was responsible. A state GIS map suggests that the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) controls both Columbia Road, the street at the top of the staircase, and Old Colony Avenue, the street that runs beneath the overpass next to the Red Line station.

But the state’s bridge inventory says that MassDOT is responsible for the Columbia Road overpass, while other parts of Columbia Road remain under the jurisdiction of the DCR.

Elizabeth Koh writes about the bureaucratic confusion in today’s Boston Globe:

“[The stairs are] among dozens of state public spaces that straddle administrative borders of different state agencies, putting them in a bureaucratic vortex where oversight can be lax and ownership uncertain. Critics say this haphazard pattern has led to lapsed repairs, public safety risks, and political finger pointing.”

StreetsblogMASS has submitted two public records requests – to the DCR and to MassDOT – for information related to the JFK/UMass stairs, including whether the agencies conducted any safety inspections.

To date, the agencies still have not responded, although they still have several more days to do so under the Massachusetts public records law.

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