The Best Cold-Weather Fix for the T: Hubway

It's cold and the Green Line is down. Duh.

By | Boston Daily |

It sounds a little crazy, but we're basically at the point where you should think twice about taking the T in really cold weather. Today, it's about 10 degrees out, closer to zero with windchill. And lo and behold, the Green Line has broken down. Around 8:00 a.m., a cable caught fire in the Arlington station, forcing the line to shut down between Kenmore and Government Center and sending everybody above ground into the cold to wait for shuttle buses (which, of course, take forever). With the T's busiest stretch of track knocked out during rush hour on a freezing cold day, naturally, the Twittering masses were unhappy. A look at some of the carnage, in picture form:

The reason the T is so prone to break down in the cold is pretty simple: it's old. We've been over this many times, but the cars are old, the tracks are old, the infrastructure is old—with the exception of a few new fleets of cars and a handful of other improvements, just about everything is old. The extreme cold puts tremendous stress on all of the ancient equipment, leading to problems like we're seeing today. If you rely on the MBTA to commute, you might not want to look at the rest of the week's frigid forecast. Now, Governor Deval Patrick is working on a plan to get a handle on all that, but even if he gets everything he wants and an ideal version of his transportation reform plan moves ahead, it'll take years to bring the T up to date. So what can be done in the meantime?

How about we get Boston's bikeshare system Hubway running in winter. I know it's cold, but don't you think a bunch of those folks waiting for shuttle buses would have loved to jump on a bike and get on their way this morning? In fact, considering how unreliable the T is in the cold, I'd wager plenty of folks would have rather biked in the first place. As long as you bundle up appropriately (tip: ski goggles are huge), riding in the cold is really no big deal. I biked to work today and even got to enjoy the added bonus of looking like a ninja in my baclava and goggles. The good news is that Hubway has actually already floated the idea of running through these winter months—in December, the Globe's Eric Moskowitz reported:

A winterized Hubway could happen by December 2013. Current contracts and permits call for a nearly four-month closure, but the two-thirds of Hubway stations located on plazas and sidewalks could remain in place without posing an obstacle for street plowing.

Local officials followed the lead of established bike-sharing networks in Montreal and Minneapolis in making Hubway seasonal. But Toronto’s BIXI, which opened the same year as Hubway, has kept going through the cold, encouraging ridership with “Winter Warrior” contests.

If there's one thing I know, it's that Bostonians are much tougher than Canadians (especially those puck-brained ninnies in Montreal, and most probably their fellow Dudley Do-Rights in Toronto). So, please, Hubway, let's get the bikes out there in the cold ASAP. If we can't count on the power of the T, at least we can count on the power of our own two legs.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/01/23/fix-t-hubway/