At a time when elected officials have been demanding increased train service during the Sumner Tunnel project the MBTA and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) dropped a bombshell last week.
Last Thursday, the MBTA announced weekday subway service changes that took effect Monday on the Orange Line as well as the Blue and Red 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, Orange Line weekday trains began operating every 10 minutes in the mornings, 11 minutes between trains in the evenings, and eight to nine minutes between trains during mid-day periods.
Orange Line weekday summer service is typically six to seven minutes between trains during morning and evening peak periods, and every seven to eight minutes between trains during off-peak periods.
According to the MBTA the Orange Line remained approximately 50% below pre-pandemic levels.
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.