What’s up with Boston’s MBTA?
The oldest subway system in the country needs a significant overhaul.
Bostonians have a lot to brag about.
We have championship sports teams, a great accent, creative drivers, world class symphony, ballet, and a stellar history. If not for Boston, there wouldn’t have been a revolution, and we’d sound like Her Royal Majesty.
Boston is the land of many firsts: public library, public garden, newspaper, post office, school, hospital, and not to mention first to administer anesthesia (ether). Thank you, Mass General Hospital.
But there’s one first we don’t brag on: the subway system, MBTA, aka the “T.” It’s a constant source of irritation for commuters and brings many rush hours to standstills. There are signal problems, power problems, wire problems, breakdowns, derailments, fires, and even a few collisions.
The most consistent is the good old standby for a schedule adjustment. I feel like “hello, my schedule hasn’t been adjusted. I’m late.”
Amid delays, passengers are left to wonder what the hell is going on. Adequate communication is right up there with schedule reliability. There’s no plan, even as you’re herded to some source of alternative transportation.
I guess you could say they’re masters at playing things by ear. It’s good for music, not for public transportation.
One cold winter morning, a co-worker arrived late and harried from her commute. Her train was evacuated, and she was forced to walk the tracks. When she arrived at the station and asked if the busses were waiting, a T employee scolded her.
Why? Because there was no plan.
Headlines in the Boston Globe proclaimed, “The T makes it harder to run a business in Boston.”
I often have to take vacation hours or work late to make up for the missed time. It’s my time and money, and I’d prefer not to use or spend them on the subway.
The cost of inconvenience
A T-pass for bus and train, aka Charlie Card, runs $84.50 a month. Employers subsidize so, for me, that knocks it down to $45.00.
Parking at a T-owned lot runs $5.00 a day. On average, that’s $80.00 a month.
Today’s delay cost me one hour. Delays can also accumulate over the week.
Using a minimum wage of $12.00 an hour, the cost of delay is $48.00 a month, but let’s make it an even $50.00 as some months have 30-days. Add it to my Charlie Card for a total of $175.00 a month. That additional $50.00 a week brings my lost earned time or wages to $2,600.00 annually.
So when the announcement comes that they’re “sorry for the inconvenience,” I say, “F*** you!”
2019 T Highlights
Just so you don’t think I’m exaggerating, I’ve added some of the T’s highlights over the last year. Please note that some incidents don’t make the headlines.
I don’t have the pleasure of riding the commuter rail, but as part of the MBTA, it certainly deserves mention. In this article, signal and communication issues are cited as the cause of delay. The T can resolve both problems. But they don’t.
Or worse, they can’t.
Again, the orange line is another I don’t have the privilege of experiencing regularly, but it’s not without its charm. Passengers note personal space issues. This particular delay was due to two trains that broke down.
Red Line Derailment
No one knows how the trains came off the track; they only acknowledge that they did, and therefore, commuters should expect delays on their commute home from work. This one was a doubleheader.
A Streetcar Called the Green Line
There are four green line branches, B, C, D, and E, and each one leaves the tunnel and runs along one of Boston’s busy city streets. At that point, trains crawl along with the traffic you’re trying to avoid by taking the train in the first place. My nemesis is the C branch. We have the added benefit of wire problems and cars trying to cross the tracks.
And of course, what would we do without power problems?
Want to get to the airport faster and without traffic? Take the blue line. Except it might shut down altogether. Yes, this is the line that takes you to Airport Station, where buses line up to get you to your terminal. It’s fast and efficient, except when it’s not.
And there’s no telling when that will be.
At this point you might be thinking, why not just drive?
Well, traffic is another one of the things Boston is infamous for. The Big Dig made a big mess, but it didn’t alleviate the traffic congestion. Add to that the creative and unique habits Boston drivers display behind the wheel and our two-name system for every major roadway, and the T is the better choice.
Hey, I’m glad we have public transportation. I can’t imagine not having it. I just want to get to work on time.
As a native Bostonian, I prefer the T and its idiosyncracies to road rage. Grab a book, read Medium, and moan and groan with your fellow passengers.
How bad can driving be in Boston? Well, you can read about it. They don’t call us Massholes for nothing.
Thanks and happy traveling.