By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The MBTA is driving people away — which means they will drive when this is over

How to destroy the MBTA bit by bit: The last “rush hour” (remember that?) train leaving North Station on the Lowell line is at 6 p.m. The next one is at 8. There used to be several in between.

Although I’ve thought about not taking the train in the morning until I’m vaccinated, the fact is that both the commuter rail and the subway are nearly empty, and everyone is good about wearing a mask. So I take it. But then my wife has to pick me up after work.

Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham explains what the T’s policy of not spending the federal aid it’s receiving is doing to public transportation in Greater Boston. If you don’t maintain the system now, it won’t be there when we need it.


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  1. Ilex

    I think the MBTA is actively trying to discourage ridership.

    I take the Orange Line and the Providence/Stoughton line daily, with no option to work from home, so I’ve been riding through the entire past year (reverse commute from Boston to Canton).

    The commuter rail schedule has changed 4 times in 12 months, and is rumored to be about to change again on April 5, not that the T has notified any riders of that via alerts. The winter schedule involved the Boston-bound afternoon Providence trains skipping my stop (Canton Junction) and Hyde Park, and forcing people to wait an additional 25 minutes for a train originating from Stoughton instead, so I’ve been the one person happy with the current reduced schedule, which at least makes all trains stop at all stations on the route. But I’m assuming the April schedule will be back to the forced extra half hour wait for me.

    And now that the governor is opening businesses and allowing people to mingle, all subway lines and buses are operating on reduced service, so my afternoon Orange Line train home yesterday was packed. I realize no coronavirus outbreaks have been traced to public transportation since 95% of people are dutifully masked, but crowding is still worrisome during this pandemic.

    If I had a car, I’d be driving and not putting up with what feels like perpetual mistreatment from the MBTA. I am looking for a different job to get myself off the Commuter Rail after this year. I can’t take any more schedule changes, or waiting while trains that could pick me up simply fly by. I used to think the MBTA cared about its riders at least a little bit, but I no longer believe that at all. I also don’t think anyone who runs the MBTA actually uses it.

  2. Marcus J Breen

    Ilex – a productive, informative yet disturbing post! Thank you.
    The MBTA is probably best described as a disgrace. On another note: It was depressing to see Stephanie Pollack be “promoted” from Boston to the Federal Transport Secretariat. No transformational agency there! Do not expect improvements to the MBTA from Federal incentives, do not look for high speed trains… Public transportation in the US is a basket case.
    Yvonne Abraham – an Australian like me, transported to this colony – has a take on this topic perhaps influenced by her experiences in Australia which has a pretty well functioning public transport system. (She is an excellent columnist!)

    • Ilex

      @ Marcus J Breen: I always enjoy Yvonne’s columns, and look forward to her comments about the T since she does bring a different experience and perspective.

  3. Deborah Nam-Krane

    I’ve been riding the Orange Line a lot recently, and it’s becoming an even more twisted joke than before. The conductors are angry, as I could tell when two separate drivers started yelling about the unsafe conditions (switch malfunctions) and lack of clarity about whether a train was supposed to go out of service or not. Passengers are getting pretty tense too.

    I saw the Stephen Lynch and Marty Walsh gave a press conference yesterday about how ridiculous the situation was. Not holding my breath that the Baker administration will be impressed enough to make any changes. But then again, Baker has made his disdain for the MBTA clear for decades.

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