At every meeting leading up to the Sumner Tunnel restoration project that began earlier this month, MassDOT officials promised they were coordinating with the MBTA to ensure public transit options and that the T was committed to uninterrupted Blue Line service.
At a time when Eastie’s elected officials have been demanding increased Blue Line service during the Sumner Tunnel project the MBTA and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) dropped a bombshell on the community last week.
Last Thursday, the MBTA announced weekday subway service changes that took effect Monday on the Blue Line as well as the Red and Orange Lines.
MBTA officials said these changes are the result of staffing challenges among the ranks of subway dispatchers in the MBTA’s Operations Control Center. With a limited number of dispatchers, the service changes will allow the MBTA to schedule dispatchers in compliance with new FTA directives after an investigation into a recent spate of derailments, crashes and railroad crossing accidents.
On Monday, Blue Line weekday trains began operating every seven minutes until 9 a.m. and every eight to nine minutes for the rest of the day. Blue Line weekday summer service is typically five minutes between trains during morning and evening peak periods, every nine to 10 minutes between trains in the mid-day mornings, and every five to six minutes between trains in the mid-day afternoons.
The MBTA said the Blue Line volume was about 44% below pre-Covid ridership levels according to data collected last week.
“I share the neighborhood’s frustration with this change in service at a time when my colleagues and I have been asking for an increase in Blue Line service and not a decrease due to the ongoing Sumner Tunnel project,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “We will continue to work with MBTA and MassDOT officials to explore alternative transportation options for East Boston residents. While this was a direct mandate by the federal government and out of the MBTA’s hands the time is now to re-establish the East Boston/North End ferry service that was an enormous success during the Blue Line tunnel project in May. The ferry service gave residents here a viable commuting option to downtown while the Blue Line tunnel between Maverick and Aquarium stations was closed. My colleagues and I will continue to advocate for a return of this service throughout the duration of the tunnel project as well as to offset this newest obstacle for residents who rely on public transportation to work, doctor’s appointments and other necessary travel.”
In a statement last week the MBTA said it is exploring multiple options to add capacity at the Control Center, including an aggressive recruitment campaign, offering bonuses, and potentially hiring back former dispatchers.
“If dispatch capacity permits, there may be days when the MBTA can increase the number of trains in service,” said the statement. “And as soon as sufficient dispatch capacity exists, the MBTA will revert to its previous level of service.”
There is one exception to the revised summer schedule. In the afternoon and evening of Monday, July 4, the MBTA will provide regular weekday service in order to accommodate people attending Independence Day festivities.