A correction has been added to this story. The T says it computes time savings based on roundtrips, so a 33-minute improvement would be on an end-to-end roundtrip of 140 minutes, not 70 minutes as the original story suggested.
MBTA GENERAL MANAGER Phillip Eng, who has come under fire for failing to tell riders when their commutes will improve, took a significant step in that direction at Thursday’s board of directors meeting.
In recapping the T’s plan to shut down the Red Line between JFK/UMass and Ashmont stations for two weeks in October to perform track work, Eng promised that trip times would improve significantly.
“When we are done with this work through the end of November, it is anticipated that we will be giving back a total of 42 minutes to our riders – the majority of that is on the Red Line,” he said. He added that Red Line commute times would drop by 33 minutes while commute times on the Mattapan Line, which is also being shut down for repairs, would drop by five minutes.
Since the Red and Mattapan line work is scheduled to run from October 14 to October 29, it wasn’t clear what exactly Eng was saying with his reference to the end of November. It also wasn’t clear how time savings of 33 minutes on the Red Line and five minutes on the Mattapan Line would add up to 42 minutes of total time savings.
T spokesman Joe Pesaturo did some checking and provided some clarity. He said the work on the Ashmont Line and other yet-to-be-announced work planned for November would cut travel times on the entire transit system by 42 minutes. The biggest time savings – 33 minutes — would come on the Red Line.
With all of the current slow zones, Pesaturo said, it currently takes more than 70 minutes to travel the Red Line from Alewife to either Ashmont or Braintree at the southern end of the line, a distance of less than 20 miles. He said the travel time for an end-to-end roundtrip is expected to be reduced by 33 minutes, a drop of 24 percent, after track work is completed by the end of November.
“There is much work to be done on the sections of the Red Line that do not include the Ashmont branch,” Pesaturo said in an email. “The 33-minute projection is for a train that does an end to end roundtrip. Today a trip from Braintree to Alewife is more than 70 minutes.”
Cutting a 140-minute round trip on the Red line to 37 minutes is a major improvement, and it’s unclear why the MBTA and Eng aren’t leading with that information.
Eng has been criticized for failing to lay out a plan or timetable for improving service levels. Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi raised that issue on Wednesday, former state transportation secretary Jim Aloisi did it last weekend in CommonWealth, and CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas did it last month.
Eng’s brief comments on Thursday don’t come anywhere close to laying out a master plan for fixing the T. But, once deciphered, they represent one of the first times the T has tried to spell out in concrete terms what repair work would mean for riders.
“We’re doing what we promised to the public,” Eng said on Thursday. “We’re giving them back invaluable time in their day that they’ve lost to us.”
Now the T has to deliver.
Familiar script: At an MBTA board of directors meeting, General Manager Phillip Eng follows a familiar script, focusing on the process he is pursuing to improve the T rather than addressing the latest problem – in this case, slow zones on the Green Line extension, which is less than a year old. Only when questioned about the GLX slow zones did Eng say he doesn’t have answers yet. One of his top aides said he thought the GLX track was laid down incorrectly. Read more.
O’Brien files suit: Shannon O’Brien files a lawsuit against Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, alleging Goldberg unlawfully removed her as the chair of the Cannabis Control Commission. Goldberg, meanwhile, breaks her silence on the suspension, saying she took the action after a commission member and a staffer made allegations about O’Brien’s behavior. She said she hired a law firm to investigate and is currently reviewing the firm’s report. Read more.
Zoning dust-up: Greg Reibman, president of the Charles River Regional Chamber, says Newton’s new zoning plan is needed. It is polarizing the community because it does more than required to meet MBTA Communities guidelines, he says, but also because of a campaign that misrepresents the height, density, and location of possible new buildings. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
The Senate passes and sends to Gov. Maura Healey a tax cut package that will cost $1 billion once fully implemented. (Boston Herald)
Mayor Michelle Wu’s proposed ordinance aimed at authorizing police to remove encampments in the troubled Mass. and Cass area of Boston is on the ropes, with city councilors from both the left and right taking shots at it during a City Hall hearing. (Boston Globe)
Wu is looking to hire a project manager to oversee the rebuilding of the Long Island bridge. (Boston Globe)
Former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield and his wife are battling cancer and ask for privacy after former teammate Curt Schilling, against their wishes, revealed they were ill on his podcast. (Associated Press)
Nurses at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute branch in Methuen are locked out after striking for one day. (Eagle-Tribune)
With a government shutdown looming, MassLive breaks down what could be open and closed in Massachusetts. Speaker Kevin McCarthy holds one of the most powerful posts in Washington, but with a four-vote majority he’s operating from a position of weakness, granting one concession after another to a small band of hard-right Republicans who have not been mollified by his moves. (New York Times)
At a congressional hearing, US Rep. Seth Moulton raises the challenge of dealing with King’s Beach in Swampscott, which he described as the most polluted beach in Massachusetts. (Daily Item)
Former governor Charlie Baker and former lieutenant governor Karyn Polito are wading into the Springfield city council race, backing at-large candidate Jose Delgado, who used to serve in the Baker administration. (MassLive)
A newly released report on Uxbridge school dysfunction offers a timeline and top causes of the sudden resignations of six school committee members this spring. (Worcester Telegram)
Northbridge has begun using locked pouches to keep students from looking at cellphones during class. (Worcester Telegram)
A plan to tear up train tracks to make room for a 6 1/2-mile bike path in Bourne – backed by local officials and state lawmakers – is facing a fight from a waste disposal owner who says it would destroy his rail-based business. (Cape Cod Times)
The MBTA is creating a new climate office to reduce the transit authority’s environmental impact. (WBUR)
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation will replace unreliable electric vehicle chargers on the Mass Pike under a different contract. (Worcester Telegram)
Former Methuen police chief Joseph Solomon has been indicted on 17 fraud charges. (Boston Herald)
The Wall Street Journal marks six months since reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained by Russian authorities on what the paper says are bogus spying charges by issuing renewed calls for his release, including in a letter released by his family.
Dan Kennedy and Ellen Clegg go public with their new book, What Works in Community News. (Media Nation)
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a powerful presence in the US Senate who more recently has been at the center of debate over elected officials persisting in office despite advanced age and serious illness, has died at age 90. (Washington Post)