The MBTA last year quietly increased the spacing between trains during rush hour, decreasing the line's peak-time capacity by 25% and increasing the odds that frustrated passengers at certain stops won't even be able to get on a train at all because they're already full to bursting.
The T is now trying to speed up the Orange Line by putting down lines at key stations showing passengers where to stand for faster boarding and by having a sort of relay race at Forest Hills and Oak Grove, where fresh drivers now hop into the cab of an incoming train, rather than waiting for the incoming driver to walk the 382 feet down the platform from one end of the train to the other.
But new lines on platforms do little if the train is already in full sardine mode. Full relief may not come until 2022, when the T expects to roll out the last of the new Orange Line trains scheduled to be built in Springfield (delivery of a few cars could come in 2018, but those will be for testing). The T plans to buy 152 of the new cars to replace the current fleet of 120 cars, which reached their "end of design life" in the last century.
A report issued by the T earlier this week (2.4M PDF) shows that the "headway" between Orange Line trains has increased from 4 to 5 minutes in 2010 to 6 minutes today. In 2011, the T increased the headway to 5 to 6 minutes, "due to lack of vehicles" and then to a full 6 minutes last year, due to "growing ridership and lengthened scheduled travel times," the report states. The result:
Point checks at State Street in July 2015 showed heavy loads, 350 people passed by full trains in PM peak
The report does not specify the reason for the "lengthened scheduled travel times," but the change coincides with the opening of the new Assembly Square station.
The report also lists other key issues on the Orange Line, including the "obsolete" signaling system used on the tracks between Forest Hills and Back Bay, issues with the concrete used to support the tracks and the station power substations on that stretch and leaking tunnels at some stations.