MBTA says it’s increasing publicity for red line shutdowns

Loudspeaker announcements about weekend closings of the Porter, Davis and Alewife T stops for the next five months will begin this week, an MBTA representative says. (Photo: Chris Devers)

While not saying publicity about weekend closings to the red line T stops at Porter, Davis and Alewife has been lacking, there will be more “aggressive” outreach before the shutdowns start Nov. 5, an MBTA representative said Wednesday.

Still, if you feel taken by surprise, you’re not alone.

The shutdowns and replacement bus service — for every weekend from November through March except for the two at the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, affecting more than 35,000 riders a week — are necessary for $80 million in repairs to an aging tunnel and rail system. And while Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority spokeswoman Lydia Rivera didn’t have the exact date talks began about the repair schedule, or when the plan was put in place,she said it hadn’t been recently.

“Talks have been ongoing for a while in terms of coordination and discussion of how to get the work done,” Rivera said Wednesday.

For most, though, a Boston Globe story posted Saturday and a story posted Tuesday on Gatehouse new sites such as The Cambridge Chronicle’s were the first people heard of closings that start Nov. 5. The Globe’s Eric Moskowitz said people he spoke with “expressed surprise that the MBTA had yet to post signs or announce the work, worrying that many would be caught off guard,” including a Mattapan resident who comes to Davis from Ashmont every day who said of T changes: “We will only find out at the moment we’re actually taking the train. I don’t think they do enough to let passengers know what [they’re] planning.’’

And there was more in the comments section, including one passenger who noted Saturday that “As of this morning this project is still not announced on the MBTA Web site. The only red line advisory is about the elevator replacement project at Porter which started in March” and:

“Why are we just hearing about this on Oct. 22? I ride the red line every day and there have been no announcements or signs regarding this significant project. I’m not opposed to the T making these much-needed repairs, but at least give your riders ample notice! The lack of communication is astounding.”

Banners have yet to go up, but there have been signs at the affected T stops, Rivera said, as well as notices on the authority’s Web site, tweets and “some media contact.” (She is correct in saying there are signs at T stops, but they are not always prominent; Porter, for instance, has two small posters on its four levels, while a large plastic sandwich board advertises an elevator outage on one side and is empty on the other.) She said this was a standard rollout for T changes, with more to come.

“We’re going to begin aggressive outreach this week. We’re confident our customers will be aware,” she said.

Although there are ongoing T stop loudspeaker announcements about train arrivals, station security and cleanliness and even messages from the head of the Registry of Motor Vehicles about texting while driving cars, Rivera said announcements about the weekend closings would start only this week.

“It’s hard to make all those announcements at once. We don’t want to confuse customers,” she said.

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