General MBTA Topics (Multi Modal, Budget, MassDOT)

One thing to note about Blue Line ridership: if memory serves, the Blue Line took the smallest relative hit in ridership when the pandemic began. A lot of possible explanations for that, but one component could potentially be ridership that skews away from WFH (I assume at least in part due to serving the airport).
 
One thing to note about Blue Line ridership: if memory serves, the Blue Line took the smallest relative hit in ridership when the pandemic began. A lot of possible explanations for that, but one component could potentially be ridership that skews away from WFH (I assume at least in part due to serving the airport).
I also recall that there's a disproportionately higher percentage of residents along the Blue Line that are service workers compared to the other lines, so they're less likely to be working from home.
 
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Blue Line also saw some ridership boosts from the Tunnel closures, and to a lesser extent taking load from the Eastern Route during work there.
I pulled 2017 as a comparison because it has the same calendar as 2023. You can see that the recovery is higher during the tunnel closure over the summer. In comparison to the other lines, the weekends also have decent recovery (the Sumner does continue to be closed every weekend).

1702742918809.png
 
Speaking of Excel, I dove into the Green Line data related to the speed with respect to the recent closure between Babcock Street, Kenmore, Heath Street and North Station.

MBTA: As a result of this critical work, the newly installed track means the following safety-related speed restrictions are no longer in place:


Speed Restriction NumberRestriction Information and LocationStatus
549463Eastbound between Copley and ArlingtonRemoved
329396Eastbound between Arlington and BoylstonRemoved
334875Westbound between Boylston and ArlingtonRemoved
550535Westbound between Boylston and ArlingtonRemoved
330367Westbound between Boylston and ArlingtonRemoved
549432Eastbound near BU East on the B branchRemoved
325606Eastbound between Museum of Fine Arts and Northeastern on the E branchRemoved
524649Eastbound at Brigham Circle on the E branchRemoved
525852Westbound between Prudential and Symphony on the E branchRemoved
524566Westbound between Symphony and Northeastern on the E branchRemoved
525593Westbound between Symphony and Northeastern on the E branchRemoved
325612Westbound between Northeastern and Museum of Fine Arts on the E branchRemoved

For this analysis, I examined the stretch between Brigham Circle and Boylston, which contains all but one of the reportedly removed slow zones (549432, Eastbound near BU East on the B branch). Here are two cleaned tables of data of performance over this stretch, one showing daily data post-shutdown and the other showing monthly data pre-shutdown:

Service DateMedian Inbound MinutesMedian Inbound SecondsMedian Outbound MinutesMedian Outbound SecondsMedian Round-Trip MinutesMedian Round-Trip Seconds
12/6/2023​
15​
28​
17​
5​
32​
33​
12/7/2023​
15​
22​
17​
44​
33​
6​
12/8/2023​
15​
53​
16​
58​
32​
51​
12/9/2023​
15​
44​
16​
0​
31​
44​
12/10/2023​
15​
51​
15​
50​
31​
41​
12/11/2023​
15​
49​
17​
2​
32​
51​
12/12/2023​
15​
27​
17​
11​
32​
38​
12/13/2023​
15​
52​
16​
27​
32​
19​
12/14/2023​
15​
29​
16​
36​
32​
5​
12/15/2023​
15​
31​
16​
34​
32​
5​

MonthAverage Round-Trip MinutesAverage Round-Trip Seconds
January
31​
36​
February
31​
37​
March
32​
39​
April
32​
58​
May
31​
38​
June
31​
55​
July
32​
26​
August
32​
37​
September
34​
26​
October
34​
1​
November
32​
59​
December
32​
23​

For this analysis, I am only examining median trip times per day. Here, I will refer to the sum of the inbound trip time and the outbound trip time as the "round-trip time," for simplicity. For monthly averages, I used the mean of the median daily round-trip times.

Summarized findings:
  • Upon reopening on 12/6, round-trip travel times (32:33) were the slower than the five days prior to closure, but faster than the monthly averages since August.
    • Reopening day was a Wednesday workday and the five days prior to closure were the Wed-Sun of Thanksgiving week, so that is a mitigating circumstance.
  • In addition to the expected bump in speed on Thanksgiving week with lower ridership, it's clear that some speed improvements had been made prior to the actual closure itself.
    • 12/6 (reopening day) saw the fastest workday (non-weekend, non-Federal-holiday) round-trip times since 8/30, other than Thanksgiving week.
    • 11/22 (day before Thanksgiving) saw the fastest workday (technically not a Federal holiday) round-trip times since 3/8, just two days prior to The Great Slowdown.
  • On 12/9 and 12/10, the first weekend since reopening, round-trip travel times (31:44 and 31:40) were the third and fourth fastest days since August.
    • Behind only the Wed-Th of Thanksgiving week, immediately prior to the closure, which again demonstrates that some improvements had already been made.
  • 12/13-12/15 (Wed-Fri) saw the fastest workday round-trip travel times (32:19, 32:05, and 32:05, respectively), other than Thanksgiving week, since the summer.
    • Wednesday 12/13 saw the fastest workday travel time since August.
    • Th-Fri (12/14-12/15) saw the fastest workday travel times since July.
    • Approximately two minutes faster than September and October average travel times, which is not quite the promised 4.3 minutes of savings.
    • Within a minute of July and August travel times.
    • Still slower than May and June travel times.
Bottom Line

The MBTA has realized about half of the promised 4.3 minutes of savings so far, when measured as generously as possible against the September and October peak. Some of these time savings were realized in the week prior to shutdown, even when accounting for lower Thanksgiving week passenger volume. These improvements have brought travel times on the segment down to the fastest they have been since July/August, but still slower than May/June. With 8.7 minutes of time savings promised as a result of the 21-day closure on this same stretch in January, we can hope to realize the rest of the time savings.

Final Grade: B- or incomplete to be reassessed after the January closure.
 
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These improvements have brought travel times on the segment down to the fastest they have been since July/August, but still slower than May/June.
Is this due to the remaining slow zones that are still on this stretch, which may not have been in place in June?
 
Speaking of Excel, I dove into the Green Line data related to the speed with respect to the recent closure between Babcock Street, Kenmore, Heath Street and North Station.



For this analysis, I examined the stretch between Brigham Circle and Boylston, which contains all but one of the reportedly removed slow zones (549432, Eastbound near BU East on the B branch). Here are two cleaned tables of data of performance over this stretch, one showing daily data post-shutdown and the other showing monthly data pre-shutdown:

Service DateMedian Inbound MinutesMedian Inbound SecondsMedian Outbound MinutesMedian Outbound SecondsMedian Round-Trip MinutesMedian Round-Trip Seconds
12/6/2023​
15​
28​
17​
5​
32​
33​
12/7/2023​
15​
22​
17​
44​
33​
6​
12/8/2023​
15​
53​
16​
58​
32​
51​
12/9/2023​
15​
44​
16​
0​
31​
44​
12/10/2023​
15​
51​
15​
50​
31​
41​
12/11/2023​
15​
49​
17​
2​
32​
51​
12/12/2023​
15​
27​
17​
11​
32​
38​
12/13/2023​
15​
52​
16​
27​
32​
19​
12/14/2023​
15​
29​
16​
36​
32​
5​
12/15/2023​
15​
31​
16​
34​
32​
5​

MonthAverage Round-Trip MinutesAverage Round-Trip Seconds
January
31​
36​
February
31​
37​
March
32​
39​
April
32​
58​
May
31​
38​
June
31​
55​
July
32​
26​
August
32​
37​
September
34​
26​
October
34​
1​
November
32​
59​
December
32​
23​

For this analysis, I am only examining median trip times per day. Here, I will refer to the sum of the inbound trip time and the outbound trip time as the "round-trip time," for simplicity. For monthly averages, I used the mean of the median daily round-trip times.

Summarized findings:
  • Upon reopening on 12/6, round-trip travel times (32:33) were the slower than the five days prior to closure, but faster than the monthly averages since August.
    • Reopening day was a Wednesday workday and the five days prior to closure were the Wed-Sun of Thanksgiving week, so that is a mitigating circumstance.
  • In addition to the expected bump in speed on Thanksgiving week with lower ridership, it's clear that some speed improvements had been made prior to the actual closure itself.
    • 12/6 (reopening day) saw the fastest workday (non-weekend, non-Federal-holiday) round-trip times since 8/30, other than Thanksgiving week.
    • 11/22 (day before Thanksgiving) saw the fastest workday (technically not a Federal holiday) round-trip times since 3/8, just two days prior to The Great Slowdown.
  • On 12/9 and 12/10, the first weekend since reopening, round-trip travel times (31:44 and 31:40) were the third and fourth fastest days since August.
    • Behind only the Wed-Th of Thanksgiving week, immediately prior to the closure, which again demonstrates that some improvements had already been made.
  • 12/13-12/15 (Wed-Fri) saw the fastest workday round-trip travel times (32:19, 32:05, and 32:05, respectively), other than Thanksgiving week, since the summer.
    • Wednesday 12/13 saw the fastest workday travel time since August.
    • Th-Fri (12/14-12/15) saw the fastest workday travel times since July.
    • Approximately two minutes faster than September and October average travel times, which is not quite the promised 4.3 minutes of savings.
    • Within a minute of July and August travel times.
    • Still slower than May and June travel times.
Bottom Line

The MBTA has realized about half of the promised 4.3 minutes of savings so far, when measured as generously as possible against the September and October peak. Some of these time savings were realized in the week prior to shutdown, even when accounting for lower Thanksgiving week passenger volume. These improvements have brought travel times on the segment down to the fastest they have been since July/August, but still slower than May/June. With 8.7 minutes of time savings promised as a result of the 21-day closure on this same stretch in January, we can hope to realize the rest of the time savings.

Final Grade: B- or incomplete to be reassessed after the January closure.

Following up because there have been notable travel times in recent days!

As a reminder, this is specifically about Brigham Circle <-> Boylston:

Service DateDay of WeekMedian Round-Trip Travel TimeNotes
12/16/2023​
Saturday
32:05​
  • Faster than any day in September or October.
  • Faster than any month's average since June.
12/17/2023​
Sunday
30:38​
  • Second fastest day since June.
  • Third fastest since The Great Slowdown (TM) of March.
12/18/2023​
Monday
32:43​
  • Slowest in a week, yet still:
    • Faster than any day in October.
    • Faster than any month's average since August.
12/19/2023​
Tuesday
32:00​
  • Fastest workday (excluding the day before and after Thanksgiving), since July.
  • Faster than any month's average since June.

Bottom Line: Since Thanksgiving week (the week prior to the closure), we have been seeing the fastest travel times on this stretch of the Green Line since the summer, about two minutes down from September/October. While it's still shy of the promised 4.3 minutes of improvements, it's certainly improved. This stretch is part of a 21-day closure scheduled for January that has a modeled 8.7 minutes of time savings.

I will continue to monitor and continue to update when appropriate (unless informed that this type of spam is unwelcome).

EDITED: Wording/clarity
 
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D branch is slow zone free!
There were 2 major windy and rainy storms that struck during th D branch closure, one during the first night of the closure, and one during Monday morning in the last few days of the closure.

It is a miracle they still completed on time, considering that work also got halted for an afternoon during the first week at Riverside station due to a close call issue.

Also, that's a lot of restricted track, look at that (see below).

And the Red Line is still the worst one now once again.

1703167081015.png
 
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Eng's interview with Radio Boston. Excerpts, emphasis mine:
"Through open dialogue, we want our employees to report incidents. Some of the things that we've heard is that in the past, they would report things, and they felt like management wasn't listening, which is why [transparency] is very important for me. I've had a lot of town hall visits with workforce, going to the different yards, going to different facilities, and even just riding the trains, talking to the operators."
"I have to give a lot of credit to Gov. Healey And her administration. Even before I took this role, they were focused on our workforce, and they knew that we needed to rebuild that workforce. And that impetus, that support, led us to where we now have not only record hiring for this year, but we're rebuilding at the bottom up."
On the early re-opening of the commuter service in Lynn:

[...]

"As we talk about the needs moving forward, I'm really serious about this — we demonstrate that we can deliver on our commitments, that we can deliver projects on time, on budget, even under budget. That is the best way to [advocate for funding for the T.] That is the best way [to demonstrate that] we will deliver and use taxpayer dollars as best as possible giving them what they deserve.
"A lot of the things that are going on for today gives us the time to now better plan longer range and deliver on larger scale capital projects. We're gonna be able to do cyclical maintenance and maintain the system. I will make sure that whatever dollars we're given, we invest in that. What I need to do then is to strategize how to deliver modernization and expansion projects and not sacrifice safety and and state of good repair.
"The idea is how to ensure that not only are we providing the robust levels of service, but we're providing direct routes, shorter trips and a cleaner way of delivering mass transportation. And that's not only buses, but as we look towards the future of commuter rail, all of these things are key components to protecting the environment for future generations."
 
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Just a general curiosity: would the Berkeley St headphones for Arlington ever have a use in being reopened? I recall them being useful while the station long t was being renovated when I was very young...

They've kept them there, but they're just closed off by a gate.
 

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Just a general curiosity: would the Berkeley St headphones for Arlington ever have a use in being reopened? I recall them being useful while the station long t was being renovated when I was very young...

They've kept them there, but they're just closed off by a gate.
That’s the plan. As part of the latest accessibility blitz, the MBTA plans to add three elevators to the Berkeley Street lobby and reopen it as a full entrance.
 
Just a general curiosity: would the Berkeley St headphones for Arlington ever have a use in being reopened? I recall them being useful while the station long t was being renovated when I was very young...

They've kept them there, but they're just closed off by a gate.
Is "headphones" some obscure bit of transit terminology, or autocorrectese for "headhouse"? :)
 
That’s the plan. As part of the latest accessibility blitz, the MBTA plans to add three elevators to the Berkeley Street lobby and reopen it as a full entrance.
I hadn't known about some of the new headhouses/lobbies being designed/built such as Broadway, Arlington; thanks a lot for sharing this!

Yes, headhouses, not headphones 😂

I got to the Sullivan accessibility improvements, and I was hoping for something about a future for East Somerville access - maybe one day! For now, I suppose that's still a reasonable transit pitch.
 
I got to the Sullivan accessibility improvements, and I was hoping for something about a future for East Somerville access - maybe one day! For now, I suppose that's still a reasonable transit pitch.
MBTA just made a real estate transaction in which they noted access to East Somerville will be improved with Somerville and private funds. The land"s primarily intended for an expanded GLX yard and new Maintenance of Way facility, and considering it's a real estate transaction at this point, we have a ways to go, but there is traction on this.
 
MBTA just made a real estate transaction in which they noted access to East Somerville will be improved with Somerville and private funds. The land"s primarily intended for an expanded GLX yard and new Maintenance of Way facility, and considering it's a real estate transaction at this point, we have a ways to go, but there is traction on this.
I think @AndrewOnTheMBTA is talking about a westside entrance for OL's Sullivan Square station located in the East Somerville neighborhood, whereas you're talking about GL's East Somerville station.
 

Paywall bypass here.

Nothing we don't already know, but still a big confidence boost regardless:
The percentage of subway tracks where trains are forced to slow down because of defects dipped below 20 percent this month for the first time since the MBTA slowed down trains throughout the entire subway system in March, according to the agency’s dashboard. Now 16 percent of the tracks have slow zones.
 

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