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Major delays on Orange Line — again — call renovations into question

“A month of shut down with nothing to show,” said one disgruntled rider. The Orange Line’s continued track record of delays and power outages challenges the alleged success of renovations.

Passengers were stuck inside a new Orange Line car that stopped at Austin Street near Bunker Hill Community College after losing power early Saturday morning. Transit police and Boston Fire Department members escorted passengers to the street where they boarded buses.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The first sign that the Orange Line was experiencing yet another round of train troubles came bright and early Saturday morning.

“Delays of about 15 minutes due to a train with a mechanical problem near State Street,” the MBTA tweeted at 7:37 a.m. Within an hour, delays were extended twice before service shut down completely between North Station and Sullivan Square.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in a statement that a train lost power just south of Community College station, for reasons that were unclear. MBTA personnel were unable to restart the train, he said, and had to escort over 100 passengers along the tracks to the nearest station.


Much of Saturday morning, service was suspended between Wellington and Back Bay “while the MBTA determines the root cause of the power problem and performs inspections of the tracks in that area,” Pesaturo said. Shuttle buses were running between Wellington and North Station, he added, and riders headed downtown were encouraged to take the Green Line between North Station and Copley instead.

Pesaturo said trains running from Forest Hills to Back Bay were also experiencing delays, and that the “root cause” remained undetermined.

Orange Line passengers were escorted to transit buses near Bunker Hill Community College on Saturday morning after their train was disabled.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Saturday marks the latest transit failure in the Orange Line’s seemingly endless saga of delays and power outages. A month-long shutdown of the Orange Line over the summer, initiated after a train caught fire on a bridge near Somerville, was expected to “complete five years of improvements in 30 days and bring track and signal infrastructure into a state of good repair,” according to an MBTA statement from September.

Included in the renovations was the replacement of 14,000 feet of rail, 3,500 feet of track, and 2,800 rail ties, in addition to more than doubling the number of Orange line cars from 30 to 72.

Despite the work, slow zones persist and maintenance troubles abound.


Told to “expect delays of more than 30 minutes,” riders were not happy, and took to Twitter to voice their frustration with a system that has continued to fail residents despite more than $36 million in investments.

“The old orange line trains broke down but not to the point where [yo]u need shuttles to replace service,” tweeted one disgruntled rider.

“Would be nice if you offered shuttle bus services going south as the train is out in both directions and there is now no way for me to get home from work,” wrote another. “A month of shut down with nothing to show.”

In addition to concerns about suspended trains, riders were aggravated by the MBTA’s poor communication of changes to the transit plan, saying that they received mixed messages about everything from the length of delays to where to catch the shuttle bus.

“Why are you making announcement at Wellington saying ‘we are standing by’ then. Some people waited over 1 hour inside the train,” one rider Tweeted.

“No signs letting anyone at assembly know where to get on your shuttles??” asked another.

A third rider complained that shuttle bus drivers were asking passengers to dismount at every stop. “This is the strangest and least efficient shuttle bus service yet!” they wrote.

Passengers also bemoaned the cost of switching from shuttle buses to trains and back; while shuttle buses are free, the MBTA fare system charges riders every time they get on the T, meaning riders pay double what they should to get to their destination.


“If they make me pay again when I get off the shuttle I’m going to lose it,” one person Tweeted. “Agghh. Taking to[o] long to get anywhere.”

Even as the situation continued to evolve into the afternoon, the MBTA failed to tweet out another update for six hours, which one rider called “unacceptable.”

“You need to give more frequent updates! This is unacceptable, and utterly ridiculous,” he tweeted in response. “Passengers also deserve a transparent, thorough, detailed explanation as to what actually went down this morning, and how [you’re] gonna prevent a similar situation in the future.”

Early Saturday evening, trains continued to experience delays of about 15 minutes. But at 5:30 p.m., the MBTA alerted passengers that trains were — finally — back on schedule.

Ivy Scott can be reached at ivy.scott@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @itsivyscott.