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MBTA hopes to get through service to Braintree restored by Monday, but maybe not

Workers doing track work at JFK/UMass

Working on the tracks at JFK/UMass this afternoon.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said this afternoon he hopes the T can restore "single seat" service to and from Braintree on the Red Line by Monday, but that a final decision will be made late Sunday afternoon, after a series of test runs by trains over the track that was damaged - along with the third rail and switch - by a train that derailed on Tuesday.

But even if Braintree riders will no longer have to change trains at JFK/UMass, that doesn't necessarily mean the restoration of full service, because the train "almost entirely wiped out" one of three "bungalows" that control switches at the station and heavily damaged the other two, Poftak said at a press conference yards from where workers were busy working on the switch and removing electronics from one of the bungalows.

Poftak said inspectors have ruled out foul play and operator error as possible causes of the derailment, but that they have yet to figure out whether something went wrong on the car that went off the rails or on the tracks or switch.

Poftak said the switching equipment had been slated to be replaced as part of a $113-million overhaul of Red Line signaling equipment - but not quite as quickly as the T now has to work to restore the equipment, he said. Until it can be restored or replaced, the Red Line through JFK/UMass will be controlled by manual signals, which can add 15 to 20 minutes to a commute.

Damaged signal racks
Damaged signal racks

The general manager, who frequently rides his own trains, tried to reassure riders - after a week that saw derailments on both the Red and Green Lines - that "the system is safe." He said that although the car that went off the rails was originally built in 1969, it received a major overhaul in the late 1980s and brand new "trucks" - the wheels and components that connect them to the car - in 2014. He said the car, like all others, is inspected after every 8,500 miles of service, or roughly once a month, and said it passed its last inspection on May 3.

Poftak started the press conference by acknowledging the derailment and the problems it has caused riders since is "unacceptable" and he apologized to riders for what they've been through this week.

He said a total of 150 MBTA workers and contractors have been working 24 hours a day since the derailment to fix things. He acknowledged he'd like to see service restored faster, but not at the expense of safety.

Poftak at JFK/UMass:

Poftak
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for the inconvenience."

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Voting closed 14

Why can't these three goals be achieved before they raise the fares. Passengers should protest by not paying their fares. Judging by fare gates at Savin Hill the protest has begun because no one pays at the rear gates.

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Voting closed 18

:-)

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1. These things take time. I mean, unless you have experience in rail infrastructure and can show how the entire Red Line can be fixed in 2 weeks, that’s the answer.

2. These things take money. The maintenance backlog stems, in part, from the long standing desire to keep fares low, which they still are compared to similar systems. And yes, a lack of fiscal controls and a misestimation of sales tax revenues didn’t help, but it amazes me how people want the T to spend more money without offering sources for revenue.

People who cry for a free T remind me of Carla Howell and her claim that eliminating the state income tax would not affect the functioning of government. Laughable, until you realize they are serious.

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So, going to have to agree on your first point. The FMCB has taken pretty reasonable steps so far to modernize and set a plan to correct things, but, engineering and complex problems take time and there are no magic fingers that can be snapped to fix decades of neglect.

As for your second point... that seems to miss a few things. Public transit, by almost definition, subsidizes fares to be able to exist and encourage ridership. Fares can't be raised to infinity as there is a point at which rising fares are offset by the fall off in ridership. There is a reason why almost no public transit systems in the world are funded fully on fares. As for the current MBTA fares - its pretty spot on with other flat fare subway systems in the country. Chicago is $2.25 a ride with a much larger (and later running) system, NYC is $2.75 for a much, much larger 24/7 system. Philly is $2.50, Baltimore $1.80, LA is $1.75. Pretty comparable to existing MTBA fares of $2.75 ($2.25 with a CharlieCard - soon to be $2.40).

Fares themselves don't even cover operating expenses - in 2018, the MBTA took in $673 million in fare revenue, with a total budget of almost $2 billion. Operating expenses alone were $1.5 billion. The state of good repair deficit is $10 billion. The new fare increase is project to generate $30 million. Its a drop in the ocean money wise to solving the MBTA's problems. The only way the T gets fixed is via direct funding from the state and general tax streams (sales taxes, income taxes, gas tax, etc), fare increases aren't going to do anything, and, are inherently counter intuitive to public transportation and the value it brings economically.

Lastly, no one seriously proposing eliminating fares on public transit claim it is free or wouldn't require funding. They make the case that by fully subsidizing fares (which, again, make up 1/4 of the budget anyways) via other taxes would pay off in other economic benefits for the area and would do other beneficial things such as reducing congestion/traffic for everyone. I personally don't subscribe to this theory, but, it isn't laughable either.

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Voting closed 22

Check out what Michelle Wu and her cohort have been saying. We'll be just like... Tallinn?

But I will take the criticism that the T's fares are not lower than the comparables- I'm thinking NY, Philly, DC, Chicago, and SF. However, at the dawn of the 21st Century, the fares were lower than all of those.

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Voting closed 9

I didn't say that no one wants the T to be free. I said that anyone seriously proposing it isn't living in a fantasy land where it wouldn't need to be funded from else where - as per your no income tax comparison.

DC/SF aren't particularly comparable. They are distance/time based fare systems and their service is more akin to a hybrid subway/commuter rail (especially in SF). As per comparisons to 2000 - no idea, and I don't particularly feel like look up all of that data. It was also a very different era with the dawn of forward funding happening in 2000.

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Voting closed 12

Wu and co. have been talking about it, but I have yet to see mention of a revenue source to replace the fares. If a comprehensive proposal was put forth that explained how to make the T fare free while increasing resources directed towards it, I would take a serious look at it. As it is, I keep on hearing that we should be giving the T less money until they improve service, and that ain't a sustainable model.

Also, I do count DC/SF, but I would rate their fares on the lowest peak fare, not the fare from one hinterland to another.

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.

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when getting from point A to point B on the same line.

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Single seat service means that you can go from your origin to your destination without transferring to another train, bus, etc. Riders originating on the Braintree branch have to transfer at JFK, so they have at minimum a two-seat ride to get to their destination, and possibly more if they have to transfer to a different subway line or a bus.

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Voting closed 14

Any person with half a brain can see it's excruciatingly obvious the derailment was caused by a failure of some sort associated with the wheels or axle on a fifty year old train car. Poftak is just like the rest of them. Meet the new boss....

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Voting closed 22

Precisely. And then people with the other half of the brain read the part about the trucks being only five years old, and the excruciation of the obvious was alleviated.

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Steve Poftak is the best choice to run the T in a long time. First of all, he is a longtime T commuter unlike most who have had the job. Second, he is not a politician or a legacy who is beholden to hacks or unions. Third, he is a very bright person who can handle the financial complexities of the situation.
The biggest question for me is whether anyone will be allowed to be successful in the job.

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How many people were injured in this incident?

And how many people were hurt or killed in car accidents in greater Boston in 2019?

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Old is not necessarily worn out and dangerous, especially on heavy equipment that has a long service life as part of the design requirements.

What is your evidence that it was wheel or axle caused? Do you have a working knowledge of accident reconstruction techniques?

New could be flawed in design and/or material and/or assembly and dangerous as well. Hence testing of new Orange line cars.

I'm a nobody, maybe that's why I can't see the obvious.

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