Frozen service: Boston commuters endure icy cold due to Green Line shut down (updated)

You know that feeling when the cold actually hurts your face? This guy does.

It was a freezing, frenzied fiasco this morning as thousands of Green Line passengers were evacuated from underground subway tunnels and herded onto sidewalks to wait for shuttle buses.

Passengers were removed from the Green line around 7:45 a.m. after Boston Fire officials ordered a power shutdown to investigate smoke from a smoldering cable between Arlington and Copley Stations, according to MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

The debacle came at the same time city officials held a media availability warning Boston residents to “limit the time outside whenever possible.”

Shuttle buses replaced Green Line service between Kenmore and Government Center until 11 a.m., when Green Line service was restored.

“Extreme cold can cause high loads on the MBTA power system. In this case, the bitter cold weakened an old cable which began to smolder and create smoke,” Pesaturo said.

The cable was disconnected from two points in the tunnel to isolate it, he said, and all other cables were tested for safety.

There is no word on how old the weak cable was, but according to Pesaturo, it will be replaced in the next few nights.

While waiting outdoors for shuttles, passengers had to endure icy wind chills well below zero. The National Weather Service reported the temperature in Boston had plunged to wind chills of -7 by 9 a.m.

 

Lisa Zelig, a 24-year-old Brighton resident, said she was frustrated with yesterday’s hiccup, but that T officials handled the situation well.

“I think it was more frustrating because it was such a cold day. On a more mild day people would have handled it better,” said Zelig.”But I feel like they responded pretty quickly with the shuttle buses. I was only outside for about 5 or 7 minutes.”

Zelig said she would like to see more outdoor bus shelters.

The unheated glass bus shelters are owned by the city, and the MBTA operates the heated shelters on the Silver Line.

According to a city spokesman, between 20 and 25 of those shelters will be added along key routes within the next year, and at least 16 more will be built within the next few years.

Keon Reed, 23, said it took him about an hour to get from Allston to Copley on his way to work this morning – about 40 minutes longer than usual.

He said it was the worst delay he has experienced, but that Green Line disruptions are not rare on his commute.

“I don’t blame the people working for the MBTA. One thing is clear, (the T) is underfunded. It’s such an important part of Boston’s economy to have an efficient transportation system. It just can’t be as inefficient as it is now,” he said.

It was the first big MBTA fiasco to face Beverly Scott, who recently left sunny Atlanta to take over as the T’s new general manager.

“This is another reason that we’re sitting up here talking about reinvestment… You deal with it. It’s not a time to become emotional,” Scott told the State House News yesterday.

Scott said transit workers and Boston Fire Department officials will analyze today’s response to see how to work “differently, smarter next time.”

[View the story "'The Green Line apocolypse of 2013'" on Storify]



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