Sep 7, 2023 - Transit

MBTA saw slower summer service as repairs mount

Data: Transit Matters; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Most MBTA subway trains are completing trips a lot slower than they were at the start of the summer.

  • Speed restrictions on the Red and Orange Lines are dragging out travel times, according to data analyzed by advocacy group TransitMatters.

Why it matters: The agency and its aging equipment have been under federal oversight since last summer after several severe safety problems. The data shows the understaffed MBTA is struggling to provide on-time, safe service while repairing track and rail infrastructure.

  • It has to run trains at lower speeds on dangerous stretches of track in need of repair.

By the numbers: Red Line round-trip average delays grew by nearly 30% to over 74 minutes between the start of June to the end of August.

  • Round-trip delays on the Orange Line rose from 8.5 minutes to over 18 minutes by the close of August.
  • Yes, but: The Blue Line improved from an average of 4 minutes to just 3.3 minutes of delays over the same time period.

What they're saying: "This is what the new normal is going to be for the next three or four years, and we've already had a year of it," MBTA Advisory Board executive director Brian Kane told Axios.

  • Kane said the state has deferred maintenance for over 30 years because it wasn't politically popular to invest in public transit.
  • "We didn't do it and now we're having to do all of it at once," he said.

Between the lines: Kane suggested the slow zones have expanded over the summer because crews have gotten better at identifying problems and repairs are being added to the list more rapidly.

What's next: MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng has said slow zones are being lifted "little by little" as crews address a backlog of repairs.

  • Eng said in June that he's developing a timeline for improving speeds that will be finished after he receives a report from a consultant on defective tracks.

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