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Why the Orange Line is still so slow

An older subway car, with spots of rust on the exterior shell, is parked with lights on at the Orange Line's Wellington Station train yard, Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Medford, Mass. (Charles Krupa/AP)
An older subway car, with spots of rust on the exterior shell, is parked with lights on at the Orange Line's Wellington Station train yard, Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Medford, Mass. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here


Happy Friday! Enjoy the warm temperatures today because we have crisp weather ahead! Still, it will be clear for leaf-peepers over the long weekend (just head west or north of Boston).

The MBTA's monthlong Orange Line shutdown promised riders faster trips in the end. But over two and a half weeks since the line reopened, that hasn't happened. In fact, even as the T removes slow zones that hampered service, the Orange Line remains slightly slower than it was before the shutdown. According to data tracked by the advocacy group TransitMatters, it now takes an average of 48 minutes to ride the entire line north-to-south, compared to 40 minutes in August. And northbound trips take 44 minutes, about a minute longer than it did before the shutdown. (Without slow zones, the entire trip each way should take about 38 minutes, according TransitMatters' Austin Paul.)

Most of the delay comes from the area between North Station and Assembly. That's because the T has kept one slow zone there to do lower-priority maintenance work — which they'd have to do later anyway — while crews are still in place. MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said on Sept. 26 the T planned to lift that slow zone in "the coming days." But the days have kept coming, and it has remained in place. Pesaturo declined on Thursday to say when it might be lifted. (TransitMatters has also identified some other lingering "slow zones" outside of that area.)

What Pesaturo is saying: "The MBTA will continue to perform maintenance activities across the line as necessary and appreciates the patience of all riders as slow zones remain in place while this secondary work [...] continues between North Station and Assembly Square and track and ballast settle."

Don't forget: In addition to the slower trips, the T is still running less frequent trains due to a critical staffing shortage. That means 10-minute waits between trains on the Orange Line, 8-minute waits on the Red Line and 8-minute waits on the Blue Line.

The work continues: The second of three nine-day closures of the Green Line's D branch begins tomorrow. Shuttle buses will replace trolleys from Kenmore to Riverside through next Sunday.

You may be able to bet on the Super Bowl this winter in Massachusetts — but not on your phone. State officials revealed yesterday that this coming January or February is the earliest possible time that in-person sports wagering could begin at places like casinos, followed by the potential launch of mobile betting apps by late February or March. However, no official dates have been set yet.

Big picture: Some members of the Gaming Commission are pushing hard to at least get in-person sports betting running before the Super Bowl. But that would force a constrained timeline, since the Legislature didn’t agree to a sports betting bill until the end of July. And as the contentious eight-hour meeting illustrated, there’s a lot of competing factors and interests within the complex process. (They're holding another meeting today to continue hashing it out.)

The pitfalls of going too fast: Some commissioners and staff warn that squeezing the process too tight could advantage bigger, more prepared betting companies over smaller applicants — and result in a less diverse market.

President Joe Biden's unexpected marijuana pardon announcement Thursday has opened a new divide in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race — sort of. In addition to pardoning thousands convicted of federal offenses for low-level marijuana possession, Biden called on governors to pardon individuals of similar state-level convictions.

Attorney General Maura Healey, the Democratic nominee for governor, said she would follow suit and model pardons "after the steps taken" by Biden, if elected. Her Republican opponent, Geoff Diehl, said he opposes Biden's move. However, Diehl also said Massachusetts voters "have spoken on the issue" and indicated he wouldn't change the state's pot laws.

Massachusetts already has an application-based expungement process for those convicted of since-legalized marijuana crimes. So, it's unclear how much Healey's pledge would differ. (Biden's federal pardon process will also require individuals to apply.) That said, there are some legal differences between a pardon and expungement.

P.S.— Two members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation are proposing a digital version of a very common household item. Do you know what it is? Then take our Boston News Quiz and test your knowledge of the local stories we covered this week.

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Twitter Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.

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