Sunday, June 23, 2024

The green line retains a global speed restriction Friday. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The good news? The MBTA lifted global speed restrictions Friday on the red, orange and blue subway lines that had been announced at 10 p.m. Thursday. Only local speed restrictions remain in some areas on the three lines.

A global speed restriction remains on the green line and red line Mattapan branch.

The bad news? How the T got here in the first place.

The state Department of Public Utilities, while conducting what’s called geometry tests – a mechanized track test to detect defects invisible to the naked eye, such as twisting of a rail or the rails being too close together – asked for supporting documentation.

“The process of running these geometry tests is usually done and followed by a track crew and by an MBTA engineer,” transit agency interim general manager Jeff Gonneville said. “When a defect is identified, they will address those issues in the field, documenting those issues and providing that documentation back. In this particular instance … there is some documentation inconsistency and some documentation that does not exist.”

Gonneville, during a press conference at the State Transportation Building in Boston, said that when he became aware Thursday that the documentation was not up to par, he decided at around 5:30 p.m. to proverbially pull the breaks.

“After the review of the quality of that documentation, I directed operations to implement a global speed restriction between 10 and 25 mph until we can verify that all repairs are in place,” Gonneville said. “We now have in place block speed restrictions on red, blue and orange lines in areas that have not been inspected or that do not permit those speeds.”

Commendation and a warning

After the press conference, citizens group TransitMatters released a response.

“TransitMatters commends the MBTA general manager for being transparent with riders about the issues with track conditions and quickly acting out of an abundance of caution,” the group said, adding that it commends the Department of Public Utilities for its oversight efforts “after decades of inaction. Steps like these are critical to regaining rider confidence and [Federal Transit Administration] approval.”

TransitMatters has pressed the T for transparency on matters such as speeds and schedules.

“We need to see more of this transparency and quick action from the T, but we also need to improve service and make sure both the T and leadership on Beacon Hill understand and respond to the impact poor service is having on riders,” TransitMatters executive director Jarred Johnson said.

The TransitMatters statement added: “The slow zones, poorly run diversions and long headways are untenable. The MBTA has cut bus service for a year and a half and subway service for a year with no timetable to increase service. This is unacceptable and risks permanently driving away ridership.”

Looking for a full review

Gonneville said that although parts of the T are now back up to speed, “I am looking for a full and complete review of the circumstances that brought us here today.”

The governor and secretary of transportation have been made aware of the issue and are concerned, Gonneville said.

“This is all part of ensuring that the T is safe for our customers and safe for our employees,” Gonneville said. “I understand that these actions will add additional travel times to people riding the T and we apologize for these inconveniences.”

For several hours starting at 10 p.m. Thursday, the four subway lines were restricted to speeds between 10 to 25 miles per hour. At their peak, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority trains travel 40 mph.