[Lede Photo: A MBTA bus sits stuck in a snowbank during a snow storm in Boston, Massachusetts February 2, 2015. Photo by: Dominick Reuter/Reuters]
It's been a terrible few weeks for the chronically neglected MBTA as record snowfall and epic traffic congestion stalled buses and trains throughout the region. Damage to vehicles and infrastructure following 50 disabled trains on Monday forced the MBTA to suspend rail service for the third time this year as crews work to clear tracks and repair ancient equipment.
MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott blamed old equipment and lack of investment for the recent troubles and said she hopes we can pursue the "systemic, planned, serious, bold reinvestment" that the system needs.
Meanwhile, our new Republican Governor Charlie Baker called the system's recent performance "unacceptable" and blamed T management while admitting he has not yet called the GM. Baker insisted his proposed $40 million transportation budget cuts will not affect transportation service.
How did we get to this point? Where do we go from here?
For its part, the MBTA should make a serious effort to improve emergency management and communications, to better respond to disruptions and stem the accelerating loss of rider confidence in a safe, efficient transportation network. This applies to everything from everyday bus bunching to severe weather to prolonged rail disruptions.
Cities must take bold steps to ensure people can walk on public ways. Sidewalks covered in snow and ice encourage people to drive cars instead of walking or using transit. The current system of begging and threatening fines to property abutters is not working. Potential solutions could include community cooperatives (Ann Arbor) and city plowing of sidewalks (Rochester). Send in your ideas!
The future of our latest attempt at late-night service is uncertain. An extended span of service offers many benefits beyond college students going to bars (like equitable access to jobs and social activities). Yet without a real political commitment and proper planning for special routes running all night, it will be hard to keep this limited pilot program going. The MBTA will hold public meetings soon. Examples from Vancouver, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto.
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The Transit Matters Podcast is your source for transportation news, analysis, interviews and more. We focus on sustainable transportation planning, operations and policies in Boston and beyond. Transit Matters is a joint project of local transit advocates Marc Ebuña, Jeremy Mendelson and Josh Fairchild.