The T today announced its first step in responding to this week's critical safety demands from federal investigators: Starting Monday, it will run fewer trains on weekdays on the Red, Orange and Blue Lines to give employees at its Operations Control Center a breather until it can find and train more of them.
On the Red Line, the T will run trains on the Ashmont and Braintree branches every 14 to 15 minutes, instead of the 9 to 10 minutes it tried to run trains during rush hours and 10 to 12 minutes the rest of the time. The T says that riders who take the Red Line between JFK/UMass and Alewife will see trains every 7 to 8 minutes once this happens, instead of the 5 to 6 minutes at present.
On the Orange Line, trains will run every 10 minutes in the morning, 11 minutes in the evening and 8 to 9 minutes mid-day, compared to the previous 6 to 7 minutes during rush hours and 7 to 8 minutes in off peak hours.
On the Blue Line, trains will run every 7 minutes until 9 a.m., then 8 to 9 minutes the rest of the day. Until now, they'd been running every 5 minutes at rush hour, 9 to 10 minutes from the end of the morning rush until mid-days and then 5 to 6 minutes in the afternoon until the evening rush.
Weekend service and Green Line service won't change, the T says, adding that the T will run older, more frequent weekday schedules on all lines on the afternoon and night on July 4.
In one of four "special directives" issued earlier this week, the Federal Transit Administration said the Operations Control Center on High Street was undermanned by workers who weren't always properly trained for their jobs to monitor and manage trains along the system's four subway lines.
Taken together, MBTA has created a management process whereby OCC staff members are required to work without certifications, in a fatigued state, and often fulfilling multiple roles at once. MBTA’s failure to ensure that personnel within the Operations Control Center (OCC), including train and power dispatchers, are trained and certified, properly rested, and concentrating on one role at a time is a significant safety risk - one that is compounded by inadequate procedures .
The feds ordered the T to begin filing weekly reports with it on staffing for the coming week and to develop policies so that the employees are in a "rested state" and fully trained.
In announcing the changes that start Monday, the T said:
The MBTA is exploring multiple options to add capacity at the Control Center, including an aggressive recruitment campaign, offering bonuses, and potentially hiring back former dispatchers.
If dispatch capacity permits, there may be days when the MBTA can increase the number of trains in service. And as soon as sufficient dispatch capacity exists, the MBTA will revert to its previous level of service.