‘I’ve been leaving work early every day’: Red Line commuters await return to normal service

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

The Red Line was moving briskly out of Braintree Station Tuesday morning, trains leaving on a frequent and regular schedule, and most even had empty seats.

With Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer having passed, and commuters returning to more-regular work schedules, the seemingly uneventful performance of the Red Line was vastly different from the crowded trains and hourslong waits in the days and weeks after the June 11 derailment at JFK/UMass.

“The ride is fine — no delays whatsoever, at least from the timeframe that I commute,” said Jeanette Livelo, a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital who tries to get to work before 7 a.m., taking the Red Line from Braintree.


A Red Line commuter made their way to a waiting train in Braintree.
A Red Line commuter made their way to a waiting train in Braintree.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said that it continues to work to restore the last remaining signals on the Red Line affected by the derailment, which heavily damaged three equipment sheds that contain electronics for the signaling system. The damage and the subsequent work, have forced the MBTA to run trains at lower speeds, resulting in less-frequent rush-hour service.

“Right now, work is tracking to last through October,” said Lisa Battiston, an MBTA spokeswoman.

The T continues to warn passengers to expect delays of up to 20 minutes because of the track work, a reminder to riders like Rashelle Straker that getting to and from is harder than it should be. She’s so used to delays that the T has become is a punch line among her colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she works as the director of academic programs and events.

“There are times when I’ll screenshot the alerts and say, ‘The T says sorry for the inconvenience,’ and everyone laughs about it,” Straker said.

Commuters arrived at JFK/UMass on Tuesday, when trains were running every 8 to 11 minutes.
Commuters arrived at JFK/UMass on Tuesday, when trains were running every 8 to 11 minutes.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Her commute should take 30 to 40 minutes, but the five-stop ride can last 60 to 75 minutes, she said.


For some commuters, the ride home is the real test.

Dominque Russell, 30, who commutes between Braintree and South Station, said the trip back is still “the worst part,” usually because the trains are so packed that several go by before he can board.

“It’d probably be about an hour, you know, packed trains, South Station, everybody’s getting back to work at the same time,” Russell said.

Jessica Wall, who commutes to Kendall Square from Braintree, spends an extra 15 to 30 minutes on the train each way, she said. Tuesday, though, was decent, with only the wait at JFK/UMass Station taking a while.

“Tonight was better than usual,” she said. Wall leaves work at 3:30 p.m. every day now, instead of at 4, so she can pick up her daughter from day care on time at 5 p.m. The day care center charges $5 for every five minutes after closing that a parent is late.

Patty Donatiello also said that picking up her two children after work has bcome tricky because of the Red Line’s slowness, forcing her to budget at least an extra half-hour for her commute.

“If I leave Downtown Crossing at 5, a 6 o’clock pickup is really tough; I’ve been leaving work early every day since the derailment,” Donatiello said.

And an even bigger test may await the T, several months down the line.

“I think we’ll wait till the winter comes,” said Livelo, the MGH nurse, “because that’s when the issues come up.”


Diamond Naga Siu
can be reached at diamondnaga.siu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @diamondnagasiu.