Thanks to Governor, T Runs Better but Confident Riders Are Hard to Find

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

An interview with Steve Kadish, Charlie Baker’s chief of staff, by CommonWealth magazine’s Michael Jonas appeared online January 10.  Headlined “Governor Fix-It’s fix-it man,” the Q&A was heavy on the details of Baker administration policy and governance, but nevertheless a good, fast read.

Somewhere near the end, as Jonas and Kadish were discussing the MBTA, to which both the governor and his chief of staff have devoted incredible amounts of time and energy, Jonas said something that had my head nodding like a bobble head doll’s.
“I ride the Red Line.  One day this week there was a signal problem at Harvard.  I start at the far other end at Ashmont and we were delayed because of it,” Jonas related. “And the doors in one of the cars were not working, so people on the platform had to keep scurrying to another one.  It (the T) still has the feeling sometimes of being held together by bailing wire and bubble gum.”

I ride MBTA buses and subway cars every work day -- and almost every day’s an adventure.  My commute yesterday morning is a case in point.

The 7:40 a.m. bus I was supposed to catch in the Melrose Highlands was eight minutes late.  No one shovels out bus stops after snow storms, so I had to wait in the snow-narrowed street, Dunkin’-guzzling, cell-phone-talking motorists be damned.  Upon boarding, I shuffled to my usual spot, a sideways-facing bench at the back.  I like the extra leg room there.  Then I put my face in a magazine. 
More than half-way to Oak Grove station, I noticed something different, something I’d never seen before on that bus at that hour: there were only two other passengers besides myself.  Scanning the road ahead, I saw the why.  My bus was directly behind the 7:25 a.m. bus.  The system wasn’t working as it should; lots of people were going to be late for work.

When our buses-in-tandem got to Oak Grove, there was a big tie-up on the access road, Banks Place.  This happens after heavy snowfalls because the T has set up paid parking spaces on one whole side of Banks Place. It’s impossible to clear all the snow that falls during big storms out of those spaces. Banks Place grows much narrower. With traffic moving in both directions, everybody has to slow down to avoid scraping fenders with oncoming vehicles. Usually, the trip down Banks Place takes maybe 30 seconds; yesterday morning, it took five minutes.
Heading to the platform where the trains pull in, I read on the overhead message board that one train was boarding (about to leave) and the next would depart in 10 minutes. Ten minutes between trains guarantees you’ll be packed into a car like bullets in a magazine.  The T could use one train every three minutes in the rush hours.

I did my best imitation of running to catch the boarding train.  There was only one open seat remaining, between two guys built like the defensive linemen on the Everett High football team.  I couldn’t squeeze my shoulders between the two and had to perch on the edge of the seat, holding my briefcase on my knees.  But I was one of the lucky ones.  I wasn’t standing up and I wasn’t squeezed shoulder to shoulder, face to face with strangers.  Somebody’s 18-inch-wide backpack wasn’t pressed into my spine the whole way to Boston.
The first stop after Oak Grove is Malden Center.  Its platform is always crowded in the morning.  Within 10 seconds of the doors opening, almost every inch of “my” car was occupied.  One may assume the same was true of every other car, meaning there would be a lot of disappointed, angry T patrons at the next three stops, Wellington, Assembly and Sullivan Square.  Not until the train rolled into Community College and the Bunker Hill students disembarked would some standing room open up.

SO, if you were waiting yesterday morning, circa 8:30, at two very busy stops (Wellington and Sullivan Square) and one medium-busy stop (Assembly) on the Orange Line, you had almost zero chance of getting on a train.
“There’s huge investment that’s needed, and so every day we look at performance of all the lines, and it’s not reliable enough yet,” Steve Kadish said in response to Michael Jonas’s “bailing wire and bubble gum” observation, before adding some nuance.

“Let me take that back,” he said.  “The reliability of the Blue Line, the general reliability of the Orange Line, the general reliability of the Red Line – pretty solid when you see the daily stats.  It comes very close to hitting 75 percent on-time performance.”
Kadish is correct.  The Baker administration has definitely made the T run better than it did in the disastrous winter of 2014-15.  That has been no small feat.  As a T rider, I am very glad that Governor Fix-It, (or, as I call him, Our Eagle Scout Governor), decided to “take ownership” of our Godforsaken mass transit system.

The T will not, cannot become the system metro Boston needs, and that “bailing wire and bubble gum feeling” will not vanish, until we get really serious about that “huge investment” Kadish mentioned. 
Read the entire Jonas-Kadish interview by going to:


No comments:

Post a Comment