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MBTA announces cuts in subway service due to short-staffed central operations center

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.

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Comments

because those have sucked for years in preparation for this eventuality.

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Voting closed 52

In business school we were taught about the death spiral - reduced service will lead to reduced ridership and the T will slowly circle the drain.

Charlie Baker you had one job.

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Voting closed 66

Baker may occasionally parrot some mild, politically-expedient rhetoric re public transit, but he's never shown by his actions that he considers it worthwhile.

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Voting closed 45

Interesting, I didn’t know that. Learn something new everyday….

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Voting closed 18

He was the Director of Budget and Finance waaaaay back in 1990 who created a scheme to borrow billions of dollars to cover the ~$18 BILLION overruns on the Big Dig. He and his GOP pals then decided to restructure the MBTA, put it on a "forward funding" model instead of covering expenses, AND saddled the agency with almost $4 BILLION in debt — debt which, I reiterate, came from astronomical cost overruns on a HIGHWAY project.

In other words, Charlie Baker has done more to ensure the parlors state of the MBTA's finances and good repair than any other single human being in all of history.

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Voting closed 78

This is a hiring issue. I’m well aware of the history of the big dig and the MBTA and it has nothing to do with the present problem of MBTA’s lack of hiring.

You forgot to add that when they saddled the MBTA with that 4 billion in debt they also added a new revenue stream. The MBTA gets .01 of every .0625 in sales tax collected. That equals over 1 billion dollars a year every year. About twice that of fare collection. That big dig debt has been paid off long ago.

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Voting closed 20

It hasn't.. look up "Debt Service" under the T's budget.

But I digress.

Baker was warned this would happen by Dr Beverly Scott (the former GM, who he fired). She warned him that many soon-to-be retirees were coming up and hiring needed to be ramped up so trainees would be seasoned by the time the soon-to-be retirees were ready to be fully retired.

But he didnt listen and went on the cut N outsource brigade. And yeah its backfiring now. Yeah some of this was pandemic but many retires left early (as many were already due to be retired) to avoid covid. This just exasperated the issue.

And now they can't hire & train people fast enough. sigh.

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Voting closed 51

The hiring issue is a national problem and they need to figure it out ASAP.

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Voting closed 10

Has fallen well behind it's projected revenue stream.

So this "real" increase in debt has been paired with a "projected" revenue stream that has failed to materialize.

The outcome is a a revenue shortfall that has been met with alternatives like fare increases and real estate sales.

Regardless, I think you are probably correct, this seems to be a simple (or nationally complex?) hiring issue.

But the devil is always in the details, I'll bet this is a pretty complex issue...

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Voting closed 25

I get hit up with really great job offer weekly. A lot of companies are having trouble hiring right now, but the MBTA needs to do something besides throwing their hands up.

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Voting closed 11

Stop covering up Baker's financial magic tricks. I am not even blaming him for what he did, at the time. It saved the big dig. But he has to acknowledge the funding problem and fix it.

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Voting closed 25

Unions are great, but really suck for entry level people. Why would anyone work for the MBTA with split shifts for $18/hour and deal with riders all day long?

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Voting closed 19

You are describing a part time bus driver. That isn't the problem.

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Voting closed 22

That’s the only way to get in because seniority. They’re not part time - they’re forced to work split shifts - 5am to 9 then 6pm-10 because, again, seniority.

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Voting closed 20

Among the work rules that exist in the industry (I believe as Federal regulation) is a 10-hour rest rule - nobody would have a shift that ended at 10pm and started at 5am, that's only 7 hours apart. Someone who started at 5am couldn't work later than 7pm.

Also, in practice, the shifts that start at 5am are in high demand by the most senior people, because they prioritize being done with their workday as early as possible. Which seems weird to me but is definitely the case.

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Voting closed 15

https://www.universalhub.com/comment/91819#comment-91819

I don’t know what the exact hours are and I’m sure they change, but split shifts sound brutal to me especially for what they’re paying entry level employees.

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Voting closed 11

And the problem isn't seniority, its training. Training is expensive, but the state hasn't been paying for it. The union supports training existing employees for promotion. You are drinking a lot of corporate koolaid to believe there are a bunch of people out there with the experience and training to walk into a dispatch job. Where exactly do you learn how to dispatch outside of the MBTA? Bus driver's start at $21.67 per hour, btw.

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Voting closed 16

A week with split shifts sounds like torture to me. That’s $45k a year at 40 hours, which isn’t guaranteed, to have the luxury to work split shifts. That’s barely above poverty. According to mbta.com, starting bus driver hourly rate is 21.13, which is even worse.

https://www.mbta.com/careers/get-started-mbta-bus-operator

Trainees are paid $16.25/hour, 40 hours/week for eight weeks of training
After training, new hires start at $21.13/hour, 30 hours/week, with the potential to advance to 40 hours/week

Why isn’t the union advocating for higher base salaries? You can make more working at chipotle and not have to deal with riders.

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Voting closed 8

It is legal to set lower pay for training. These trainees don't have their CDL yet. The union is advocating for higher salaries.

The fact that it is not competitive pay is Baker's fault, not the unions. you are sad troll that can't even figure out which side you are on.

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Voting closed 13

It isn't legal to set lower pay for training.

I quoted the mbta website so you’re wrong. Do I need to post the link again?

I am neither sad nor a troll. You however clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.

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Voting closed 7

Nice edit. Cherry on the cake is all the name calling. You seem like a real nice person to hang out with.

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Voting closed 7

I forgot. typing mistakes entitle you to win of course. you're a smartie troll.

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Voting closed 9

Then updated your posted and assumed that’s ok? That’s troll 101 behavior, but I have a feeling you don’t really know what a troll is, do you?

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Voting closed 10

auto correct is throwing stones? With that correction, i have said nothing wrong.

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Voting closed 4

The way the some of the T unions negotiated compensation doesn't make it easy for new hires. Old timers get something like 6 weeks of vacation but as a new hire you get 0 vacation your entire first year. (Of course there are multiple unions at the T, so YMMV depending on which job).

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Voting closed 7

That is changing. Many unions were cornered into giving up pay for new hires just to get cost of living pay. Things are different now.

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Voting closed 7

Can’t make this stuff up. I’m the sad troll though

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Voting closed 7

It's really scary that the T thought having unqualified, non-certified, fatigued people in these roles wasn't a big deal. Especially after the recent red line "incidents".

At what point can we just replace all senior management and start over? In the meantime, since we just learned that almost everything with the T is even worse than previously admitted, it would be nice for the Governor to use some of the budget surplus to fund these issues. If they don't, then riders will continue to pay with reduced service...often pushing even more people into driving.

As much as this sucks, I'm glad the T is currently under federal management.

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Voting closed 44

"At what point can we just replace all senior management and start over? "

Unfortunately it sounds like they cannot even hire for junior level positions. Firing the entire senior management would probably just result in the T shutting completely.

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Voting closed 21

The number one reason is safety. I talked to a few cops who informed me the more frequent the service the less crime. They said when service is spotty especially late at night thieves and sex offenders have longer times to target victims especially single females.

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Voting closed 30

Understaffing is literally killing people.

You can't increase the workforce immediately. Even if you pay enough, they need to be trained.

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Voting closed 13

Love the people in here demanding heads to roll at the T. They did roll. Why do you think we are in this mess. If you voted Charlie Baker you have no right to complain about the T.

These workers are pulling 20hr shifts to support his spending plan.

The T spends 25-30% of its budget on Big Dig debt and yet somehow its managements fault. Get rid of the debt. The legislature just doesnt do it despite the billions they have in surplus.

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Voting closed 27

Oh, yay, crowded cars of unmasked people!!

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Voting closed 22

Gutting the MBTA has been a priority for Baker admin from day one when he started cutting service like late night. His amazing management prowess has led to the green line expansion being 5 years and counting behind. He has a political bias against public transit, raising fares several times in a few years while saying a few years ago that the legislature was giving the MBTA too much money for projects his team wasn't able to do them all. Cutting service bc the feds say he has so incompetently led the T hurts us the riders while it just makes him and other republicans smile, as they think public transit is socialist but government funded roads and bridges (a new one coming to the cape soon) is not.

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Voting closed 31

passive-aggressive.

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Voting closed 7

I was on an Amtrak train to Baltimore when I read this. Couldn’t help but laugh, because this type of oversight has been needed for decades.

God bless the MBTA… And the Commonwealth…

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Voting closed 14

Our do nothing legislature lets our don’t care governor drive the T into the ground.

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Voting closed 13