A Cold Day on the MBTA

Matthew Carey, Journalist

This woman stays bundled up as she makes her daily commute in the frigid, bitter winter weather.

You squeeze inside to find a place to sit or stand, as you begin your daily journey packed like a box of sardines. Blue collar and white collar workers scattered with commuting students, the sleep is still hanging in the eyes of those woken from a nights slumber. Rocking back and forth, traveling at a smooth 55 miles per hour, the humming resonates throughout the inside of the boxcar. The strength of steel on steel, lulling some people back to sleep, while others read, listen to music or quietly chatter among each other. The peacefulness disrupted by the piercing, screeching echo of the brakes as the long tin can come to a halt. The conductors voice, bellows out the town upon which the train is arriving and then again he booms “All Aboard”, before it departs.

In the past month New England has accumulated 108.6 inches of snow. This total breaks the previous record set in 1996 at 108.5 inches, making this year the snowiest winter on record. This amount of snow has proved to be a great difficulty for local commuters traveling into the city of Boston on a regular basis. My mother is one of those commuters plagued by the inefficiency of the MBTA. “You never know if the schedule is going to be accurate or not, there are always delays that throw everything off,” she says.  The only way to handle a situation like this is to remain flexible. It was advised for commuters to seek alternate routes of travel; however that is not practical for all commuters.

Some stations in Boston ran bus shuttles to various locations, while others recommended taking taxi cabs or driving. Is driving your own car a better answer? Parking is limited throughout the city. You could try Uber, but expect to pay extra. A screenshot of the app was shared telling a customer his trip would be four times the normal fare. “Uber would also be more costly because of how much longer you’d be sitting in the car; they charge for idle time. With streets blocked by snow and traffic, the roads were slow-going.”

Many people are pointing fingers at the Massachusetts state governor, Charlie Baker and Boston mayor Marty Walsh for the transportation problems. Are they really to blame? The french company Keolis, took over the MBTA in July. Do to the poor performance in the November and December months the company has been fined $1.6 million dollars in penalties. “The new fines bring the total levied against Keolis to $2.4 million in the seven months it has been running the commuter rail.” After discussions the company spokesperson vowed to improve.  “I haven’t noticed a tremendous improvement at all.” The trains have still had some considerable delays, even without the hectic weather. Something needs to be done about this.

Since we encountered these problems, what have we done to fix them? The take over of Keolis was a major step toward the forward progress of the MBTA. However, they’ve accomplished next to nothing. Why doesn’t the MBTA look at a major city where their public transportation has been above average? The public transit of New York City, New York and Chicago, Illinois both experience weather of the same caliber that the Boston area receives. If we were to model our system after theirs, the possibility of experiencing problems could drop. Is this to say that there would be no problems? Absolutely not, there are many factors and variables that play into the everyday commuters life. Although, it would help if it were more organized and consistent. The everyday travel of commuters will always have its problems. However, there should be a more conscious effort to manage these struggles.