Charlie Isn’t on the MTA

And if Governor Charlie Baker was on the MBTA, he’d be late for work. After a week of listening to announcements about scheduling adjustments, rerouted trains and apologies for “any inconvenience they might be causing,” he’d never return. He’d use private transportation. No one in his or her right mind would subject themselves to this unnecessarily.

And Charlie said the T was running much more efficiently since he intervened.

However, on this particular fateful 26 degree pre-Winter day, I tapped my my Charlie card and was immediately faced with every commuter’s worst nightmare: no trains, and a crowded platform. I held my breath and then the dreaded announcement:

“Due to a signal problem at Orient Heights, we are experiencing delays.”

As I lost the feelings in my fingers, the intercom declared, “ the next train is one stop away,” as if this offers any comfort. The tracks were inhabited by a swarm of bumble bee-like T-employees in yellow vests, buzzing around, one group prying up the plywood to check under the hood, so to speak. (See above).

It’s not officially winter for another week and a half and already the good ‘ol MBTA’’ (Mass. Bay Transportation Authority) is feeling the burden of their antiquated equipment. It was only a cold normal Boston day in December, and the signaling system was already warnings us about trouble ahead. What is going to happen when the snows of February hit the East Coast? That’s about the time they dig through snow and torch the tracks to melt the ice to access the controls.

It’s not that the signal problem can’t happen at any time of year, it’s just that in the winter, it become more difficult to physically get to the cause.

In 2015 when Boston received over 100 inches of snow, the condition of the T’s equipment and the deferred maintenance of such, was exposed. They simply couldn’t keep up and the T was closed. For the first time since 1897, Boston officially had no public transportation, stranding thousands of workers and burdening businesses with unavoidable absences.

Enter Governor Baker on his stallion. He eviscerated GM Beverly Scott and took Dept. of Transportation to task for their abysmal service. Though she did not deserve any award for the way she handled a tough situation, she did inherit a broken system that was stretched to its limit. During the November elections he pontificated about how his actions had improved service, stating that commuters were happier.

Below is a commuter’s rendition of subway service in February, 2015.

It has improved somewhat since then, but to say we commuters are happier is pushing it a bit. Following the aftershocks of a minor New England cold snap, I now wonder:

Will I be once more traveling from NOPE (Blue Line) to DON’T EVEN (Green Line)? The problem started at NOPE and sadly continued to DON’T EVEN as it did in 2015.

Alas a train arrived as they usually do. The cattle, myself included, herded itself toward the promise of relative warmth. The doors shut and the lowing began punctuated by guttural commands of “let people off the train” and “clear the doors.” My fellows beasts and I were are up one another’s butt, no seats and nowhere to fall. Nothing like a Monday morning rush-hour delay to get you in the mood for your slavin’ job. In total I was delayed 45 minutes, but I digress.

The T is replacing green line D track and signals. Subway advertisements boast of winter preparations. It’s a step in the right direction, but based on past performance I have little faith in their proactive preparations. There are just too many malfunctions to expect that anything has improved.

For example, there was the delightful scenario of musical trains.

We were still underground, so at least weren’t “inconvenienced” on the street level where the green line turns from rapid transit (ha!) to a street car. The train in front of us was a “D” train, destination Riverside. Mine was a “C” line train, destination Cleveland Circle. We pulled into Park Street, the hub and the Grand Central Station of the T, and here’s where the music stopped. All the people on the C train moved to the D so the D could become C, and all the people on the D moved to the C train so the C could become D, four cars in all. Can you say wild kingdom?

How’s that for planning? If you can’t organized a daily routine, how can you plan and organize snow removal in Boston?

Next scenario

My regular favorite is busing. I say regular because you can count on this happening at least twice a year on each and every line: Blue, Red, Green and Orange. The train is disabled. Announcement: Go upstairs and buses will be waiting to take you to your destination making all stops. The only thing awaiting you is confusion and angry T employees. This is where you consider giving up altogether and going home, if in fact the trains are running in the opposite direction and the entire subway system isn’t suffering from the omnipresent signal problem malady. If that’s the case, your only option is to walk or take an Uber or cab to your home or final destination.

And the award goes to…

The power outage scenario.

I saved the best for last. The power outage scenario takes first prize and once more the T makes the news. Blue line passengers were forced to exit disabled trains in the tunnels and walk the tracks. (If you don’t believe me, click on the link.) After a trek through dark, tunnels unfit for the rats who inhabit them, shaken passengers had the unmitigated gall to ask T-employees for direction and were promptly put in their places.

Well, excuse me! (Courtesy of Steve Martin)

Buses were waiting to take them to their final destinations making every stop. NOT!

But wait!

T employees have it tough as well. They deal with angry people and encounter faulty equipment on a daily basis. Don’t forget they are underground for a lot of the time. Sometimes it gets to them.

Orange Line passengers were treated to yet another Monday morning rush hour debacle when the conductor wouldn’t move the train. The train arrived and then nothing. He announced, yes this was over the public address system, that the train was unsafe and, “I’m being tortured. I need help!” Passengers called 911 and he was removed. The T reported has was making “inappropriate” statements. Really? Or had they been torturing him?

We hear you, buddy, everyday Monday through Friday at 9:00 and 5:00 when thousands of us embark on the great MBTA quest, we too feel the torture. It’s that or we can sit in rush hour traffic and pay a small fortune to park, but that’s a story for another day.

What does Charlie have to say about that?

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