Left out in the cold

Last week, right after the governor and MassDOT released their vision for the future of transportation, Father Time and Mother Nature made the problems facing our underfunded transportation system very real for commuters.

An old wire in the Arlington T station started to smolder. It caused the entire Green Line to shut down at the height of rush hour. Thousands of people had to step out into the bitter cold and take shuttle buses to their destination. A few days later, the bitter cold caused some of the aging commuter trains and subways to fail, once again causing commuters to be delayed.

When disruptions in rush hour commutes happen in major cities like Boston, the public feels the impact of an underfunded and aging transit system first hand while the business community measures lost productivity. The media splashes pictures of freezing commuters forced to stand in the bitter cold.

It is important for people to see this as we work to increase funding for transportation, but seeing people out in the cold made me think on an equally important story that did not make the news. It’s Ana’s story.

I met Ana in Springfield recently and she told me how an underfunded transit system affects her life. She’s in her mid-sixties, an immigrant from Puerto Rico, and a person who relies completely on public transit. She uses Pioneer Valley Transit Authority buses to go shopping, to the doctor, to church, to visit friends. On January 2nd, which is one of the coldest days we’ve had so far, she had to wait 40 minutes in the bitter cold for a bus to take her to a doctor’s appointment. This was not in a rural place where one would expect an hour between buses, it was the city of Springfield.

People like Ana who rely on the regional bus systems across the state face “delays” in their commute every day. Some need to get to jobs, others to community colleges, but with issues like hour waits between buses and no service after 6PM and on weekends, these regional bus systems are not serving the people who need them. Why? Because like the rest of our transportation system these regional transit authorities need more funding to provide people with access to jobs, school, and the daily needs of their lives.

Both crowds of commuters in Boston standing on the streets and Ana standing alone for an hour on the other side of the state tell us that it’s time to fund our public transit systems so they can work for the public again.


This blog was originally posted on Transportation for Massachusetts’ website t4ma.org

Recommended by christopher, somervilletom.


7 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. One off-subject nitpick

    You describe Ana as an “immigrant from Puerto Rico”. Puerto Ricans are by definition US citizens, not immigrants.

    • Are you from Massachusetts?

      I’ve been an “immigrant” from Maryland ever since I moved here in 1974! There are towns (Middlesex County is full of them) where folks are “immigrants” unless their grandparents grew up there.

      I suspect t4ma was thinking of “immigrant” in its more general someone-new-to-the-area, rather than it’s strictly legal, sense.

      • Maybe, but

        her coming from Puerto Rico makes me think maybe not. My wife is from Puerto Rico and gets this all the time. She’s had prospective employers ask if she has a green card or, if not, what kind of visa. Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens by law since 1917 but it doesn’t mean everyone knows it.

        • I remember some GOP clown

          running for state rep in my neck of the woods complaining about all the illegal immigrants in the emergency room at Holyoke Hospital. I’m sure there are some undocumented people in the area, but the vast majority of Spanish-speakers in Holyoke are Puerto Rican.

          • True

            My wife has some family in Holyoke. We noticed a Puerto Rican social club there that had both Red Sox and Yankees logos painted on the front, because so many Puerto Rican people moved up from NYC.

      • But, back on topic

        Our public transportation network certainly does need some work.

      • Sorry Tom

        The title of Masshole is through birth and can’t be earned. I’ve lived in Illinois or six years now as still insist I’m “from” Massachusets. Maryland was the opposite in my view, I lives there for ten weeks when I worked at State and people who’ve lived there for decades still say they are “from” somewhere else.

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