MBTA officials are touting their planned improvements and hoping to instill some confidence in wary riders, particularly those on the Red Line, who experienced significant delays last week.
Systemwide, the “T” has been undergoing a massive overhaul in preparedness, focusing in part on how it handles Boston winters. The historic snowfall during the 2015 season plagued the rail system —which is partly above ground and susceptible to the weather — with long delays and service interruptions.
This year, by Christmas, the MBTA plans to have installed new third rails along the outdoor sections of the Red Line except the Longfellow Bridge. That structure, which crosses over the Charles River and is under construction, shuttles the Red Line between Cambridge and Boston.
On Nov. 21, service reliability on the Red Line dropped. The cause was two disabled trains and slippery rail conditions between Braintree and JFK stations, said Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Chief Operating Officer Jeff Gonneville. He attributed the slippery conditions to “residual dew” that froze into ice on the rail, which contributed to a peak period performance reliability of 85 percent.
Over the 30 days leading up to Nov. 21, the peak performance reliability was 90 percent, according to MBTA data.
To help riders prepare for interruptions, the MBTAhas introduced real time service alerts on its website in recent years
A Twitter page also keeps riders up to date on the latest service alerts, something Gov. Charlie Baker praised on a WGBH appearance Monday.
“I think it’s good that the T is being incredibly transparent about what’s going on,” he said.
Still, rider frustration is no secret. The constant delays and service interruptions have even become fodder for local comedians like Tory Bullock, who famously filmed a “breakup” video with the T in October.
“We actually have two shutdowns this weekend to try to accelerate the work,” Todd Johnson, deputy chief of operations for service performance, told the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board.
Gonneville said the Red Line service diversions between Braintree and Quincy Adams and Ashmont and JFK stations show the T is “really changing gears” to complete work ahead of winter weather.
Johnson said the number of snowplows affixed to Red and Orange line cars — both of which operate partially outdoors —would double from 20 to 40 per line. He told State House News Service the “goal” is for each train set —which is six cars long —to have a plow at the first and last cars. The T will again use cars that are closed-off to customers for anti-icing operations, Johnson said.
The governor has set a goal of spending $1 billion a year on the core MBTA system. He predicted the MBTA would secure more riders if investments in its core system lead to more reliable service by upgrading the system’s “falling apart” infrastructure.
The planned massive investment of funds, he added, will “translate into a more reliable and dependable system, which I believe will put more people on the system in the first place. I mean, even if you want to ride public transportation, if you don’t think it’s going to get you from where you are to where you need to go in the time you have allotted for it, you’re probably going to get in your car.”
— State House News Service contributed to this story.