‘My time is being wasted.’ Blue Line riders endure shutdowns as MBTA promises repairs.

Blue Line riders already weary from service cuts and slowdowns endured the elimination of most weeknight train service over the last two weeks as the MBTA said it was working to repair its tracks. The shutdown, which wrapped up Thursday night, put riders at risk of losing wages, missing meals, and getting home too late for activities like exercise, they said, the latest in a long procession of indignities imposed on users of the beleaguered transit system as it struggles to maintain its infrastructure.

The Blue Line, which connects Revere, East Boston, and downtown Boston, had long been considered the MBTA’s most reliable subway line. Wait times between trains had remained shorter than other lines, around six minutes on weekdays, according to TransitMatters’ analysis of MBTA data, despite the agency’s cuts to subway service put in place last June.

That all changed in early March when the MBTA announced it was slowing the entire subway system down from a top train speed of 40 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour while the agency verified the safety of its tracks because it couldn’t account for the locations of all of its serious defects. Until they are repaired, those defects require the MBTA to operate trains at slower speeds to avoid derailments and other problems. The T lifted its system-wide slowdown shortly after, but speed restrictions remained on around 25 percent of subway tracks.

On March 8, the day before the systemwide slow down, the Blue Line had just two speed restrictions in place accounting for two percent of its tracks, according to the MBTA’s speed restriction dashboard. Now, after the MBTA finished its review of track conditions last week, the Blue Line has 21 speed restrictions covering 44 percent of its tracks.

The Blue Line has a higher percentage of its tracks with speed restrictions than any other subway line, the T’s dashboard showed as of Friday. And wait times between trains and travel times from one end of the line to the other have jumped, according to the TransitMatters dashboard.

The slower pace of transit has rippled through the lives of residents along the line, many who travel into Boston for work or connect to other lines for jobs farther away.

And more disruptions are on the way. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation plans to shut down the Sumner Tunnel, which funnels traffic from East Boston to downtown Boston, from July 5 to August 31, eliminating a major transportation connection. The tunnel has been closed most weekends since last Spring.

State Senator Lydia Edwards, who represents East Boston, Revere, and Winthrop, said the Blue Line needs to have service restored and tracks fully repaired by the time the tunnel closes seven days a week.

“Anything less is unacceptable,” she said.

State Representative Adrian Madaro, who represents East Boston, said his constituents rely heavily on public transit to get to school, work, and medical appointments.

“At the end of the day, something has to give,” he said. “It’s not fair to burden the community with the closure of the tunnel and slow zones on the Blue Line.”

In his first presentation to the agency’s board of directors as general manager last month, Phillip Eng said that the MBTA would be able to lift all speed restrictions between Bowdoin and Aquarium stations by the end of May if it could shut down much of the Blue Line on weekdays from 7 p.m. to close. There are currently nine restrictions on that stretch, the T’s data show.

But the agency later said the shutdowns on April 24-27 and May 1-4 would begin at 8 p.m. after “feedback from public stakeholder groups,” according to an announcement. “Crews will be replacing close to 2,000 feet of rail, over 450 ties, and perform more than 3,000 feet of tamping,” the announcement said. Tamping is a process to level out subway tracks.

MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng in April.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said the T is still targeting removing restrictions between Bowdoin and Aquarium stations — which doesn’t include any stations in Eastie or Revere — by the end of the month and is looking at doing more shutdowns in June before the tunnel closure.

At his presentation last month, Eng said there will be more Blue Line shutdowns coming, with the goal of eliminating all slow zones on the line by November. He said the agency is still working on plans for the other three subway lines, which all have dozens of defects in need of repairs. Indeed, stretches of the Red Line will be replaced by shuttle buses this weekend and on upcoming weekends and weeknights this month.

For some Blue Line riders, the commute with shuttle buses took twice as long as their usual trips with the train. Joselina Leclerc, 25, said normally she’s able to get to her home in Chelsea in time to go to the gym after returning from her job as a medical assistant, but doubted with the shuttle buses Wednesday that she’d be able to make it.

She’s hopeful the track improvements will be worth it.

“Sometimes it closes, and then it’s still the same,” she said.

Joselina Leclerc of Chelsea rode a shuttle bus from Government Center to Maverick in East Boston after Blue Line subway service was shut down.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Edwards called riders’ frustration “justified.”

“They have a right to expect a public transit system that they pay their tax dollars into is functioning,” she said. “I understand we have let them down.”

The MBTA has long failed to stay on top of its subway system’s maintenance needs. A safety inspection by the Federal Transit Administration last year found that the MBTA had no timely plans to remove speed restrictions, which had been quietly slowing down commutes for years.

Blue Line riders seemed doubtful Wednesday that the shutdown they endured would fix the T’s problems.

When Bryan Duque, 31, showed up to Government Center around 7:50 p.m. heading home to East Boston from his job downtown, he said the last train was already gone.

“It’s not ruining my evening, but I’d love to be home by now,” he said.

A woman waited for a shuttle bus after Blue Line trains stopped running.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

At around 8:20 p.m., a Cambridge resident who declined to give her full name was waiting for the shuttle bus at Maverick Station to take her to Government Center where she would need to catch the Green Line to get to her home in Cambridge.

Her job in Chelsea pays her hourly, she said, and she estimated she has spent around $200 on ride hailing apps since the shutdown began to make it home in the evenings.

“Not only am I wasting money,” she said. “My time is being wasted.”


Taylor Dolven can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @taydolven.

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