MBTA delays: This is how the T handles winter weather

Red Line riders were shipped between Kendall and Harvard Stations earlier this month due to a cracked track.

Boston-area commuters woke up to more than just a slushy winter scene this morning.

The MBTA reported delays across the board. Buses 411, 429 and 112 and the Silver Line are operating on “snow routes.”

Inbound Blue Line service saw 15-20 minute delays due to traffic, and a medical emergency held up the Orange Line around 9:30 a.m. That line is still experiencing residual delays, according to T officials.

Earlier this month the MBTA saw delays when temperatures dropped into the single digits, so Metro asked, “What are the biggest issues facing the T during winter weather, and what is done to prepare for it?”

“The biggest issue facing the T during winter weather is the fact that the key elements of the trains are all powered by air and when frozen moisture occurs during snow storms or especially cold weather, that can impact doors to brake lines,” said Kelly Smith, a MassDOT spokesperson.

Switches may freeze and become caked with ice, so during icy weather, switches will be “exercised” overnight to try and prevent them from freezing during service hours.

“If that doesn’t prevent ice formation, we have workers physically go out and chip the caked ice off the switches,” she said.

MBTA bus drivers avoid dangerous roadways, which include steep hills, by using “snow routes,” and crews cover key bus routes to make sure snow is removed from roadways.

Some other tricks to avoid winter weather-related hiccups, according to MassDOT, include:

  • Servicing and winterizing our heavy and light rail vehicle air compressors and dryer systems to prevent residual moisture that could lead to freezing.
  • Checking that all heating systems are operating properly.
  • Checking and replacing all traction motor filters and filter covers on heavy rail fleet.
  • Checking and inspecting the function of sleet scrapers on the heavy rail vehicle fleets
  • Covering vent openings to keep powdery snow from affecting electric motor performance that could adversely impact propulsion systems.

But it wasn’t only the T that saw trouble today; motorists didn’t have it much easier.

The I-93 northbound high occupancy vehicle lane was closed between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. today due to a disabled bus, according to MassDOT. The transportation department also warned of a 40-mile backup on the southbound lane of I-93 this morning – from Derry, N.H. to Boston.

Despite the messy conditions, city officials in Boston said there was no parking ban in effect today.

Boston-area commuters vented their frustration on Twitter.

[View the story "MBTA customers reacts to winter weather woes" on Storify]


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