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Baker, T officials: Turn that frown upside down, Orange Line riders, because at 5 a.m. on Sept. 19, you're going to get faster, safer, more reliable service

Gov. Baker and MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak announced today that Orange Line service will end at 9 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19 and will return at 5 a.m. on Sept. 19 with the elimination of slow zones, better signal systems, an almost entirely new fleet of cars and "deep cleaned" stations.

Poftak called today's announcement part of "a momentous day" for Orange Line riders, who will see a transformation from a wheezing system with cars that catch on fire into one that can zip them quickly to and from downtown Boston. He added a fix is in place for the exploding-battery issue on the new cars.

What isn't in place, however, is a plan to get all the shuttle buses the T plans to have on the road - up to 160 an hour at peak times - through already clogged streets. Poftak said he's talking to the city of Boston on possible ways to speed shuttle buses up along Boston roads, but had no details, although he acknowledged that "pop-up bus lanes" are possibilities. Part of the discussions will include figuring out what to do about BPS students who have to take the T to school, he said.

Track will be replaced in slow zones, concentrating on areas where trains now shriek their way slowly due to poor track conditions, in particular near Jackson Square, Back Bay, Tufts and Haymarket, he said. He said that once the work is done and regular service has resumed for several days, trains will be able to bound through those stretches at 25 m.p.h. rather than the current restricted 10 m.p.h. Old signals and switches will also be replaced.

Poftak said that by shutting down the entire line for 30 days, the T could get work - which was already being planned anyway - done that would otherwise take five years of weekend and overnight work.

In addition to shuttle buses along the route, Poftak said people can also use their CharlieCards on commuter rail from Zone 1, 1A and 2 stations on the Haverhill, Providence and Needham lines. Baker recalled that riders switching to commuter rail worked really well when that Red Line train derailed at JFK/UMass and took out all those signals.

But also, Poftak said, if you can work at home, work at home.

In addition to the bus contract, Poftak said the T already has contractors ready to jump onto the tracks, alongside the T's own maintenance-of-way workers. "We wouldn't close it down for 30 days unless we had contracts in place." He added that the schedule of work has "float" built in to allow for any unexpected delays. Recent, shorter repair projects on the Blue Line and Red Line had problems after repair equipment derailed, most recently on Monday into Tuesday.

Officials added the Federal Transit Administration, which issued a series of "safety directives" about critical T failings, has signed off on the work.

"Oh, God, yeah, we wouldn't do this without the FTA's permission," Baker said.

Poftak added he does not foresee the need for complete shutdowns of any of the T's other three lines, although he said officials are looking at a possible shutdown of part of the Green Line - in addition to the current E Line shutdown.

Baker acknowledge more work needs to be done on the T, but credited himself and his administration for getting the T into a better position, after decades of it being underfunded by previous governors. He said the T's backlog of unfunded capital projects has shrunk from $12 billion to $6 billion and that even with its superannuated cars and tracks, on-time performance now is better than when he took office.
MBTA updates on the work.

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Comments

dont hold your breath until you turn orange.

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See all the Yorkshires! And Durocs! And Berkshires! Swine everywhere!

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I have a bridge over the Mystic to sell you. It's great for diving enthusiasts.

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I have something better.

Some beautiful ocean front property in North Adams to sell you. Cheap price too.

I'll believe what Baker says when I see it.

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There are so many...

As I said in the other thread, I suspect it was more of an ultimatum - "you close it now, or we do."

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Short-turning Orange line trains anyplace other than Oak Grove or Forest Hills, which have automatic interlockings, requires more work for dispatchers. And we know they don't have enough dispatchers. The only other option to a full shut-down whould have been to ask the FTA to extend the mandated deadline for eliminating the slow zones until there were enough dispatchers to allow for partial shut-downs, and Charlie wasn't about to do that. Plus if it is a complete disaster, he can say it was Mayor Wu's idea for a full shut-down.

Baker acknowledge more work needs to be done on the T, but credited himself and his administration for getting the T into a better position

Yeah, Charlie, the word "triumph" seems inadequate for the hard work you've done making our transit system the envy of other cities like, I guess, Waterbury and Utica

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No need to dis Waterbury and Utica here!

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Folks in Utica are always confusing steamed hams and steamed clams. I'm not sure if I would trust their rapid transit.

It's a great place to see the aurora borealis

Waterbury is in Western/Southwestern CT

New London-Norwich is Southeastern CT

I need to get that compass adjusted, now.

What position would that be? Supine?

You can't use the monthly pass at zone 2 at Readville? I take the 32 bus to Forest Hills and the Orange Line every day. GRRRRRRR.

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Fairmount you can. Although the line sucks and is incredibly slow due to the amount of frequent stops.

, but credited himself and his administration for getting the T into a better position, after decades of it being underfunded by previous governors.

I dunno i read part of that 80 some odd page statement from Ron Nickle to the FTA (see it here) and I've gathered that..

1. The T was in bad shape when he joined in 2011, but had support from Dr Scott, Davey, any pre-2014 administration, and they wanted to fix the issues.
2. Once baker took over and that Shortsleeve dude came in, he was completely ignored and when he tried to speak up, he was silenced.
3. Then he was fired for speaking up

So they all knew about this stuff and just silenced it.

I'm not done reading the entire report but the other thing I learned is that the T management has lied repeatedly to the public and politicians. I guess the 'strap' or whatever they used to override the safety on the red line train (a la 2015's run away red line train) was not.. as the T management put it.. 'something not often done'.. to 'yeah we do it all the time'

I am sure I'll read more of this, as I read. I believe Nickle, he was imported here from Utah and has creds to support everything he says, including working in safety on the FTA level!

So yeah Charlie is spewing crap because he's full of it. He was aware.. Shortsleeve et all were under his watch.

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FWIW, the T press release says:

All Zone 1A, 1, and 2 fares can be paid simply by showing a CharlieCard or CharlieTickets on ALL Commuter Rail lines.

i.e. not just the Haverhill, Providence and Needham lines.

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That is good because I live around the corner from Readville but usually the bus to FH. It would be good if I can go to Readville.

Stops should be 1A. West Rox, HP and Rozy shouldn’t be paying suburban rates anyways.

The conductors have no way of verifying it has any fare on the card. Why not just say the CR is free for riders traveling between Boston and Zone 2 stations?

(Unless they gave the conductors the magic handheld card readers we were promised ~15 years ago when the whole "Charlie" system was launched and tokens eliminated.")

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He said he's talking to the city of Boston on possible ways to speed shuttle buses up along Boston roads, but had no details, although he acknowledged that "pop-up bus lanes" are possibilities

They've been doing trial bus lanes for years now. Get someone out there with some cones. Heck, start doing it early to get drivers used to it before the bus traffic gets heavy! But whatever the plan, how do you not have one set up before you announce something this major?

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I think the goal is to get everyone to give up on public transit completely (trains and buses) so conservatives who don't use the T can implement more service cuts and cut their taxes to "starve the beast".

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What’s laughable is using the new orange line cars as props again. All while having no plan for kids to get to school, shuttle bus routes or dedicated bus lanes. But hey they are spending $37 MILLION on buses. Of course what routes those buses will drive is to be determined. SO the commuter rail is essentially free but you may still need to use a shuttle bus to get to your station? Yes great planning…

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When they reopen in September, will weekday trains still be operating on a weekend schedule? It doesn’t sound like there’s anyway they can get enough dispatchers up and running that quickly. If that’s the case, it seems more than a little premature to take a victory lap.

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I hope they would have hired and trained dispatchers to run at "normal" levels but who knows.

From what I heard (not officially though), the hiring and training of the dispatchers is going to take quite awhile and the reduced schedule will continue well into next year. I hope that's not true but it would not surprise me.

This was addressed in the press conference and Baker said they will NOT be increasing service after this. It will still be weekend level service.

Thanks, I was afraid of that. The system has some major issues that aren’t going to be improved by this shutdown and Baker and Poftak need to be very clear to manage people’s expectations.

When you say "the system," what do you mean? A construction contractor can't exactly fix a lack of ample employees in the OCC. That's what the FTA said needed to be addressed in order for the MBTA to maintain the previous weekday level service vs. current weekend level service. In that sense, of course the surge won't solve that.

MassDOT Highway Division should have to move to Forward Funding from road tolls.

No? Stupid idea?

I agree.

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I fully support this

Because the streets will gridlock or at least grind to a crawl between people driving or Uber-ing or riding those shuttle buses if they are able to come up with enough of them.

The beauty of remote work

Enjoy how this affects your friends and enemies who do use public trans.

Maybe you’re a shut in? Then you have my sympathy.

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Charlie's all about taking federal funds left over from covid relief and giving tax payers a check.

Um.. I'd rather see it fix the T. I won't miss the 200 bucks or whatever it is since I never had it in the first place.

But I'll certainly miss the Orange Line for a month..

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Why does it seem like this wasn't discussed with city officials from any of the effected communities? Why weren't they united with Baker at today's press conference to say they'd worked with the Commonwealth officials to put in place plans that would keep impact to a minimum for riders? Why does this seem like something Baker decided off-the-cuff and didn't discuss with anyone other than Poftak and Tesler?

Baker: "So we doing this?"
Poftak and Tesler: "Sure, fuck it, why not? It's not like it changes our lives."

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We will. This was a forced closing.

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I strongly suspect that's so, but is anything on the record or from a "confidential source"?

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I wonder if maybe the FTA isn't directly requiring the OL shutdown, but their final report due this month is so damning that the MBTA decided on its own that shutting down for 30 days was better than the bad press / the FTA's suggested fixes

It would be nice if they would increase the number of trains on the Needham line at least for the duration of this work. Hourly service during peak times is not enough when you can't fall back on the orange line after missing your train (or really even when the orange line is running, but I digress). Not holding my breath though.

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I speak a white magik hex of good will and repair upon the MBTA. Go forth and do good deeds.

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time to update that no magoo script, I see

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Just run buses in the bike lanes, but put cow catchers on the buses.

"FIX THE T! NOW!"

Baker & the MBTA: "OK, we're going to need a 30-day window to cram in as much work as possible with no Orange Line service along the entire line."

"NO! NOT LIKE THAT!"

I'd love to hear proposals from folks of how the T can do meaningful maintenance and capital improvement work without having significant disruptions of service.

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Shutdowns can be very beneficial.

When its done in increments, there's time wasted setting up and breaking down each day so service can stop/start. That's a lot of time 1-2hrs on either end on a shutdown (say 9pm) that is only 8hrs. So you've lost 2-4 hours every day. That's alot of time wasted.

If you shut it all down, work can continue 24 hours a day without having to setup/breakdown.

We've seen recently that total shutdowns and synchronized work... it does work, when it's done right and often it's done early (as seen with Fast14 on I-93.. but this project is a bit different).

Not that I am in support of the Orange Line shutdown but I see how/why they are useful and effective.

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comment deleted

But they need to be planned ahead and planned by competent people and neither is the case here. There are plenty of examples where this was done, but when it has been done elsewhere, it's been done with months if not years of planning, dramatic improvements to paralleling service, and has also been a lot more productive. Frankly, 3500 feet of track over 30 days is laughable, that's about 100 feet per day. That just means that 90% of the track won't be replaced and will be ready to fail anew once the new track is in place.

Also:

He said that once the work is done and regular service has resumed for several days, trains will be able to bound through those stretches at 25 m.p.h. rather than the current restricted 10 m.p.h.

The speed limit on the line is 40 mph. Are they really planning to do all this work and still have slow zones in place? Or does Poftak not know the simplest thing about how the T actually works? Or both?

This is also pure Baker magic at work. They would only attempt this once he wasn't running. $37 million for bus replacement service? Sure, Maura can figure out how to pay for that, as well as millions in lost fares from not charging fares (as someone upthread posted, the initial language is that all Zone 2 fares will be waived).

Finally, Poftak really seems to think we have no memory. The big shutdown of the Blue Line this spring took weeks longer than planned because a contractor fucked up (are they using the same contractor) and as a result trains ran slightly slower than they had before.

I don't trust these people at all.

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The general sentiment was focused on fixing the T "now." Not "months if not years" of planning. The FTA gave the MBTA a pretty clear scope of work of what it needs to address from their perspective, and there are other ongoing Orange Line projects that are happening right now that probably benefit from shutting down the entire line at the expense of running rail service. It's not like this is hidden and out of view. Just go to the projects page on the MBTA's website and you can see all of the capital work that's happening right now, Orange Line included.

My point is that there's some having your cake and eating it too happening in the discourse.

Because your fellow colleague in TransitMatters doesn't seem to share the same sentiments as you based on this thread:

https://twitter.com/datadyne007/status/1554884128734052353

Sorry not sure how to make these embed in comments here.

Is the 25mph thing directly related to the OL Tufts restriction, or was that the hypothetical the one official used later on in the press conference? Toward the end, they used 10/25 numbers to make a point that they'd have to run revenue service on it first before lifting the speed restriction, but in that part of the press conference, they made clear that the actual numbers aren't necessarily 10 and 25 on every part with a speed restriction. The official probably shouldn't have used actual numbers in the hypothetical, but alas

If the best option is to close the T for a month to do necessary work, fine. But then there should be a well-established plan already in place for bus/commuter rail/etc alternatives. We shouldn't have officials still saying "we'll just move everyone to buses but we haven't bothered to look into how that will work".

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I was saying boo urns

The short notice of this points to it being mandated - nothing the T can do about that if true. But the lack of planning time can almost guarantee this will be even more of a disaster for commuters than it needs to be.

But I also wonder, given the general supply issues these days, whether the T and/or the contractors will have all the necessary construction materials/supplies (track/switches/whatever) to complete all the projects on such short notice. That would be a shame, and we probably will never hear about it if that's case, because they're ready to deem this a complete success before they've even started.

Despite that easily being the most accomplishable of the promises being made here, somehow I just don't believe it's going to happen.

Am I the only one who would not be surprised if the Orange line never comes back?

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never returns?

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n/t

That's an insane theory. It's not a bus line.

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Those are both fairly recent examples of rail lines bustituted "temporarily" that never returned. Note, I don't believe that will happen with the Orange Line, but we can't say it's completely insane to think the MBTA might do exactly what it has done on some other occasions.

Poftak said that by shutting down the entire line for 30 days, the T could get work - which was already being planned anyway - done that would otherwise take five years of weekend and overnight work.

There are 168 hours in a week. Let's be generous and assume it takes a few hours to get equipment and workers in and out of place. That still leaves 40 hours to get work done with weekend shutdowns - so what takes one month with a full closure should take four months with weekend closures, not five years. That's assuming they're not even bothering to do overnight work on weekdays.

I'm guessing what's actually going on is the FTA told them the tracks were so bad they needed to be replaced immediately, not over a few months.

And made it sound like a) They were doing this because it just is the right thing to do and b) It's really riders' fault, because people were demanding "bold" action, so you want "bold" action? Here's your bold action.

As for time, though, they did address that. They said a lot of the work takes a lot of setup and breakdown work. If it takes, say, two hours to get equipment to a site and get it ready for installation, then another two hours to dismantle the stuff so trains can pass by during business hours, that doesn't leave you a lot of time for actual work, at least in the overnight hours.

Just temporarily, they said.

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Even when it was closed, it wasn’t for 30 days.

In fact, they never gave an end date.

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As with most things in Boston, damned if you do, damned if you don't.

It's rough, but it's best to do it now, before the winter and only partially during the school year. People will adapt.

People will adapt.

They will? How?

When you need to spend four hours of your day commuting (or five, or six, or...) because of the euphemistically-called "service interruptions", your ability to "adapt" is limited. It's not like there are services poised to leap into action to make up for all the things that commuters can't do because they're spending their lives commuting. You can't pick your kid up from daycare, or get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour, or even get home in time to do anything but go to bed only to get up and do it over again. So how are people going to "adapt", exactly?

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But this will be like that and New Year's Eve, combined.

…. the T can hire enough people to do all this work all at once on all sections of the Orange Line?
Are the dispatchers pitching in? The T police? I suppose the ambassadors are all learning to lay rails.
Don’t tell me more Orange Lies!!

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Hearing this from him is painfully embarrassing. Again

Give every shuttle bus the same transponder that fire engines and ambulances have, which immediately interrupts the current phase of any traffic signal and changes the light to green for the approaching bus.

You know we don't have this in Boston, right? Fire engines in Boston run red lights with the hope that people realize what the lights and sirens mean. Ambulances sit in traffic when people don't see or hear them.

To be sure, I've seen this system in Natick, but not in Boston.

A white light starts blinking, and then the signal immediately turns to green for the direction from which the ambulance or fire truck is approaching. This could easily also work for buses.

No, this is not a thing in Boston. I've seen enough fire engines and ambulances being made to go through red lights to verify this. And I am talking about the Longwood Medical Area as well.

I mean, if you can point to a particular intersection in Boston that you've seen this in action, I will eat a proper course of crow, but the suburbs don't count, as even I have seen it in some towns.

In Somerville (yes if you want to call that a suburb, fine, but it's just an example, not a counter-argument), when there are emergency vehicles, a light on the signal pole illuminates and all of the lights will turn red while fire trucks or other emergency vehicles approach intersections. I don't think it's at every single one, but it's not exactly new or unique tech. I would be surprised if there aren't intersections like this on any jurisdiction's roads in Boston (i.e. BTD, MassDOT, MassDCR, etc.).

I don’t think that will make things quicker.

And yes, the City of Somerville is not a part of the City of Boston.

Where did I say the City of Somerville was a part of Boston?

What does it matter if you don't think the transponders will make things quicker? Seems irrelevant. No on asked.

And, yes, the OL shuttle route will need to stop at Assembly in Somerville, so, yes the shuttles will need to run through Somerville as part of the route.

All I asked was for confirmation that there isn't a single intersection in Boston with pretty run of the mill tech found elsewhere in the greater Boston area.

All I did was note that in the area where one would think they'd have it (LMA) they don't, and I can also say that they don't have them in Roslindale, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, or the Back Bay.

But if those who claim that they exist in Boston can show us where they are, I'd be glad to see them. Until proven, that Somerville has them means very little.

The original statement was that they should. They're very useful. Not sure what about that gave you heartburn because I don't think it's that divisive of a statement. Boston should get with the times.

The MBTA has a project that would put transponders on some buses. Not exactly germane to this discussion, but I've gone down a rabbit hole and I'm taking you all with me.

See: https://www.mbta.com/projects/bus-transit-priority Look for the "Transit Signal Priority" section.

This planned one month shut-down is much better than how the state and municipality have executed such impactful activities in decades past. Two examples of egregious past projects:
(1) in 1983, the State/MBTA shut down a stretch of the Green Line from Forest Hills to Brigham Circle, allegedly to execute repairs. In 2002 they were still squabling about this; there was even a federal court mandate to reopen this stretch of trolley line. In the end the line was never repaired/reopened.
(2) When the State/MBTA moved the Orange Line from Washington Street to the newly cleared freeway alignment, they promised to replace the Washington Street overhead with service of equal or better quality. They never kept their promise, not did they ever have any intent to do so.

To shut down the Orange Line for one month is much better than the open ended, broken promise plans noted above. In recent years there have been several similar projects executed with a promised end date, and which were done as promised. A couple: the bridge replacement on Comm Ave over the pike; the replacement of the Red Line bridge at Clayton Street, done in a weekend!

The State leadership and the MBTA are far from perfect, and there are still problems that drag on and on, but trying to aggressively fix the entire Orange Line in one month is a different better tack than how projects were handled in years past.