Longer waiting times for subway trains and shiny new decommissioned train cars. These are two of the main issues facing the MBTA as the transit agency faces demands from state lawmakers and federal officials.
Add another thing that affects passengers to the list: the stairs were recently closed at JFK/UMass station, which serves the Red Line, three commuter rail lines and various buses.
MBTA officials closed the stairs with little fanfare on May 19, the same day staff and engineering consultants discovered “structural issues.” With safety a “top priority and out of an abundance of caution”, the staircase was closed, according to MBTA spokeswoman Lisa Battiston.
Commuters can get to the station using a nearby ramp.
“A repair plan has been drawn up and the materials to make the repairs have just been received this week,” Battiston said. “Crews are now mobilizing to complete repairs as a priority.”
Repairs will be completed in the “coming weeks”, she added.
For regular commuters, the JFK/UMass stairs have long looked rusty and pieces of wood were at one point put up under the steps.
Notably, the stairs are a short walk from another staircase that was the subject of an inquest into the death last September. A 40-year-old Boston University professor fell from the dilapidated stairs that connected the Columbia Road overpass to Old Colony Avenue, which is next to JFK/UMass station.
State workers tore down the stairs after the professor died. Another state agency, the Department of Transportation, has been in the custody of the stairs for more than a decade. The stairs had been blocked and in disrepair for months, even though a MBTA-branded sign said they would be closed until “Fall 2020.” Repairs did not take place until the man’s death and subsequent demolition.
After a Reporter investigation in September of the JFK/UMass and other MBTA-owned stairs, agency officials said all stairs were regularly inspected by agency employees and reviewed by construction companies. 3rd party engineering, with “repair work” from time to time.
The T spends about $31 million a year on maintenance and upkeep, according to T officials at the time.
State lawmakers are planning an oversight hearing focused on the MBTA after the Federal Transit Administration cited safety issues during a review of the system. The FTA review prompted the T to reduce the frequency of weekday subway service, including on the Red Line, because it did not meet the required number of subway dispatchers at its operations control center . The service reductions went into effect this week.
Additionally, earlier this week, T officials decommissioned all new Orange Line and Red Line cars due to a ‘battery failure’ of an offline Orange Line vehicle in Wellington Yard. agency in Medford. The new trains are made by Chinese company CRRC, with workers from the Springfield plant assembling the cars.
Mayor Michlle Wu, who regularly rides the Orange Line, expressed frustration at the removal of the new carriages from the train.
“With the T, it’s always two steps forward, one step back. Three steps back,” she said. “So we have to make sure that we put the resources in to fix what needs to be fixed, maintained and planned ahead. We have no choice. Public transit needs to be the foundation of how we open up our economy, how we make sure that in the summer when more and more in-person events happen, kids try to get to internships, families are looking to move around the city and people are getting back to work, it’s absolutely essential.
Wu said she was “grateful” to the Legislative Assembly for stepping up oversight of the T.
“We are here because decisions were not made or delayed over the past few years and maintenance was deferred for decades before,” she said.
She added that she felt safe on the T.
Massachusetts House and Senate leaders said the Legislature’s transportation committee will hold a hearing in the “coming weeks,” citing an “increased need to better understand the agency’s shortcomings and to help restore public confidence.
State Representative Liz Miranda, who is running for Suffolk’s second Senate seat on the ballot later this year, said in a statement that she would push for more state funding for the MBTA.
“Residents of Second Suffolk depend on bus connections to these lines, and the longer waiting times mean they have to leave even earlier and get home even later. People riding the Mattapan Trolley should be aware that they will be able to catch a train at Ashmont,” she said in a statement. “We have to think about the system-wide T, and these cuts cut the rug for people who are just trying to build their relationships.”
State House Service material was used in this report.