Is the MBTA Really Going to Start Weekday Closures in 2020?

General Manager Steve Poftak floated the idea during an interview with WGBH.

red line train

Photo by Margaret Burdge

How many days of shuttle buses would you take in exchange for a shiny, new T?

During an interview with WGBH Wednesday, the MBTA’s general manager Steve Poftak said that MBTA is “exploring” the idea of weekday closures to help speed the pace of improvements on the Red, Orange, and Green Lines.

“It’s not something we’re going to do this fall, but it is something we’re exploring for 2020,” he said. “We’ll learn from this experience and we’ll also have more lead time to think about what would be the most effective diversion, and also let folks know far in advance.”

Late this summer, the MBTA embarked on Charlie Baker’s “2019 Capital Acceleration Plan,” a strategy with the goal of expediting the repairs of T tracks, signage, and stations. This plan currently relies on large-scale weekend closures that the MBTA has never attempted before, including a Kendall through Broadway Red Line shutdown and a Tufts through Sullivan Orange Line shutdown. It is not yet know what stations would be impacted if the MBTA did choose to expand closures to weekdays as well.

For weekend travelers, these diversions can be a real headache, and it’s safe to say that weekday riders wouldn’t be too happy about switching to shuttle buses either. However, Poftak asserts that the aggressive closure schedule is paying off.

“The diversions absolutely allow us to get more repairs done,” he said.

Poftak’s announcement comes after a bittersweet week for the T. While the Red Line finally returned to regular service after its June derailment, the new Orange Line cars were taken out of service after a door on one of them popped open as the train was moving. The MBTA originally said that the trains would be returned to service this week, but they are still not back to the tracks. Poftak says he expects to have one train back by next week.

“There’s going to be hiccups as we go,” he said.