The MBTA Is Addressing the ‘Shrieking’ Noise Coming From the Orange Line

The T put some grease on the rails to stop the sound.

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L.J. Graf’s daughter usually rides the Orange Line without any problems, but over the weekend, something was different, she said.

“The train was kind of making a shrieking sound, and it kind of hurt your ears,” she said.

To block out the sounds, Graf’s daughter placed her hands over her ears as the train entered the Downtown Crossing stop, something she hasn’t done before, according to her mother. While Graf admits her daughter’s hearing is a little sensitive, the noise even bothered her. “It bugged me,” she said. “A few people were cringing on the train as we entered the station.”

Graf wasn’t the only one to notice the sound coming from trains between Back Bay Station and North Station along the Orange Line this week. Close to a dozen people using social media engaged in a conversation recently about the excessive noise, calling it “awful” and “screechy.”

The MBTA was aware of the problem, too, according to transportation officials. “We have seen some reports of noise on the Orange Line in the past week,” said T spokesperson Kelly Smith in an e-mail. “Engineering and Maintenance [workers were] notified and it is being handled properly and in a very timely manner.”

Smith said crews would refill “greasers,” small boxes on the tracks that squirt lubricant on the rails every time a train passes over it, to keep the trains from making the shrieking sound described by Graf and others. “We have a maintenance team assigned to address the issue and it should be rectified shortly,” she said, pointing out that the problem was being addressed prior to an inquiry from Boston.

In 2012, the Boston Herald showed how bad the screeching can get along some T train lines by recording the sounds at both Government Center and Boylston Street stations as vehicles arrived to pick up passengers. Using a reader, the newspaper discovered that the trains riding along the metal rails at those destinations exceeded 107 dB—a level of sound that the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health said can lead to hearing loss and high blood pressure if someone is exposed to it for long enough.

Unlike the problem at the Orange Line this week, T officials blamed those sounds on old equipment, and the way the tracks curve as they enter the stations, both of which they can’t do much about.