New data from TransitMatters show the Orange Line is slower than before the 30-day shutdown, despite assertions from the MBTA that it would be faster and more reliable.
Slower trips are due to a large number of speed restrictions that remain in place along the Orange Line, including those that the MBTA added after service resumed last month, said Seth Kaplan, a software engineer who volunteers at the TransitMatters Lab.
“You add on top of it, they cut service to the Orange Line,” Kaplan said, referencing subway service cuts that the MBTA has extended through the fall season. “There are less trains, the trains are more crowded, less reliable, and they’re slower on top of everything.”
“So, it’s kind of a nightmare to say the least,” he added.
Prior to the shutdown, speed restrictions were slowing down the Orange Line by about 6.9 minutes, Kaplan said, but now there’s about twice the amount of slow time, at 14.3 minutes. That number was as high as 30 minutes on Sept. 30, nearly two weeks after service resumed.
Trains are technically slower now than when they were shut down following an Orange Line derailment in March 2021, when there was about 12 minutes of slow time, he said.
Kaplan said TransitMatters is attributing the slower trains to the increase in speed restrictions that are in place, compared to what was seen prior to the monthlong shutdown.
He said there are now nine southbound slow zones, compared to the four that were in place prior to the shutdown. On the northbound side, there are six now compared to the two in place before.
Kaplan noted some of those slow zones are paired at the same station, but said it’s “still concerning” that there are new slow zones in place that the MBTA didn’t tell the public about.
Throughout the closure, MBTA officials said six speed restrictions would be addressed with the work completed during that 30-day period and would be lifted within five to seven days after the line reopened.
When that didn’t happen, MBTA officials then said the slow zones would be lifted in the “coming days.” After inquiries, officials later admitted that temporary slow zones had been added to complete further construction along the Orange Line.
“They not only didn’t fix all the ones they said they would, but there are new net slow zones,” Kaplan said. “It’s stunning, the lack of transparency from the MBTA on this issue. We should expect better.”
MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said for the vast majority of the line, trains are operating at speeds between 25 and 40 mph. There is a temporary speed limit of 10 mph between North Station and Assembly Square, he said.
At the conclusion of the Orange Line closure, he said “teams determined that with crews and materials already in place, they could take advantage of the accessibility to start work on additional lower priority projects that would need to be addressed at a later date, now.”
Pesaturo said the MBTA will continue to perform maintenance work across the line, as necessary, and the agency appreciates riders’ patience as secondary construction outside of the original scope of work continues between North Station and Assembly Square.
“Customers will experience faster train service in the coming week as train speeds are increased along more segments of the line,” he said. “The MBTA understands its riders’ frustration with speed restrictions, but safety and maintenance must take priority.
“The MBTA looks forward to providing the faster, safer, and more reliable service they deserve.”