Orange Line ‘slow zones’ have riders seeing red

Riders expecting a faster and more reliable Orange Line when it reopened this week are instead experiencing slower trains and longer trips, due to speed restrictions that the MBTA says will remain in place until Monday.

And they’re not happy about it.

“The Orange Line is now literally slower than the shuttles were,” one rider, Sarah Mamlett, said in a tweet, referring to the buses that provided alternative service during the 30-day shutdown.

Other users joked on social media that they could walk faster than the trains were traveling this week, including one woman who said she walks with a cane.

Several noted riders are already experiencing longer headways due to subway cuts brought on by the dispatcher shortage, and slower trips are making for an even more frustrating commute.

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“The MBTA Orange Line is now operational, but it’s not ready for service,” said Twitter user Damain Allen. “These ‘slow zones’ have turned a typical 15-minute ride into a 40- to 50-minute one.”

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak has said the six speed restrictions addressed during the shutdown would remain in place for five to seven days to allow track repairs to settle.

“Once our track and safety departments have certified that it is safe to lift the speed restriction, we’ll be lifting those speed restrictions over the next week,” Poftak told reporters Sunday.

According to T spokesperson Joe Pesaturo, the restrictions will start to be lifted on Monday, a week after service resumed on the Orange Line.

Restrictions are in place at Jackson Square and Stony Brook, State and Downtown Crossing, Tufts Medical Center and Back Bay, Community College and North Station, and between Assembly and Wellington along the Dana Bridge, where there are two slow zones.

Once removed, Poftak said riders will begin to experience the faster service that was promised to them throughout the disruptive monthlong shutdown.

While T officials can point to the heads up that was given to riders about the slow zones remaining in place for the first week, some commuters said they should have been more specific as to how bad they would be.

“I had no idea how slow the Malden to North Station run could take,” one Twitter user, Stacy D VanDeveer, said on Thursday. “Should I walk?”

However, even with slow zones removed, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said the problem ultimately lies with staffing challenges at the T, one of the problems the transit agency was ordered to address as part of the feds’ safety management inspection report.

“Trips will run faster next week once former slow zones have been tested, but the limiting factor for frequency is staffing levels of signal dispatchers,” Wu said on Twitter this week. “It’s 10-plus week training for new hires.

“We have to keep helping the T build back their staffing. They should pay more too,” she added.

The MBTA has said subway cuts on the Red, Blue and Orange lines will remain in place this fall, as it works to hire and train dispatchers to comply with federal directives.

(091922 Medford, MA): Passengers onboard a train at Wellington Station as the Orange Line reopens on Monday,September 19, 2022 in Medford, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
(091922 Medford, MA): A passenger waits on the platform as a train approaches Wellington Station as the Orange Line reopens on Monday,September 19, 2022 in Medford, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
(091922 Medford, MA): Passengers board a train at Wellington Station as the Orange Line reopens on Monday,September 19, 2022 in Medford, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)