No One Is Happy with the MBTA Closure

But who to blame?

mbta red line closure

Photo via AP

Nearly everyone agrees that the MBTA’s cancellation of rail service all day today is, as Governor Charlie Baker put it, “unacceptable.” The question, then, is “where should we file our complaints?”

Facing mechanical failures in an onslaught of snowfall, the T announced Monday that it would close at 7 p.m. and remain out of service through Tuesday. The cancellation on a day when the governor has asked people to stay off the roads leaves many people unable to get to work, even on a day when it’s no longer snowing. Surprised travelers arrived to South Station last night unable to get home. Tweets with the hashtag #MBTAfail had already been proliferating, and they gained new steam.

“We’ve been frustrated, disappointed with the performance of the T,” Governor Charlie Baker said at a midday press conference, even before the T announced it couldn’t operate all tomorrow. “The public transportation system has to work. Let’s face it, this can’t happen again.”

Baker continued, “The first time that happens you can blame it on the weather, but after a while it starts to feel like something more.”

It is, of course, something more. A decades-long inability to update and invest in the MBTA’s infrastructure. A Globe explainer delves into the outmoded direct current technology that has yielded Red and Orange line train failures en masse Monday. An MTA spokesman noted that the average age of an MTA car in New York City is 19 years, meaning, as the Globe writes, “the newest cars on Boston’s Red Line are older than the average car in New York.” Then there are the older cars, the ones that lived through the blizzard of 1978.

Who to blame? David Bernstein points to state legislators, especially those outside of Boston who see spending on the city’s transit system as a loss of potential dollars for their hometowns. Others point to the voters who knocked down a gas tax that would have provided some automatic funding to the public transit system last year. Still others point out that Baker has proposed cutting $14 million from the MBTA’s budget. He defended the decision saying it wouldn’t have an impact on service.

Whoever it is that failed to put the money into the T it would need to stand up to snow like the kind we’ve had this winter, they don’t seem likely to change their tune much. As columnist Joan Vennochi writes, “the T needs huge public investment, at the same time Baker is dealing with a $786 million state budget deficit, while promising no new taxes and more disciplined spending.”

The non-profit Transportation for Massachusetts started a petition to ask the government to invest in public transit, and more than 2,000 people have signed. A half-joking GoFundMe campaign has asked people to donate $30 million and their souls to the cause. But this isn’t the T’s first bad performance in bad weather. And like snow itself, public outrage may well melt away before anyone offers to invest money into the system.

  • armyisnumber1

    Huh, they didn’t even post my comments. Must of hit the nail on the head. Oh well, I am shocked at BOSTON as they are pretty good at posting the TRUTH.

  • joanmcn@aol.com

    The real problem was Deval Patrick’s lack of leadership. Instead of putting in line extensions we should fix the ones we have. Bad MBTA leadership, unions that are overpaid and don’t really work…those are the problems.Baker didn’t cause the problem and the people have paid enough. Patrick didn’t do a damn thing for this state. Wake up people- now we’re all saddled with his mess.

  • CG

    Finding blame doesn’t get to a solution. It only delays it. The legislature, theoretically representing the people, has failed for years to invest in the T’s infrastructure. Soooo, lets all now work *together* to find a solution. The divisiveness you encourage with your headline isn’t helping the solution. Its only adding to the finger-pointing game, which, admittedly for many, is much easier than taking action to fix it. Don’t be part of that.

  • Melissa X

    There’s no doubt that Beverly Scott is incompetent. After last week’s storm & MBTA fiasco, during an interview, she said she didn’t know there was going to be that much snow. Seriously!? Does she not have a tv/radio? Knowing there was going to be another snow storm, the leadership should have planned to remove the snow before this last storm. The trains are aging, yes, but it doesn’t help to have an incompetent manager who doesn’t know how to listen to weather reports and too lazy to think strategically & plan. There’s always construction during the summers & falls on the red line, yet it’s the worst of all the crappy lines. The T is no longer reliable (even during the summer time), so I guess it’s just time for me to get a car.

  • Josh Ostroff

    To add your name to the thousands that are advocating for a safe, reliable statewide transportation network, please go to http://t4ma.org/petition – thank you!

  • Patty

    I do agree that Beverly Scott seems pretty incompetent HOWEVER let us not put all the blame on her. The infrastructure at the T has ignored the need to upgrade red and orange line trains for years. Long before Beverly Scott took over as manager in 2012 the trains were constantly breaking down. I think the previous manager, Davey was on TV at least once a week with some new lame excuse as to why the trains were not working. Agreed that Beverly Scott planned very very poorly for these snow events but she is not responsible for the ancient equipment she inherited and which the legislature refuses to replace. I depend on the T to get to work and these two days with no T service come out of my paycheck and that is not right. I think the T needs a manager with winter experience…someone from Chicago or Minneapolis!! Hopefully we can get to work for the rest of the winter and public officials will stop playing the blame game and order newer equipment. Stop making the public victim to this incompetence.

  • Crimefighter

    Beverly Scott is out of her league and should never have gotten the job to begin with.

  • Christine Scano

    Dare I state the obvious? YES “the T needs huge public investment.”
    If Boston is the chosen venue for the Olympics in 2024, that would seem like the only viable way to allow for a huge influx of spending on transportation and infrastructure. Before I was on the fence, but after these storms it’s clear to me that I support the Olympics coming to Boston – based solely on the much needed improvements that would result.

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  • Sillygirl3

    Bye, Bye Bev!
    Take your incompetent self and poor management skills to some other Lib governed fiasco.

    Couldn’t even ride out the storm!!!!

  • sdk

    The MBTA’s problems have been decades in the making but if it warms your heart to blame a particular individual in the here and now, I can hardly begrudge you that on such a blizzardy day. Sadly, you’ll still be dumb come the thaw.