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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

3-4-24 PDF
March 4, 2024
2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

T is for Travesty

Growing up next to a train station in Revere, the T has always held a place near my heart. It allowed me to expand my boundaries by helping me sneak to Boston, it took me to school, and got me to my Pop Warner football games in East Boston. I call these the golden days of the T because people knew it wasn’t the greatest system of all time, but it didn’t try to be either.

Within this decade, the T has tried to revamp its image by restoring train stations, installing customer friendly announcements, visible police officers, and the Charlie Card program. Although it has made stations more attractive to riders, it hasn’t solved the prior problems and has created several new ones.

The T has taken a bad rap over the last couple years due to its financial situation. There was its former police Chief Joe Carter, taking expensive “business trips” all over the country, when the T couldn’t afford it. This year, Governor Patrick confronted the T’s financial troubles publicly by assessing blame directly on T General Manager Dan Grabauskas. The T has a $1.5 billion budget, but blew through those funds and is borrowing $35 million for operations. All this is happening when T ridership is at an all time high due to higher gas prices and tolls.

I agree with the Governor when he states the problem starts with the top of the MBTA. Grabauskas, a bureaucratic lifer who used to head the RMV, needs to confront this problem with a complete reformation of the T system. They owe their union workers millions in back wages, they were paying for numerous projects related to the Big Dig without help from the Feds, and station projects are past their expected completion dates.

Grabauskas needs to work out a contract with the union that will pay them incremental raises year over year, connected with revenue. If there is a loss of revenue, give them a standard 3% raise, and if there is a gain, raise it to 7-8%. Next, go after the Feds for reparations due to their Big Dig project. That will provide immediate debt relief and will give the T room to breathe. Regarding station projects, put incentives in the contracts to entice the contractors to complete the job faster. Set a completion date and if they beat that date, of course the work has to be done right, no corner cutting, give them money. If they miss the date, have them pay the T for the inconveniences.

What really angers us about the T is the awful service they provide. According to the Boston Globe, “The T received 14,335 bus, subway and commuter rail complaints from April to August (2008), up more than 13 percent from the same period last year when the T began tracking complaints electronically.” If you name it, there’s most likely an issue with the T.

Although it was a great idea to modernize, the Charlie system confused everybody from when it was first implemented to today. The machines used to obtain a Charlie Card are a pain because they freeze, they don’t take dollars, and when you need help, T workers don’t want to hear it. Once you receive your card, then you have to insert them into the gates that will spit the card at you, make an annoying noise and not let you in, or chirp and open the gates.

Once you are allowed in, you wait for the trains while listening to fuzzy announcements of other trains coming and athletes encouraging use of the T. How long you wait determines on your luck. I have timed it perfectly on occasion, which makes me relieved, but I’ve also just missed trains and depressingly had to wait 25 minutes for the next one.

A good reason why complaints are so high, besides higher ridership, is the incompetence of T staff.

My favorite complaint for the Green Line trains is when they stop at a station outside of the immediate city and while sitting there waiting for the traffic light to change, they refuse to let people onto the trains. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve witnessed this. Usually when it happens to me, I berate the operator with some ‘nice’ words.

Another example I’ve noticed on the Green Line trains, as opposed to other lines, is the erratic driving by the operators. The ride is never easy, it’s always full speed ahead and slamming the breaks. I’m ashamed to say it, but I find it hilarious when other passengers are flying around the train due to the operator’s lead foot. One other thing really bothers me with T drivers and that is the use of cell phones while driving. You’d think after the deadly Green Line crash last May, they would drive and act more cautiously, but apparently they forget easily.

The motivating factor that made me write this column was an instance that happened earlier this month. A disabled green line train was stuck between the Park St. and Arlington stations. As the crowd gathered in Park St. wondered where the trains were, a T member got on his microphone and fuzzily announced the traffic problem and that we were to take T shuttles between the two stops for continued service. As hundreds of us left the station, we all began to walk through the Commons, and I said to one fellow passenger; “wow, nobody is taking the shuttle.” His response; “if you think the trains are bad, you should see the buses.”

And ain’t that the truth.