Green light for Green Line
Speed rules may be lifted, slow zones still persist
The MBTA may lift a speed restriction covering the entire Green Line by the start of service today, more than a week after the agency implemented a systemwide slowdown.
The Green Line is the final subway line to be relieved of its full 10-25 mph speed restriction, but like the remainder of the system, will continue to be plagued with a high number of slow zones until track defects are addressed.
The MBTA lifted the cap on the Mattapan Line on Thursday, and end-to-end slow zones were removed on the Red, Blue and Orange Lines last Friday, a day after the systemwide restriction went into effect.
Interim General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville said that by Saturday morning, 16.5% of the light rail system, which includes the Green and Mattapan lines, will be covered in speed restrictions, and slow zones will encompass 31.9% of heavy rail, or the Red, Blue and Orange lines.
“Riders should continue to plan for longer headways and additional travel time throughout the system,” Gonneville said at a Friday press conference. “This was a bold move, and it’s certainly something that I understand our customers’ frustrations, and do appreciate their patience.
“As we go forward and as we’re going through this process, we’re ensuring that the information that we’re collecting, and that the verification and validation process is precise. And because of that, it does take time.”
Gonneville directed operations to implement a systemwide 10-25 mph speed restriction last Thursday, March 9, following negative findings from a Red Line track inspection conducted by the Department of Public Utilities.
Following this audit and inspection, the DPU asked the MBTA to provide paperwork confirming the results of magnetized track inspections conducted in February for most lines, and March for the Green Line.
Gonneville said this documentation was incomplete, and in some cases, missing entirely, making it unclear what parts of the track were safe, or still needed to be repaired.
He said an independent third party is conducting a “detailed and robust inspection” as to why that paperwork was incomplete or misplaced, and what steps need to be taken “to ensure that doesn’t happen again.”
No MBTA employees have been fired or penalized for the lapse, but the ongoing investigation could lead to personnel changes, Gonneville said.
The lack of proper documentation is particularly troublesome in this instance, Gonneville said, as it would have supported socalled geometry car tests that identify defects invisible to the naked eye.
This testing is only performed twice a year on the heavy rail lines and four times a year on the Green Line, he said.
MBTA and third-party engineers must now “verify and validate” track conditions throughout the entire subway system, taking “detailed measurements” to determine whether a corrective action is necessary or if conditions allow speed restrictions to be lifted.
“We are making progress with our validations,” Gonneville said. “Over the coming days as well, we’re going to start making some incremental improvements and really start lifting some of these speed restrictions.”
However, Gonneville said the speed restrictions that require corrective actions will take longer to resolve and lift.
He described last week’s systemwide slowdown as a bold, but “very appropriate decision,” given the T’s “documentation breakdown.”
“It was a conservative move, but it was necessary at that moment to fully ensure the safety of the system,” Gonneville said.