MBTA expanding its driver's license requirement

By Glen Johnson
AP Political Writer / June 19, 2010

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BOSTON—The MBTA is addressing an omission in its policies that has allowed Orange, Red and Blue line operators to run subway trains without a driver's license.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority General Manager Richard Davey declared this month that any new subway driver hired by the region's largest transit agency must have a valid license.

Licenses are already required for bus and Green Line drivers, since their equipment operates at least part of the time on public byways. Subway operators have been exempted because the Orange, Red and Blue lines run on dedicated tracks that don't intersect with motor vehicle or pedestrian traffic.

"If the Commonwealth of Massachusetts thinks that there should be a standard for operating a motor vehicle, we should at least have that at the MBTA, in addition to our other driver training," Davey told The Associated Press during an interview.

In practical terms, the change won't take effect until the fall, the next time the T is likely to hire subway drivers. The Orange, Red and Blue lines are presently driven by 238 full-time motorpersons and 84 part-timers.

"I think for the current employees, it would probably be unusual for someone to not have a driver's license, but we want to ensure that is a requirement for hiring," Davey said.

The policy change was recommended in a peer review conducted by the American Public Transportation Association. Gov. Deval Patrick ordered a review of all T hiring, training and operating procedures after a Green Line driver crashed his trolley in 2009 while sending a text message to his girlfriend.

The policy change will also have a secondary effect: It will expand the number of T employees whose driving records are regularly checked by the authority.

All T operators are supposed to volunteer any change in their license status, but currently only bus and Green Line operators have their status reviewed by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Requiring licenses for the subway operators will increase the number of drivers whose licenses are automatically checked.

A spokesman for the Boston Carmen's Union, which represents T drivers, did not respond to a request for comment about the policy change.

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