The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) was formed in 1964, and fifty-one years later it has devolved into one of the biggest embarassments of an organization in the country. Although the problems with the MBTA were exposed literally overnight during a February blizzard, the real issues with the company have been going on for much longer and there is no end in sight.
I began riding the Commuter Rail and Subway on a monthly basis beginning in July of 2014. I had only occasionally ridden it before then. It certainly did not take long for me to realize how bad the system was. Only a few weeks into July the train was late enough times for me to start seriously questioning what was going on. During that summer I would estimate that the train was “on time” (defined as 5 minutes late or less) maybe two thirds of the time. It was exactly on time zero times. ZERO. There are only two explanations for a train always being late. The first is the incompetence of those who manage and drive the trains. The second is the unrealistic schedule put out by the MBTA. Both of these were responsible for the late trains, and both are unacceptable, although incompetence was far more frequent than dishonesty.
I also have to address the parking situation before moving on. It is the year 2015 and this is how the parking works: You need to fold up four one dollars bills into tinally crumpled up papers and manually slide them into the corresponding number in a metal box in order to pay for your parking. Granted, this is slowly becoming more modern but the fact that some people still have to do this is absurd. I also need to call out the parking attendants who don’t even always check to see if everyone’s paid, and the times they do check are during the winter when you can’t see the numbers so they give you a ticket. And while they’re giving you a ticket for a parking number that you can’t see, they’re ignoring the illegally parked cars on the road of the entrance to the parking lot. These cars are illegally parked because there’s not enough spaces, also the parking attendants fault for not clearing out snow that is covering 25% of the spaces. Anyway, moving on.
On top of the trains always being delayed was the poor communication as to what in the world was happening. The explanations were always vague (“signal problem” was a popular copout) or there were no explanations at all. They couldn’t even manage to do the text alerts correctly, at one point sending out the complete wrong information and having to send a follow text to clarify the confusion. The summer finally ends, and what better way to kick off the Fall than to send out monthly September passes to everyone that didn’t even work? That’s exactly what happened that September, and before we finally got our new ones there had to be additional workers at every T stop with automatic doors which only wasted more time and resources.
Before we get into the major problems, I just have to throw out some more pathetic instances to get them out of the way. Multiple times the train has pulled up past the platform and had to back up, one time even missing the station entirely. The speakers on the trains are so unbearably loud, and the 50% of the time that they actually are announcing the stops, they announce the wrong schedule. Furthermore, the conductors are screaming out what the stops are as the automatic voice on the speakers are talking causing even more confusion. The heat and electricity have failed multiple times. One time the train was delayed so late, that by the time it got to the second to last stop everyone had to get out and wait for the next train because the conductor couldn’t work overtime….even though there was ONE MORE STOP. Sometimes they won’t open all of the doors and fail to tell anyone so that people are left waiting to get on the train, and sometimes they don’t even use all the cars on the train leading to overcrowding. Anyway, these issues pale into comparison to what’s coming next.
Now we have the blizzards. A record amount of snowfall quite literally beat down the MBTA so badly it temporarilty shut down. I will take this moment to say that the MBTA shutting down for a day is they only good decision they have made so far, because it only got much worse once they were up and partially running again. Following the storms, the MBTA produced a modified schedule that failed to get the job done. There were only a couple rush hour trains in the morning that led to massive overcrowding and even more delays. Cancellation after cancellation on top of the already expected out of service trains finally led to the GM announcing her resignation and governor Charlie Baker calling for immediate change. Two weeks after the last storm, the trains were in perfectly good shape but they refused to put them all back in service until the last week in March, which led to overcrowded and delayed trains all the way into April.
By now you can clearly see what a disaster this organization is. However, we are just getting started. An investigation was launched into how the MBTA was being managed and the news only gets worse. The MBTA kept claiming that they were in too much debt and couldn’t afford to fix the trains or get better equipment. While this is true, it is also true that they didn’t spend $2.3 billion of their budget over the last five years for no apparent reason. They also pay their employees $150,000 a year on average, the same employees that take 12 weeks off during the year and decided to not show up when they were needed most during the storms. But wait, the MBTA felt really sorry for us so they decided to offer everyone a full refund! NOPE JUST KIDDING. They offered 15% off the month of May and one free day that wasn’t even advertised so nobody know about it.
So where are we now? Very, very far from satisfied. The MBTA debacle is no one person’s fault, but at the same time every single part of that organization deserves some blame, from the lowly workers whose only job is to open a door and they can’t even do that right sometimes, to Keolis the company in charge of running the MBTA. Not a single person associated with this organization should be proud of their job. As revealed during the investigation, it is constant culture of incompetence and indifference that has made this organization as bad at as it is. Over in Japan they have trains running at 150 mph quickly and efficiently, while here in Boston the train system has single-handedly damaged the motivation and economy of one of the country’s greatest cities. The winter is over but the problem is not. Fortunately, there are people who recognize that and will not forget the damage that was done. Please join me in sharing this lawsuit https://www.mbtaclassaction.com/.
Tomorrow I will wake up and take the train to work. There will be a 50% chance that the train will either not to get to Boston in time or not get home to Franklin in time. I, along with my fellow riders, don’t deserve to be treated this way and I will not rest until justice is served. Please help spread awareness and keep this issue in the news so the hard-working people of Boston can get the respect they deserve.
A tormented train passenger