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MBTA Board Updates, Guest Starring Mayor Wu

4:49 PM EDT on August 24, 2023

Boston City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu in front of the entrance to the Forest Hills T station

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu at the Forest Hills Orange Line station.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu sat in at today's monthly meeting of the MBTA board of directors after newly-enacted state legislation gave the City of Boston a seat on the T's board of directors for the first time earlier this summer.

Mayor Wu had been pressing for the City of Boston to get a seat on the MBTA's governing board long before she was elected as the city's Mayor.

"You all have no idea how excited I am to be here. This is such a gratifying and fulfilling moment for the entire City of Boston," said the mayor on Thursday morning.

"I'm here as a placeholder, because we hope to have someone seated officially representing the City of Boston by the next meeting in September," continued Mayor Wu.

But Mayor Wu didn't sit on the sidelines: over the course of the meeting, she spoke up more often than most other board members to ask questions.

The mayor inquired about the MBTA's progress on implementing a low-income fare, asked management to consider free commuter rail and Bluebikes passes during an upcoming Red Line closure, and asked about the T's capacity to perform its own track work instead of relying on third-party contractors.

The city is soliciting nominations for residents who can occupy its new MBTA board seat at boston.gov/mbta-board.

Hard truths about slow zones

It's now been a full year since the T shut down the entirety of its second-busiest subway line for an entire month to address a severe backlog in repair needs on the Orange Line.

At the time, former Governor Baker promised that the work done during the shutdown “will result in substantially improved service for riders, fewer delays, and faster Orange Line trips."

Hindsight has proven that Governor Baker could not have been more wrong.

"The folks who rely on the Red Line, which is now 40 minutes slower than at the start of this administration, or waiting on the 1 bus, which saw yet another service cut earlier this year, or the Orange Line, which is 10 minutes slower than before the (August 2022) shutdown – those riders could be forgiven for thinking nothing fundamentally has changed," said Jarred Johnson, executive director of TransitMatters, during the public comment period at the beginning of the board meeting.

During his General Manager's update, MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng said that while his crews are fixing tracks and removing speed restrictions at a rapid clip, they keep on finding new issues that need to be addressed.

"While overnight and weekend track work continues to tackle track conditions and lift speed restrictions, so does our inspection program... No surprise given the years of disinvestment on our infrastructure, these inspections do continue to find needs, resulting in new and extended speed restrictions," said Eng.

To that end, Eng also announced that the T was planning a 16-day closure of the Mattapan Line and Ashmont Branch of the Red Line (between the Ashmont and JFK stations) in late October.

"The track in this section is some of the oldest in our system and needs replacement," said Eng. "Following this work, 28 speed restrictions will be alleviated in this area. We will improve travel times along this section of the Ashmont Branch and the Mattapan Line."

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