T completes some Red Line signal improvements
Also adds more Red Line trains between 1 and 3 p.m.
THE MBTA SAYS it has restored automated signal systems between the JFK/UMass and Broadway stations that were damaged in the June 11 derailment, eliminating the need for manual signaling on that portion of the Red Line and cutting about five minutes off travel times.
The announcement came a few days earlier than expected. The focus of repair work now shifts to restoring automated signals service between JFK/UMass and North Quincy on the Braintree branch of the Red Line and between JFK/UMass and Fields Corner on the Ashmont section. T officials say they don’t expect Red Line service to return to normal until October.
Signals automate the process used to tell trains when it is safe to move forward. After the derailment knocked out signals systems in the area of the JFK/UMass station, the T deployed workers using radios and seven-foot poles (used to trip a hold on a train at track level) to manually signal when trains could move forward. With repair work completed between Broadway and JFK/UMass, the number of employees needed for the manual signal work drops from 57 a day to 41.
The T’s announcement also included a breakdown of service on the Red Line and the disclosure that three additional trains had been added to service between 1 and 3 p.m.
Ari Ofsevit and Chris Friend of TransitMatters, in a July 24 op-ed in CommonWealth, had questioned why the T cut back service at off-peak periods on the Red Line in the wake of the derailment. Post-derailment, they said, the T was running 9-10 trains per hour at peak times and six trains per hour off-peak. The two transit advocates suggested the T and its unions should work together to raise service levels during the off-peak period to match those during the peak period.
T spokesman Joe Pesaturo took issue with the suggestion in the article that labor issues were preventing the T from providing more service during off-peak hours. Pesaturo’s analysis of off-peak service used slightly different measurements, but it suggested the number of trains operating off-peak had only dipped slightly to between 15 and 17. “Despite running roughly an equivalent number of trains during that hour, customers would have experienced longer wait times at platforms because of slower train speeds, and yes, fewer trains per hour passing a fixed point,” Pesaturo said in an email.
Friday’s announcement included a chart showing the average number of trains operating at peak and off-peak through the downtown core. That chart indicated six trains per hour operated during peak periods immediately after the June 11 derailment, rising to between 9 and 10 trains per hour from June 17 to July 26. This past week the average number of trains was 12.8 during the AM peak and 10.2 during the PM peak.
Off-peak, the average number of trains running through the downtown core was five immediately after the derailment, rising to 7.6 between July 12 and July 26, and 9.3 this week.
The T disclosed on Friday that it had added three additional trains between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on the Red Line “to minimize any potential crowding during the middle of the day.”