Transit Dispatches: Updates From the September MBTA Board Meeting

Use of the "emergency access ramp" illustrated above eliminates the need for outbound Silver Line buses to drive an extra half a mile through congested Seaport streets to get to the Ted Williams Tunnel. Courtesy of the MBTA.
Use of the "emergency access ramp" illustrated above eliminates the need for outbound Silver Line buses to drive an extra half a mile through congested Seaport streets to get to the Ted Williams Tunnel. Courtesy of the MBTA.

The MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board met for the first time in over a month today, in a joint meeting with the MassDOT board of directors. Here’s a roundup of what they discussed:

Successful Seaport Shortcut for Silver Line

In a test run on August 29, the MBTA ran its Silver Line buses down the so-called “emergency access ramp” from the Seaport to the Ted Williams Tunnel – a shortcut (illustrated above) that eliminates a congested half-mile detour from its typical route.

The test run typically shaved 3 to 8 minutes from each trip – and saved 17 minutes in one case. MBTA staff recommended “permanent implementation” for the route change.

New Commuter Rail Service to Foxboro, and a Tease for Better Fairmount Service

A fall schedule change to the commuter rail system will introduce a new weekday pilot service to bring 10 trains a day to and from Foxboro. As part of that pilot, the T is also trying out a new “reverse commuter” discounted fare to help fill trains running in the off-peak direction. Riders bound for Foxboro in the morning, or towards Boston in the evening, will pay about half of the regular fare.

The Foxboro pilot will generally use the Northeast Corridor rail line, not the Fairmount Line, to connect with the Ruggles and Back Bay stations. During board discussion of the pilot, Secretary Stephanie Pollack assured Fairmount Line advocates that plans are still advancing for better commuter rail service through Dorchester and Mattapan, possibly as soon as Spring 2020. “We’re actively working with the city… for increased Fairmount service,” said the Secretary.

Red Line Derailment Updates

Deputy General Manager Jeff Gonneville provided a detailed update on the June 11 derailment on the Red Line. Investigators have determined that a broken axle caused the disruptive crash after another part, a “ground ring” designed to carry electrical current away from the train, failed.

The failure of the ground ring caused repeated electrical shocks that weakened the axle’s steel over a period of six months. Gonneville reported that the MBTA has updated its train inspections processes to pay additional attention to the axles and their grounding systems.

Meanwhile, repair work to bring the Red Line up to its usual level of service by repairing damaged signal systems is still going on, three months after the derailment. The Ashmont branch finally got its signals systems finished last week; the last segment for repair work, between the JFK/UMass and Quincy stations, is expected to be fixed in October.

More new cars for the Orange Line ‘this month’

A second new Orange Line train is expected to hit the rails “this month,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak in his report to the board, with additional new equipment arriving every few weeks thereafter. “We look forward to having a second train out there and then putting more and more of them in service as we go,” said Poftak.

Red-Blue Connector Update

The MBTA has also engaged a consultant to update past studies and cost estimates for the long-delayed “Red-Blue Connector,” which would extend the Blue Line to the Charles/MGH station on the Red Line. By the fall of 2020, the agency expects to have “a constructable alternative” in hand to begin environmental permitting and detailed design work.

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