Sen. Brownsberger Surveying Residents About COVID-19 and the MBTA

State Sen. Will Brownsberger

State Sen. Will Brownsberger’s latest survey seeks to find out how the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted how people work and if they are using public transportation. Brownsberger, who represents Watertown Belmont and parts of Boston, posted the survey on his website on Tuesday evening. Questions include what people’s work situations are (working from home, going into work, unemployed), what people did before the outbreak and their plans for when the state reopens. Also, how much people are using the MBTA now, previously, and plans in the future. There are also questions about Massachusetts’ response to the Coronavirus and how financially secure people are feeling.

MBTA Closing Green Line from Lechmere for One Year, Replacing with Buses

The following announcement was provided by MassDOT:

Today the MBTA reminded customers that Green Line service between Lechmere and North Stations is replaced with shuttle buses every day beginning at the start of service on Sunday, May 24, for approximately one year to accomplish work as part of the Green Line Extension project (GLX) and the Green Line Transformation Program (GLT): the closure, relocation, and complete replacement of Lechmere Station and work to demolish, relocate, and reconstruct sections of the Lechmere Viaduct. During the Green Line diversion, GLX crews will remove the existing Lechmere Station, reconstructing a brand new Lechmere in a new location in Cambridge. The GLX team has also closely collaborated with the GLT team to close and replace the existing Lechmere Viaduct, which carries Green Line trains from Lechmere across the Charles River and into Downtown Boston. When complete, upgrades made to the Lechmere Viaduct will allow more trains to pass over the bridge, serving the new Lechmere Station and six new Green Line stations in Somerville and Medford constructed as part of GLX. Starting May 24, shuttle bus service will replace Green Line trains between Lechmere and North Stations every day, including weekdays and weekends.

MBTA Riders Required to Wear Face Coverings

Riders of MTBA buses, subways and other public transportation must wear face coverings as part of the Governor’s order to stop the spread of COVID-19. The following announcement was provided by MassDOT:

Effective Wednesday, May 6, MBTA customers must wear face coverings when using the MBTA. This requirement is pursuant to the Executive Order issued on May 1, which takes effect tomorrow. The Executive Order applies to any person over the age of two who is in a place open to the public, and expressly requires masks or face coverings when using public transportation or when in an enclosed or semi-enclosed transit stop or waiting area. The Department of Public Health notes that mask use by children two years of age and up to the age of five is encouraged but also at the discretion of the child’s parent or guardian with full information available via the Department of Public Health.

Three MTBA Bus Drivers Test Positive for Coronavirus

The following announcement was provided by the MBTA (Note the Cabot bus facility is located in South Boston):

Following three confirmed employee cases of COVID-19, the MBTA took immediate steps to protect its workforce and riders by enacting its facility maintenance protocols to clean and disinfect all exposed work areas, vehicles, and equipment at the T’s Cabot bus facility. The three confirmed cases are MBTA Bus Operators and were reported yesterday. “We ask the public to keep our employees in their thoughts, and I continue to express my deep gratitude to the women and men of the MBTA workforce who are serving a vital purpose in combatting COVID-19,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “To ensure we can protect the health and safety of our workforce, we strongly urge essential travel only, and we will continue our enhanced protocols for cleaning and disinfecting all vehicles, equipment, and surfaces.”

Consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), the MBTA has enacted its COVID-19 outbreak plan. We are disinfecting the employees’ workspace, vehicles, and equipment that they may have come into contact with. 

Through the public health tracing process, public health officials alert close contacts of the individuals who tested positive and will provide them with instructions for self-quarantine. Under health information privacy laws, the MBTA is prohibited from providing identifying information about a particular employee’s medical status.

MBTA Reducing Service in Effort to Curb Spread of Coronavirus

An MBTA bus in Watertown. The MBTA announced Monday that beginning March 17, service will be cut back in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, also called the Coronavirus. Most buses and trains will be running on a Saturday schedule, and the 504 express bus from Watertown Yard will also be impacted (click here to see the schedule). The T will also be cleaning vehicles and stations, according to the announcement. The MBTA released the following announcement:

Reduced Service for March 17, 2020

Updated Monday, March 16, 2020, 2:49 PM

At the start of service on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, trains and buses will run with reduced service to support efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

MBTA Installs Electronic Sign in Watertown to Give Real Time Updates

The MBTA’s new electronic signs will provide riders with live updates on buses. Watertown bus riders have a new electronic sign that tells them when they can expect buses to arrive. The solar-powered sign in Watertown Square is one of 18 E Ink (electronic ink) signs installed by the MBTA in several communities, including Watertown, Belmont, Cambridge, Boston, Chelsea and Everett. “The signs display stop-specific real-time information — bus arrival predictions and service alerts,” the MBTA announcement said. “This is the same information that’s available today on our website, in the Transit App, in Google Maps, and more.”

OP-ED: Sen. Brownsberger on MBTA Bus Bunching

An MBTA bus in Watertown. The following piece was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, who represents Watertown, Belmont and parts of Boston:

I often get complaints about bunching and related gaps in service on MBTA buses.  Sometimes you’ll see 4 buses go through together and sometimes you might wait 30 minutes for a bus that is supposed to come every 5 or 10 minutes. Bunching is a perennial challenge for MBTA bus operations, especially on the trolley lines (71 and 73) where buses cannot pass each other.  I recently sat down with senior bus operations managers at the MBTA to get an update on their efforts to keep service properly spaced. Current technology is a major barrier to addressing the bunching problem.  Other than the farebox, everything on the bus is run by a system originally procured almost 20 years ago called “Transit Master.”  Transit Master keeps records on who is driving the bus, displays the route signs on the bus, provides radio communications, makes the stop announcements, counts passengers and, most importantly, tells the driver in real time whether the bus is ahead or behind schedule. When the driver sits down in the bus at the start of their shift and logs in to the system, a schedule is loaded for their whole shift.  That schedule doesn’t change dynamically to reflect traffic conditions.  Congestion is built into schedules, but traffic is not entirely predictable and when traffic is especially bad, buses fall behind schedule.   Even if a bus is running behind schedule and the trailing bus has caught up, the trailing bus driver is being told by the system to keep pressing to stay on schedule, even if that means staying right behind the lead bus.

See How MBTA Projects Will Impact Subways, Trains in 2020

The following piece was provided by the MBTA and MassDOT:

Today the MBTA announced its plans to accelerate infrastructure projects for several subway lines and the Commuter Rail during calendar year 2020 to improve service, safety, and reliability on a faster timeline. These projects will include additional diversions of weekend service on all rapid transit lines and several Commuter Rail lines. In addition to a number of weekend diversions on the Green Line, the MBTA is planning for two one-month shutdowns on the Green Line: the C Branch in July and the E Branch in August. 

The 2020 Infrastructure Acceleration Plan will deliver these projects eight years faster than originally planned, and will result in track replacement, upgraded intersections, and station improvements. In 2019, the MBTA executed a plan to expedite projects for customers, delivering projects 2.2 years faster than originally planned across the Red, Orange, and Green Lines. Much of this work was completed through ten weekend shutdowns on the Red and Orange Lines through the core of downtown Boston. During those shutdowns, the MBTA was able to accelerate improvements by expanding traditional work windows and increasing the number of work activities that took place.