People Have Complained About the MBTA for At Least 100 Years

From the archives, Somerville officials reveal a letter dating back to the 1900's, when Sullivan Station was still a mess.

People have been crowding MBTA stations, filling train vehicles, and trying to get a seat on their ride to and from work for at least 100 years, making everyday riders that groan about standing in a packed train part of a long-lasting tradition of frustrated individuals.

In a recent blog post on the City of Somerville’s Archives page, employees posted a letter written to the Board of Rail Road Commissioners by former Mayor Charles Burns, bemoaning the overly crowded terminal at “Sullivan Square,” which locals have come to know as Sullivan Station along the Orange Line.

The letter begged the board to address the fact that riders couldn’t find a seat to relax in during the “rush hour” times in both the morning and evening commutes. Burns was a former Somerville Aldermen, and the 15th mayor of the city.

While the problem still exists for some, as the MBTA has continuously hit record numbers of riders over the course of the last year, the archivists write that “transit issues 100 years ago looked a little different,” since the current battle between board members and elected officials is more focused on budgetary problems and funding.

What’s also interesting in the letter is the mayor’s reference to “protests” filed by constituents. Even today, hundreds of people continue to gather and call for changes to the T’s service by gathering in large crowds outside of the State House, and in the Transportation Building in Downtown Boston.

The archived letter is so old that it clearly states “gentlemen” when the mayor addresses the board, indicating it was a time when women likely didn’t have the option of being part of the public process. And while the rights of people have come a long way, it seems the habits of riders have not.

Here is the letter, written in 1913, around 100 years ago to date:

Photo via Somerville Archives

Photo via Somerville Archives