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TransitMatters Analysis Confirms Success of Last Month’s Red Line Track Work

Workers wearing flourescent green jackets place new rebar under the subway tracks inside a subway tunnel. Behind them, three more workers watch over them from the top of an orange machine that has lights illuminating the work

Workers replace floating slabs underneath the tracks in the Red Line tunnel between Harvard and Alewife stations. Courtesy of the MBTA.

Last month, the MBTA closed the Ashmont and Mattapan branches of the Red Line for 16 days to repair tracks with the goal of eliminating persistent slow zones in the area.

Using open-source, real-time train location data from the MBTA, advocates from TransitMatters have evaluated whether the T lived up to its promises, and the results are extremely encouraging.

"The shutdown resulted in the restoration of historic travel times," wrote TransitMatters in a summary of their findings published on their website on Monday. "Red Line trains are finally moving along the Ashmont Branch as fast as they did in 2018, resulting in over a year of collective time saved by riders every day."

According to TransitMatters, a typical Red Line ride from JFK/UMass to Ashmont took 9.6 minutes in 2018, when there were no slow zones in place.

By September 2023, the average travel time from JFK/UMass to Ashmont had surged to 17.1 minutes, thanks to slow zones that covered the entirety of the Ashmont Branch.

After 16 days of intense construction work, the MBTA reopened the Ashmont Branch on October 30. In the Boston Globe, reporter Taylor Dolven collected rave reviews from riders: “Usually you start and stop quite a bit, but now you glide straight through,” said one regular rider.

Data from TransitMatters confirms those reports. On day one (October 30), there were still a handful of slow zones in effect, but travel times were already much, much better: the average trip from JFK/UMass to Ashmont took 12.4 minutes.

More slow zones seem to have been removed on Halloween, and in the past week, travel times have consistently been under 10 minutes, averaging 8.9 minutes southbound and 8.0 minutes northbound.

TransitMatters notes that "a single slow zone between JFK/UMass and Savin Hill southbound has persisted," but adds that even on that segment, trains are still running considerably faster than they did before the shutdown.

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