OP-ED: Update on Repairs to the MBTA’s Red Line

The following information was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger of Belmont who also represents Watertown and parts of Boston:

Please see also 7/26 update further below. MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak called me this morning to brief me about the Red Line’s troubles and his response. Below is a summary of our conversation. The Timeline for Service Restoration

Normally during rush hour, there are approximately 14 trains per hour. Unfortunately, at least through Labor Day, there will only be 10 trains per hour.

Tree Falls on Major Watertown Roadway, Impacts Bus

Bus service on the MBTA’s 73 route was impacted Sunday after a tree fell on Belmont Street in Watertown. A tree fell across a major road in Watertown Sunday afternoon, impacting MBTA bus service in Watertown. The tree fell on Belmont Street near Prentiss Street, according to an Instagram post from the Watertown Fire Department. It struck wires used by the MBTA’s 73 bus. View this post on Instagram Early this afternoon a large tree fell across Belmont Street at Prentiss Street.

MTBA CharlieCards Now Available in Watertown

The following information was provided by MassDOT:

The MBTA announced that the Town of Watertown has partnered with the T in the growing initiative to increase the availability of CharlieCards to residents who rely on public transportation. Under the initiative, free no-balance CharlieCards are available at the following Watertown locations:

•        Watertown Town Hall 149 Main Street Watertown, MA 02472

CharlieCards available in the Clerk’s Office on the ground floor and in the Planning Department on the third floor. •         Watertown Free Public Library 123 Main Street Watertown, MA 02472

The Town of Watertown joins a growing list of Cities and Towns partnering with the MBTA to increase access to CharlieCards. The City of Chelsea partnered with the MBTA in January 2019 with CharlieCards pre-loaded with $5 as well as free no-balance CharlieCards available in the Treasury Office of Chelsea City Hall. CharlieCards available in the City of Lynn and the City of Salem are also coming soon.

OP-ED: MBTA Behind on Climate Change Adaptation

State Sen. Will Brownsberger

The following piece was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger of Belmont who also represents Watertown and parts of Boston:

At a recent MBTA board meeting, it became alarmingly clear that the MBTA is behind in its planning for climate resiliency.  Add that challenge to the challenges of catching up on maintenance, assuring safety, and expanding service. Andrew Brennan, Senior Director for Energy and Environment, explained to the board that the MBTA completed a “high-level” vulnerability assessment of the system in 2017.  His presentation materials are here and his talk begins at 2:55 in this livestream of the June 10 board meeting. The 2017 high level assessment revealed the obvious: Namely, that the most exposed asset is the Blue Line and that the greatest risk to the Blue line comes from flooding due to sea level rise. Only months after the assessment, the winter high tide of 2018 flooded Aquarium station. As to the lowest lying assets on the Blue line (Aquarium station and the Orient Heights Maintenance Facility), more detailed engineering studies have been completed to identify just how they would be flooded and what can be done to protect them: for example, raising openings like vent shafts and raising the most water sensitive components like transformers.

OP-ED: State Senator on the Bad Week for the MBTA

The following piece was written by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, who represents Watertown, Belmont and parts of Boston:

It has been a very bad week for the MBTA. Two train derailments injured dozens and massively inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people. 

As I write, no one seems to know yet how long it will take to repair critical signal systems that the derailed train destroyed. Red line riders may have to endure diminished service and extraordinary rush hour crowding for days or weeks. While expediting repairs, the MBTA has rightly brought in an outside consulting team to review the events. The legislature will take great interest in the results of that review. 

For me, here is the big question: What will that review reveal about the work force and operational management of the MBTA? We knew that from time to time scheduled bus trips simply don’t happen because an employee doesn’t show up. We know that the MBTA’s derailment rate is high. We knew that a terrifying runaway train incident was triggered by an operator disabling a safety device. Investigators have already concluded that the recent green line derailment was operator error. 

While safety is always nominally the number one mission of any transit agency, how strong is the safety culture really? Are line managers overextended and under too much pressure to deliver timely service with inadequate staffing? What do these incidents say about employee morale and discipline? As legislators, we tend to focus less on operational conditions, which are hard to evaluate from outside, and more on the issues of system repair and service expansion. My impression has been and remains that the MBTA’s board and leadership team have been doing a very good job in turning around a state of physical system decay that was produced by decades of inadequate investment.

Find Out About the Bus Priority Lanes on Mt. Auburn St. at Meeting

Buses like this one on the 71 bus have been given priority heading toward Harvard Square on Mt. Auburn Street in the new Cambridge-Watertown Bus Priority Pilot program. The following information was provided by the Town of Watertown:

Did you know that more than half of all commuters using Mt. Auburn Street during rush hour are riding the bus? 

Watertown and Cambridge, working with the MBTA and DCR, created a bus priority lane on Mt. Auburn Street for the 71 and 73 buses, between Cottage Street in Watertown and Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge, to help move buses faster. Extensive data collection of the before and after conditions will be presented at a meeting on:

Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.46 Belmont St.

Marathon Monday Transportation Tips from the MBTA

The 123rd Boston Marathon will take place on Patriots’ Day, April 15, 2019. The MBTA provided information about getting around during the marathon, and getting to the finish line in Copley Square. See the info below. The Boston Marathon draws thousands of runners and spectators each Patriots’ Day—the third Monday in April. The 123rd Boston Marathon is April 15, 2019.

Proposed Changes to Buses in Watertown, Fare Hikes Discussed at MBTA Meeting

Residents learned about proposed changes to MBTA service in and around Watertown on Monday night at the Watertown Police Station. MBTA officials visited Watertown Monday night to talk about changes to bus routes, increasing T fares and offering new ways for riders to pay fares. Those who attended the open house at the Watertown Police Station’s Community Room were eager to see ways the public transit system could be improved. Changing Routes

One of the biggest topics of interest was the MBTA’s proposals to change to routes in efforts to make them more efficient and reliable. Among the routes that are part of the Better Bus Project are the 70/70A and the express buses that come and go from Watertown Yard.