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MBTA expects Orange Line delays to continue into December

“As riders continue to return to the system, I understand the frustration many of them feel.”

Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe
Orange Line wait times pictured prior to the line's 30-day closure.

Speed restrictions could remain on parts of the Orange Line into December, months after the line shut down for 30 days while the MBTA completed much-needed track repairs. 

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak provided the timeline in a letter to Sen. Ed Markey on Tuesday, responding to questions Markey posed during a Senate hearing on MBTA safety earlier this month. Markey had asked Poftak to release data on average trip times, as well as a list of the work that still needs to be done in order to get the Orange Line up to full speed. 

Orange Line

The Orange Line has seen persistent delays since reopening on Sept. 19, despite the MBTA initially promising a faster ride following repairs. 

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“As riders continue to return to the system, I understand the frustration many of them feel,” Poftak wrote in his letter. “On behalf of the more than 6,400 hardworking men and women of the MBTA, we acknowledge that safety incidents have occurred and that our service levels aren’t where we want them, in part due to staffing challenges, that have forced us to make hard decisions that represent prioritizing safety above all else.”

The T is developing a travel time dashboard for use on the MBTA website and hopes to have it available this winter, Poftak said.

The agency has also made progress in lifting speed restrictions, he said, with most other restrictions scheduled to be lifted in November and December. Poftak provided details about ongoing slow zones and future work planned for the Orange Line. 

In a joint statement responding to Poftak’s letter, Markey and Sen. Elizabeth Warren urged the MBTA to release similarly detailed information about current and future speed restrictions on all subway lines.

“After years of neglect and underinvestment, the release of this data is a key first step toward clear, reliable communication and making the T a true public good once again — but it cannot be the end of the line,” the pair said. “The people of Massachusetts demand and deserve continued transparency from the MBTA — and so do we.”

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Warren and Markey said they will continue conversations with the MBTA to push for increased accountability. Warren said during a “Boston Public Radio” appearance last week that the biggest roadblock to improving the T is a lack of accountability for those who lead the MBTA and oversee its safety.

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood similarly told state lawmakers Tuesday that MBTA safety oversight should be shifted away from the state’s Department of Public Utilities, after a Federal Transit Administration report found DPU oversight lacking

“The current system is not working,” he said, according to The Boston Globe. “The FTA said that, we said it, and the people riding the trains have said it over and over again.”

Poftak’s letter provides T riders with critical information they need to make informed decisions about where and how they live, work, and travel, Warren and Markey said. 

“The public must be able to reliably plan their lives around their commute, and not knowing how long their trip may take — or how long until their commute speeds up — can have real-world consequences for hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents,” they said.

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