The Baker administration inherited a mess of an MBTA when it took office in 2015, which quickly bloomed into an actual crisis. The weather that January and February was record-breaking, which exposed every last flaw in the system from broken rails to signals, commuter rail and subway. The T was paralyzed.
Three years later, with a Fiscal Management and Control Board, a new General Manager, and a $101 million investment in “resiliency”, we’re in much the same situation. The T still doesn’t work in the cold — in Massachusetts. This is such a fundamental failure, it’s laughable to even have to point out. Laughing bitterly into your drink, that is.
Seventeen people were injured Friday afternoon when two Mattapan trolleys collided, marking a day when the MBTA’s first serious test of winter weather this season also saw long delays on the Orange Line and backups on the commuter rail.
Officials said the extreme cold was a contributing factor in many of the problems in the transit system, stoking fears among some riders that they are in for another winter like 2015, when the MBTA’s aging infrastructure succumbed to heavy snowfall that shut parts of the system for days.
“I thought the MBTA would improve two years ago. I don’t know who to blame, but it doesn’t work well,” said Himanshu Roongta, a Canton resident who rides both the commuter rail and Red Line into Boston. “Last year was OK because the winter was a little milder. But just look at the last two days.”
Well, the whole point of transportation reform a few years ago, putting the MBTA more squarely under the executive branch, is that you’d know precisely who’s responsible. The lines of accountability are clear: It’s the governor’s problem.
The Democratic candidates for governor are moving in on what they perceive is a weakness for Baker:
When your main argument for re-election is you’ve fixed the broken #MBTA, @CharlieBakerMA, you should be sure you’ve actually fixed the MBTA. “Passengers not impressed with the T’s early winter returns” https://t.co/W8e7dlXUJT
— Jay Gonzalez (@jay4ma) December 30, 2017
So what’s a fair measurement for forward progress on the T? What more could have been done in these three years? Is our current suffering somehow unavoidable? Does it really take three+ years to figure out how to run trains in the cold?
Political observers and wonks can get down in the weeds with process questions, but the riding public doesn’t really have that luxury; either the trains run or they don’t. There’s a bottom line; there’s been three years to show improvement; and it’s as bad as one could have feared.
Next step for Dem gubernatorial candidates: Show how to do it better.