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MBTA’s subway tracks are far more broken than previously disclosed

The T unveiled a new dashboard Thursday that will allow riders to track slow zones.

A Red Line train driver checked the platform before departing Park Street Station in Boston last week.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The good news: The MBTA published a new dashboard Thursday that will allow riders to track changes to slow zones daily.

The bad news: It indicates that 27 percent of the subway tracks have speed restrictions, up from 7.5 percent at the end of last month.

There are now 138 more speed restrictions than the T disclosed less than a month ago, the dashboard shows. Interim General Manager Jeff Gonneville told board members at a virtual meeting Thursday that MBTA crews and consultants are inspecting tracks to make sure defects identified after February and March tests are now accounted for.

Just two weeks ago, Gonneville reduced the speed limit across the entire subway system when the T couldn’t verify that it had the right speed restrictions in place in the right places. An investigation into how the T failed to oversee the condition of its tracks is ongoing, Gonneville said.

The new dashboard provides slow-zone data for each of the T’s four subway lines, including a map that shows where the restrictions are in place and the allowed speed rate for trains traveling along those stretches of track. The hardest hit section is the Blue Line, where 77 percent of tracks are covered by slow zones, up from 1.6 percent on Feb. 28, according to the data.


The dashboard is not live — it is updated each morning with data from the previous day, the MBTA said in a statement Thursday. And it does not include top speed limits, added travel time, or plans to lift each speed restriction. The agency encouraged riders to sign up for T alerts to get real-time information.

“This is a level of transparency into our agency now that certainly is a first for the MBTA,” Gonneville told board members. “But frankly, I do believe that it’s industry-leading, certainly for a number of other transit agencies within our industry.”


MBTA travel time data analyzed by TransitMatters, a public transportation advocacy group, shows that a round-trip ride on the Red Line is now about 74 minutes slower than it would be if trains were traveling at full speed, up from around 40 minutes on Feb. 28. The Orange and Blue Lines are running about 18 minutes slower, according to the data.

MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said Thursday night that the T is prioritizing validating defects found on inspections that happened in February and March, and is reviewing inspections that happened as far back as last fall. He did not provide information about how many serious track defects the MBTA has found that were not accompanied by speed restrictions before March 9, whether the defects found during inspections in February and March were validated before March 9, and who the T is hiring to investigate the failure.

The Globe previously reported that the MBTA’s director of maintenance of way job — responsible for track safety — has been vacant since late last year.

The T also on Thursday announced several service shutdowns for April to “focus on rail and tie replacement” and “alleviate speed restrictions,” according to an agency news release. The T will be shutting down parts of the Red Line for three weekends and some parts of the Red and Blue lines for evenings in April, among other disruptions.


On top of the widespread slow zones and planned shutdowns, T riders have had to endure deep cuts to subway service for the past nine months and continued cuts to bus service for more than a year.

Public comments from riders and advocates at Thursday’s virtual board meeting criticized board members for a lack of urgency and action to improve service.

One board member, Chanda Smart, echoed concerns from riders, calling the subway service “terrible.”

Smart asked state Department of Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca whether she is satisfied with “how MBTA management . . . is being held accountable for allowing the system to degrade to such a poor condition.”

Fiandaca said she has been in “constant contact” with Gonneville. “The speed restrictions will be lifted as we’re able to confirm that the work has been done, and that these rail lines are safe,” she said.

Governor Maura Healey has not yet replaced any of the board members, who began their tenures under former governor Charlie Baker, and she has not named a new general manager for the beleaguered agency, something she said in December that she would do in “weeks, and not several months.”

In the draft five-year investment plan presented to the board Thursday, the T said it is planning to pay for just 10 percent of the funding needed for all of the reliability and modernization projects that its staff requested.

Board chair Betsy Taylor requested more information on the gap be presented at next month’s meeting.


Taylor Dolven can be reached at Follow her @taydolven. Nick Stoico can be reached at Follow him @NickStoico.