Hospice care for the T

 

I write this every month … Commuter rail has been simply a disaster this month:

Keolis Commuter Services operated the required number of locomotives for regular service during only four of 23 weekdays in March, a troubling statistic behind some of the many cancellations and delays that have recently plagued their lines.

…Cancellations have become particularly noticable in recent days, as several commuter rail trains were cancelled for the second day in a row, sending commuters scrambling for alternatives. Trains were cancelled on the Stoughton, Lowell, and Newburyport/Rockport line on Thursday.

And there are always technical excuses: It’s the trains, or repair equipment or some dog-ate-my-homework that the public should simply never have to hear about. If you run a train line, it’s your job to have processes to deal with things like that.

And as I’ve said before, it’s not merely Keolis, the T, and the Baker administration’s failure. One may remember — one could be forgiven for forgetting — that we have a state auditor. An auditor that touted finding $1.8 million in uncollected fares back in November, but doesn’t seem particularly interested in the core mission of getting people to work, or in the billion+ in cost overruns on the Green Line. To state the wildly obvious, the state desperately needs contracting reform with regard to T’s infrastructure.

What is Suzanne Bump doing? Does her office lack the personnel, the expertise, or the interest?

Meanwhile the Baker administration is promising nothing other than a continuation of the T’s death spiral: More cuts in weekend service. The marketing strategy is quite amazing: Trains don’t run often enough to be convenient, so you don’t get as many riders as you might, and then you cut service because nobody’s using it.

And people who rely on the T to get to work pay the price — not in fares, but in their jobs:

Meredith Sterling’s entire work schedule hinges on the Worcester/Framingham commuter rail line.

On weekends, when the earliest train doesn’t leave Worcester until 7 a.m., she starts her shift at a Dunkin’ Donuts near the Framingham stop later than usual. During snowstorms, she leaves early to catch the last train, sacrificing a few hours of pay to avoid being stranded.

Without weekend train service, Sterling, 26, would probably look for another job. The cost of Uber or taxi rides would eat up too much of her paycheck.

So when Sterling learned that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority was considering cutting back service on the weekends — or eliminating it altogether — her eyes widened with alarm.

No kidding. [The Globe’s Nicole Dungca has done excellent reporting on this, with tenacity and compassion. Don’t let up!)

It would be one thing if we actually had prospects for a better future for the T. We could have contracting reform, accountability, a rider-centered customer service attitude — and funding from Bob DeLeo and the legislature.

This isn’t a recovery plan for the T. It’s hospice care.



Discuss

16 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. This situation cries out for a "czar".

    There needs to be a high-level, high-profile person to co-ordinate and knock a few heads, but I fear it won’t come from the current administration. I hope the gubernatorial candidates will have a lot to say about this, but I’m thinking it may be a good focus for a Lt. Governor who has the constitutional freedom to pretty much do what he/she wants with the office. Incidentally, has anyone heard about Dems considering LG? I haven’t.

  2. Long past time

    It’s embarrassingly long past time to make the T run better.
    I completely survey from my state rep where we’re asked for priorities. And while all of the listed ones were while worthy and I supported them, there were two notable missing things for folks in this area that I had to write in. Public transit that is affordable AND reliable as well as affordable housing!

  3. #1 reason Baker doesn't have my vote

    With education and housing tied for second. Democrats have to hit him hard on this. I know the House won’t-but our candidates for governor and Senate leaders have an obligation to do so. Capuano and Curtatone are uniquely positioned to speak up too-as the GLX is the only positive thing happening on this tired system. Looking for orange line apartments since it’s the only one that works/not depending on the commuter rail again.

  4. REPUBLICANS BELIEVE GOVERNMENT IS BAD...

    then they get into office and prove it every day.

    So why do we keep voting for them ?

    Fred Rich LaRiccia

  5. Contract does not guarantee profit

    Keolis put in a bid to operate the trains for a certain amount at a certain level of service. It outbid others, including the cost for state workers to do it. They should be held to the fire 100%, no excuses. Otherwise the bid process was essentially rigged.

  6. won't have to commute

    The Dunkins in the Worcester Medical center is looking for help.

    The plight of someone who takes a train from Worc to Framingham to work in a Dunkin Donuts might not have been the best example to use to make a point.

  7. Murder Not Hospice Care

    “This isn’t a recovery plan for the T. It’s hospice care.”

    Not even hospice care. Much more like “mercy killing,” a pillow over the patient’s face causing suffocation and death.

  8. Keolis

    Keolis didn’t order these trains, did they? Why are they the whipping boy?

    In the instant case: We have inadequate rolling stock. Solving the problem means spending money to get adequate rolling stock. Then Keolis or whoever we hire can run the railroad to a higher performance standard.

    This is not rocket science. I’ve got to believe anyone who blames Keolis is sincerely not interesting in fixing this.

    PS Who does none of the press coverage if this I’ve seen explain who ordered these locomotives?

    • Did they not do their homework before bidding?

      Rule number one in bidding for work: understand exactly what you’re bidding on. There should be no major surprises once the job starts.

      In my day job, I make sure that bidders really know what they’re getting into an I have been known to turn down low bids or asked for re-bids when it’s clear the job is bigger than they’re thinking. Sure I can get a theoretical bargain by accepting an unrealistically-low bid then beating up the vendor for to hold them to the agreement. But that never ends up well for anyone.*

      *Except for banks, who are totally free to utterly #%^* over uninformed consumers in agreements, then purchase laws to force consumers to do the crazy stuff they agreed to do. That works out very, very well for banks.

      • So, basically,

        “Didn’t they understand that being the scapegoat was part of their job description?”

        As a postscript, your own professional conduct may be exemplary but unless you work for the T I don’t see how it relates to this situation.

  9. Not Baker's fault

    Charlie Baker is not the whipping-boy here, nor is Keolis.

    This crisis is decades in the making. Mr. DeLeo could have solved it years ago, during the Deval Patrick administration, by agreeing to — rather than torpedoing — Mr. Patrick’s courageous attempt to actually address the deep structural issues of funding public transportation in Massachusetts.

    The issue here is NOT Keolis, and it’s not Charlie Baker. The issue is our steadfast and continuing refusal to raise taxes in order to spend the money that needs to be spent on providing safe, convenient, and affordable public rail transportation in Massachusetts.

    THAT issue falls squarely in the lap of Bob DeLeo.

    • I think it's shared.

      Baker hasn’t exactly been bending over backwards and he is in charge now, or at least should be proposing and advocating. I’ll never forget that his response to the shut down a couple winters ago was to “start with the premise that people are already taxed enough”.

      • He's acting like a Republican

        Of course it’s shared, he’s acting like a republican and doing what Republicans do. That’s irrelevant. Given what he and we saw Mr. DeLeo do to a fellow Democrat, why on earth would Mr. Baker doing anything other than what he’s doing?

        Sorry, but this problem is squarely on Bob DeLeo, the “Democratic” Massachusetts house, and our Massachusetts Democratic Party. The slow-motion destruction and strangulation of the MBTA has been going on for decades, the we Democrats have owned the purse strings for decades, and we’ve done nothing.

        We had our chance when Deval Patrick stepped forward to propose a solution. We embarrassed him and and ourselves when we summarily rejected his proposal.

    • Baker is in the tank

      with DeLeo. You think he would sign a tax increase?

      Baker is all about living within existing limits. That’s a big part of the problem.

      • Tax rates are set by the legislature

        The Democrats have an overwhelming majority of both the House and Senate. I think that if the Democrats wanted to fix the problem, we could pass a tax increase and override the veto that Mr. Baker would surely attempt.

        Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts GOP is not the problem. Our problem is our unwillingness, as Democrats, to suck it up and do what we all know needs to be done.

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Mon 24 Apr 11:18 AM