Full Orange, Red, and Blue line service unlikely to resume soon

Hiring, training constraints mean next year is possibility

SERVICE ON the Orange, Red, and Blue Lines will probably continue at reduced levels beyond Labor Day and likely into next year because of hiring and training constraints for subway dispatchers.

The T is racing to hire dispatchers to address a safety directive issued by the Federal Transit Administration, which raised concerns about employees in the operations control center working excessive hours and becoming fatigued.

In response to the directive, the T scaled back service in June on the three lines to Saturday levels and launched a hiring blitz to add more dispatchers. T officials said it was unlikely to meet new staffing goals in the operations control center until at least Labor Day, but the agency is under intense pressure to resume normal service faster.

At Tuesday’s MBTA board meeting, Assistant General Manager Aisheea Isidor said the agency needs 32 dispatchers to keep work hours under control.

T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an email that Isidor “provided information based on preliminary modeling that reflects the number of dispatchers necessary to give supervisors the flexibility to maintain service while operating under the new work hour rules, the fatigue management program, vacations, etc.  … The MBTA will revisit the reduced heavy rail schedule after it has adequate staffing to safely operate more service.”

Isidor said three former dispatchers working in other jobs at the MBTA have been brought back to the operations control center. The T has also recruited new employees, but the pool is limited based on background and training requirements. Six recruits are going through the 10-week training program now and Isidor said only six can be trained at a time because of limited space in the control center.

Board member Travis McCready put all the numbers together and concluded it would take a long time to reach the hiring goal.

“That puts us well into 2023,” he said. No one from T management at the meeting objected to the projection.

The reduced service has become a hot policy issue, with transportation advocates pressuring the MBTA to restore regular weekday levels of service as quickly as possible. The reduced service means an extra two to five minutes between trains depending on the line and time of day.

Poftak told the T board on Tuesday that ridership is down slightly, but he said the lower numbers are across all T services and not confined to the three subway lines.