Beginning Monday, the MBTA plans to run fewer trains on the Blue, Orange, and Red lines on weekdays to comply with new federal safety directives that faulted the system for overworking subway dispatchers. The T announced the changes on Friday in a news release, saying trains on the new weekday schedule will operate with the same frequency as they do now on a Saturday, when riders have to wait longer between trips. There will be no changes to Green Line service, the MBTA said, and weekend service on the Blue, Orange, and Red lines will remain the same.
“These changes are the result of staffing challenges among the ranks of subway dispatchers in the MBTA’s Operations Control Center,” the T said in a news release. “With a limited number of dispatchers, these new timetables allow the MBTA to schedule dispatchers in compliance with Federal Transit Administration directives, and continue delivering service in a safe and reliable manner.”
On Wednesday, the Federal Transit Administration issued a grim assessment of safety at the MBTA, describing some subway dispatchers working 20-hour shifts in the Operations Control Center and staffing shortages. As of April 29, four out of 18 heavy rail dispatcher jobs and two out of 11 supervisor jobs were vacant, the FTA found. In the agency’s directive, the FTA said the MBTA had 48 hours to submit a detailed staffing plan for subway dispatchers that ensures the workers get enough rest between shifts. The MBTA is under federal orders to do this for at least six weeks and prove it is giving subway dispatchers appropriate time for rest, the directive said.