BOSTON – The facility that handles cash for Boston’s transit system is riddled with security weaknesses that pose risks of theft and physical danger to employees, according to an outside review made public Tuesday.
Known as the money room, the facility in Boston’s Charlestown neighbourhood collects and counts an estimated $119 million a year in cash placed in fare boxes and fare vending machines, along with about $75 million from parking meters, turnpike tolls and other revenue for the state Department of Transportation and the cities of Boston and Cambridge.
The review conducted by consultants hired by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority found that, among other things, security doors were left propped open and without alarms, allowing unsecured access from outside the building. A door to the vault room was duct-taped, a freight elevator was unsecured, cashbox keys were unaccounted for and cameras were missing or had been removed from guard stations.
Additionally, the review found that employees entering the building did not have their IDs verified, and firearms licenses were not checked consistently.
The security lapses increase the risk of intrusion and theft, as well as coercion and physical danger to money room employees, according to the report.
Brian Shortsleeve, the MBTA’s chief administrator, said in a statement that the agency had already taken steps to shore up the facility, including by hiring an outside firm to provide enhanced security with the help of the transit police force. Four top supervisors in the money room were removed from those positions, he said.
“While the MBTA believes it has addressed any significant threats to security, a major investment would still be necessary to correct all of the problems identified in the audit,” Shortsleeve added.
The MBTA has been considering privatizing cash operations as part of an overhaul of the financially strapped transit system, the nation’s fifth-largest. The Legislature authorized a temporary exemption for the T from many of the provisions of the state’s anti-privatization law.
Other major U.S. transit systems use outside cash management services, Shortsleeve noted.
The Boston Carmen’s Union, which represents more than 4,000 T employees, strongly opposes privatization efforts, saying there is no evidence they reduce costs or improve service for riders.
All MBTA employees undergo extensive background checks before hiring, and workers must also undergo credit checks before they are allowed to work in the money room, the union said.
The Boston Herald first reported Tuesday on the results of the security assessment.