Significant scheduling changes have arrived for the MBTA after a federal agency cited a long list of serious safety issues. The agency's Operation Control Center, where dispatchers oversee trains' movements to try and prevent crashes, is severely understaffed, with employees working double or triple shifts and getting inadequate rest between workdays. GBH News Transportation Reporter Bob Seay joined Morning Edition host Jeremy Siegel to talk about what this means and how long the service cuts, which begin today, will last. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Jeremy Siegel: You'll need to build in some extra travel time if you take the T's Red, Blue or Orange lines. This is a big change. What is the bottom line of what people taking the train to work every day can expect?

Bob Seay: The Federal Transit Administration's report isn't going to be done until August, but apparently the agency felt so strongly about these changes that it wanted some immediate action. So the T last week decided to implement a Saturday schedule every weekday and for riders of the Red, Orange and Blue lines. Now, what that means is Red Line trains, which run every 9 to 10 minutes during the morning and evening, will increase to about every 15 minutes. Orange Line waits will grow from every 6 to 7 minutes during peaks to about 10 to 11 minutes. And Blue Line trains usually run every 5 minutes during the morning and evening rush. That'll jump up to 7 minutes. So people will find longer waits between trains.

Siegel: You hear about this safety issue and the federal investigation, but at the same time, I'm thinking of service levels — what exactly does that have to do with safety? How are the number of trains, or the frequency of trains, how is that connected to safety here?

Seay: The operations control center — which is what the FTA took a look at — they found that they were tremendously understaffed, by about 20% fewer employees than they needed. And they found that, very surprisingly, some dispatchers — and this is the center that oversees the movement of all trains in the system — were working sometimes 16 hour shifts, sometimes 20 hour shifts, and only getting 4 hours rest before returning [to work]. So the FTA wrote that the failure to ensure that personnel within the Operations Control Center are trained and certified, properly rested, and concentrating on one role at a time is a significant safety risk. And the T had little choice but to scale back operations to match the staffing levels in those Operation Control Center.

"Everyone knows that the T has been seriously underfunded for years."
-GBH transportation reporter Bob Seay

Siegel: This is frustrating. Nobody likes getting to a platform waiting for their T train and seeing that it's far away. If someone is getting to the station and is annoyed, who do they have to blame here?

Seay: There is plenty of blame to go around. The governor, the legislature, T management and the Department of Public Utilities, which is tasked with overseeing the T, which the FTA says has not been doing its job. But everyone knows that the T has been seriously underfunded for years. They've increased the money for capital expenses, but at the expense of operational funds which provide for maintenance and inspection. And something the feds really zeroed in on was the question of what to do now. Will the governor and legislature finally act to provide the funding needed? But even if they do, it's going to take time to recruit and to train the extra dispatchers needed. That's why the T said that these schedule changes will probably be in effect all summer, assuming it's going to take several weeks for them to fully staff up.