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Orange Line delays are the shortest they’ve been since 2019, transit group says

While conditions have improved on the Orange Line, Red Line riders have seen mounting delays in recent months.

Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe
Delays on the MBTA's Orange Line are now the shortest they've been since 2019, according to data from public transportation advocacy group TransitMatters.

Good news for Orange Line riders: Delays on the line are now the shortest they’ve been since 2019, according to data from public transportation advocacy group TransitMatters.

MBTA

The total delay from slow zones is down to 0.28 minutes — a little less than 17 seconds — and has been since last Thursday, per TransitMatters data. Delays hit a peak of nearly 27 minutes when the Orange Line first came back online in September following a 30-day shutdown for much-needed repairs. 

As of Monday, the median travel time for a ride from Oak Grove to Forest Hills was slightly more than 36 minutes.

“Based on our data, this is almost the fastest it’s ever been,” Seth Kaplan, a software engineer and volunteer on TransitMatters’ lab team, told The Boston Globe. “It’s promising.”

The background

TransitMatters has used data collected since 2016 to calculate the average time it takes to get from one station to another, comparing this average to current trip times in order to calculate delays, Kaplan told the Globe. 

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The Orange Line saw persistent delays following its 30-day shutdown, with frustrated riders reporting that service was worse than ever.

During a Senate hearing on MBTA safety last month, Sen. Ed Markey pressed MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak to release data on average trip times, as well as a list of the work to be done before the Orange Line would run at its full speed.

In his response, Poftak said the transit agency had made progress in lifting speed restrictions, with most remaining restrictions scheduled to be lifted in November and December. 

What’s up with the Red Line?

The MBTA continues to face systemwide service changes, some linked to staffing shortages. And while conditions have improved on the Orange Line, Red Line riders have seen mounting delays in recent months, surpassing 18 minutes on Monday. 

Red Line riders put up with a lot, TransitMatters wrote in an October blog post, “But lately, anyone riding the rails between Alewife and Ashmont or Braintree has almost certainly noticed that their ride is also quite a bit slower than it should be.” 

“It’s scary to see,” Kaplan told the Globe. “We squash one bug and another one is creeping up in the meantime.”

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MBTA spokesperson Lisa Battiston told Boston.com in an email that T maintenance crews “have been working weekends and overnight periods this fall to address areas of the Red Line where speed restrictions were implemented (following regularly scheduled track inspections).” 

Crews recently performed rail maintenance between Savin Hill and Fields Corner, and near Harvard station between Porter and Davis stations, she said. 

“Rail has been replaced in these sections, but the new track must be given an appropriate period of time to settle before train speeds can be raised,” Battiston continued. She added that crews are continuing to perform this work, including on the Braintree branch this past weekend.

“The MBTA appreciates its riders’ patience while workers make these important safety improvements,” she said.

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