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Slowdowns, shuttles, smoke: A(nother) bad 24 hours for the T

A Red Line train arrived at Park Street station in Boston in March.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Think the T can’t go a day without trouble? Try an afternoon.

In less than a 24-hour period from Wednesday to Thursday morning, the T saw three disabled trains and a switch issue on the Red Line, while shuttle buses and a smoking trolley replaced regular service on parts of the Green Line.

The four Red Line disruptions, although hours apart, were unrelated, according to the T.

Still, they represent the latest batch of headaches for Red Line riders, who are already dealing with slower and fewer trains than before the pandemic.

Slow zones added more than an hour to a round trip on the Red Line as of Wednesday, according to data collected by advocacy group TransitMatters. During the week of Aug. 14, the Red Line ran an average of 101 trips per day — fewer than the 127 daily trips scheduled and about half the historic peak of 223 trips per day.

The Red Line has the worst service on the T’s train system, compared to historic highs, according to TransitMatters. It also carries the highest number of daily riders, averaging more than 80,000 weekday rides the week of Aug. 7.


The slew of delays started at about 11:20 a.m. Wednesday, when the operator of a southbound Red Line train reported debris under their car as they attempted to enter Quincy Center Station, according to Lisa Battiston, a spokesperson for the MBTA. The debris, identified by crews as a piece of metal, disabled the train, which was sent to Braintree for inspection. Regular service resumed at about 12:35 p.m., she said in an email.

For more than an hour, service operated on a single track on the northbound side of Quincy Center, creating delays of about 15 minutes, the T announced on social media.


Battiston said the T was still investigating what the piece of metal was Thursday afternoon. It remained unclear how it ended up on the tracks.

Later, during the Wednesday afternoon rush, an automatic switch between the Andrew and JFK/UMass stations “experienced several issues,” Battiston said. That left personnel flipping the switch manually between 4:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., she said.

“Trains were able to proceed through the area during the switch issue, but experienced delays of about 10 minutes during that time,” Battiston said.

At that time, shuttles had already replaced regular service on the Green Line’s B Branch due to an electrical issue near the Boston College Station, triggering another batch of delays.

Disabled trains continued to slow the Red Line through Thursday morning.

Around midnight, a northbound Red Line train was disabled at JFK/UMass Station after being unable to build enough air pressure to release the brake. That created 11-to-15-minute delays as service wound down for the night.

Thursday morning, at about 9:50 a.m., another Red Line train stopped, as only its front car’s doors would open. That created yet another round of 10-minute delays as workers fixed the issue.

“The train remained in service and did not experience the issue again,” Battiston said.

Earlier that morning and miles away, passengers were ushered off a trolley on the Green Line’s D Branch as smoke poured from the brakes at Chestnut Hill Station at about 8:33 a.m., according to Battiston.

One rider posted a photo of the smoking train on Reddit, although the T did not make an announcement on its social media pages.


Battiston said passengers were able to board another train after about 10 minutes. Crews moved the train to the Riverside Yard for investigation and repairs.

She said “there was no fire and the exact cause is under investigation.”

Later still — about 28 hours after the first disabled train was reported on the Red Line — the T announced a fifth successive Red Line delay, caused, once again, by a “door problem,” this time at Central Station.

Battiston said that issue was not related to the earlier door problem on the line.

She said crews closed off one of the train’s cars after its doors failed, but another one of the train’s six cars was already closed, meaning the entire train had to be closed. The T’s policy is to remove trains from service if more than one of their cars is inaccessible to riders, according to Battiston.

Per policy, the train was taken out of service, leaving delays between 15 and 20 minutes on the line, just in time for Thursday’s afternoon rush. Regular service resumed just before 5:15 p.m.

Daniel Kool can be reached at Follow him @dekool01.