MBTA

Sudden Slowdowns Frustrate Riders as Problems Mount on MBTA

Speed restrictions were put into place Thursday night on the Red, Orange, Blue and Green Lines

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After implementing surprise speed restrictions across the entirety of the Red, Green, Orange and Blue lines Thursday night, the MBTA shared what prompted the sudden announcement at a news conference Friday morning.

The Green Line and the Mattapan trolley remained under the global speed restrictions, which limit trains to going 25 mph on straightaways and 10 mph on curves and other special forms of track, interim General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville said. While the restrictions were lifted for the entirety of the other lines, places on them that haven't been inspected or where conditions require slower trains will still have restrictions.

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"We are asking riders to please be patient and allow us until the start of service on Monday to validate repairs and verify speeds," Gonneville said, offering an apology for slower service.

At a news conference, interim MBTA General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville discussed why the Red, Green, Orange and Blue lines were ordered to go no faster than 25 mph Thursday night, and what the organization is dealing with.

Work continued Friday on the Green and Mattapan lines. Gonneville didn't want to speculate on when the speed restrictions would be lifted.

The move stemmed from a March 6 site visit by the Department of Public Utilities, which oversees the MBTA, where officials examined the Red Line between Ashmont Station and Savin Hill and found several issues that required immediate attention, including concerns with priority-one track conditions, electrical access boxes on the right of way and headlight operations within the tunnels.

By Thursday evening, MBTA staff realized there were inconsistencies with documentation showing that repairs had been made to areas found with defect from a test done in February, and that the issue extended throughout the train system, Gonneville said. He ordered the slowdown system-wide, he said, out of a sense of caution.

"This is all part of ensuring that the T is safe, safe for our customers, safe for our employees," Gonneville said.

Riders have been frustrated Thursday and Friday by speed restrictions on the MBTA.

Riders shared their exasperation with NBC10 Boston Friday.

"It's horrible," one man said. "Every single day, they say it's something new."

Richard White, who rides the MBTA to work every day, was among the passengers forced off of Blue Line trains between Suffolk Downs and Maverick due to a downed wire Thursday.

The speed restrictions have been lifted on all lines except the Green Line and the Mattapan Line. Here's the latest information released Friday by the agency.

"Everyone was bused to Maverick, and there was a big stampede, or a big crowd, at Maverick, basically, for about three or four hours," said White.

NBC10 Boston obtained letters sent by the Department of Public Utilities to the MBTA listing issues they found during the inspection, including incidents with train operators overshooting their stations. The problems required immediate action, the letters said.

The MBTA didn't initially share details on why the restrictions were being implemented, saying only in its announcement that the restrictions came as a result of findings from a recent site visit of the Red Line between Ashmont and Savin Hill by the Department of Public Utilities.

Riders were warned that the speed restrictions would add additional travel times to commutes. The T also apologized, saying that it "remains committed to operating the transit system in the safest manner possible."

Transportation advocates sounded off on the system's struggles Friday.

"I think it is fair to say that frustrations are at an all-time high, and patience is at an all-time low, for both employees and employers alike in Greater Boston," said Kate Dineen, executive vice president and chief operating officer for A Better City. "These continued safety findings and service disruptions are making it increasingly difficult for people to live, work, and visit the region."

"Just add it to the long list of issues that riders have been facing for really the better part of the year," said Jarred Johnson, executive director of TransitMatters. "Right now, riders are unfairly bearing the burden of years of neglect and years of underfunding."

"Without having access to a safe, reliable transit system, our communities and our economy are not positioned to survive, yet alone thrive," Dineen added.

The speed restrictions, which are between 10 and 25 miles per hour, were announced Thursday evening and were effective immediately on the Red, Orange, Blue and Green Lines, the MBTA announced.

The MBTA had other issues during the Friday morning commute, too. On the Mattapan Trolley line, a piece of construction equipment fell onto the tracks, causing the need for shuttles to replace service. Meanwhile, on the Blue Line, shuttles were replacing service between Maverick and Suffolk Downs due to a power issue at Airport Station.

The MBTA has been without a permanent general manager since early January. The agency didn't comment Friday on when a new one is expected to be hired, but rail safety expert Keith Millhouse says the pressure is now on for it to find a new leader.

"People talk about the definition of insanity, I don't know what is changing there, but the results certainly are not changing which leaves me to believe they are not doing things correctly," Millhouse said. " Most other transportation systems have a much better handle on their maintenance, their operations, and their capital expenditures and that seems to be lacking at the MBTA."

He added that the problems plaguing the system are not standard in major cities.

"You don't have this happen in the big cities because it is generally not tolerated by the elected officials or by the populace," he said.

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