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

The MBTA’s latest closures have left commuters in the lurch once again

A nice — but unplanned — walk through the Public Garden earlier today. Photo (cc) 2023 by Dan Kennedy.

The MBTA has botched its latest round of service interruptions, inconveniencing riders so that the Government Center Garage demolition can proceed for the benefit of wealthy private interests.

It normally takes me about 50 minutes, door to door, to commute to Northeastern. I’m a short walk from the West Medford commuter rail station. After a 12-minute ride to North Station, I can choose the Orange or the Green Line. Starting this past Monday, though, Green Line service has been halted between North Station and Government Station.

I generally commute to campus three days a week. On Tuesday, hordes of people tried to cram onto overpacked Orange Line cars, which were running every 10 minutes around 8 a.m. — clearly not frequently enough to accommodate the riders. I made it onto the second one. Today was a nice day, so I decided to walk from North Station to Government Center, only to be confronted with more hordes and no sign that an E Line train to Northeastern was coming any time soon. I ended up walking nearly three and a half miles to campus. I can’t complain too much — it was beautiful. But it’s not how I wanted to spend a busy weekday morning.

The time suck was pretty severe — an hour and 20 minutes door to door on Tuesday and an hour and 45 minutes today.

Fortunately my commute home hasn’t been affected, since getting onto the Orange Line at Ruggles isn’t an issue. I’m also assuming (hoping?) that Friday won’t be too bad because, for many people, Thursday is the new Friday.

But how much pain does the T expect commuters to endure? I can ride my bike to Northeastern in about 40 minutes, and I’ll probably do it a few times before this ends, supposedly on Oct. 12. Other people will start driving, which isn’t good for the city or the environment.

I love the T. I spent 29 years driving from the North Shore to Boston, and moving closer to the city — and closer to public transportation — has transformed my life. And it works well most of the time. But the deterioration of the service in recent years has been pretty horrendous, and it has been a major contributor to increases in private vehicle traffic. The last governor who really seemed to care about the T was Michael Dukakis. I’m hoping that will the case with Maura Healey as well. We all have great hopes for the newish general manager and CEO, Phil Eng. But we need to see some improvements — soon.

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  1. I feel for ya, Dan. Both of my daughters, who commute via the T to Boston, are experiencing what you do.

    When I worked for Northeastern as media adviser from 1995-98, I commuted from home to Alewife to Ruggles in 50 minutes. Those were the days, huh?

  2. Jay Griffin

    Dan generations of patronage got us here. The way out will take years and billions. Be careful on your bike my friend.

  3. Steve Schnapp

    Hey Dan, excellent piece today. I’m retired since 2016 but for most of my 60 years of college and work in NYC and Greater Boston, I commuted by bicycle or public transportation. I’m glad I no longer have to rely on the aging and neglected public transit systems. The roots of public transportation disinvestment are deep. I recently finished reading the massive and highly regarded “The Power Broker” by Pulitzer Prize winning writer Robert Caro. Moses, an immensely talented visionary, drove the expansion of roads, bridges, and tunnels for 40 years while deliberately sabotaging public transit. NYC may be the most egregious example of horrendous transportation policy but most cities in the US are suffering from 75 years of prioritizing cars, roads, and oil over trains, buses, bicycles, and walking.

  4. Ilex

    The Orange Line is having to make up some for the closure of the Commuter Rail’s Haverhill Line for two full months that started last week, so that’s probably one reason all the cars are packed. And it doesn’t seem possible for the Orange Line to increase service above 5-6 trains an hour to help with the extra riders.

    I love public transit, but right now, between the Haverhill Line shutdown, the partial Green Line shutdown, and the upcoming partial Red Line shutdown, it feels like more of the T is closed than running. This is no way to get public support or gain a devoted ridership.

    I used to regularly walk from North Station to South Station to catch the 7 bus to South Boston, but earlier this summer at least one bus got removed from circulation, so I’ve been walking the full distance from North Station to South Boston for a couple months now because I know how long that takes me. The T is great for our health, Dan.

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