Gov. Baker frustrated with the T – Metro US

Gov. Baker frustrated with the T

Gov. Baker frustrated with the T
Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

(State House News Service) — Frustrated by what he said is the MBTA’s inability to operate even a limited schedule during Monday’s snowstorm, Gov. Charlie Baker said he planned to meet with officials at the transit authority after the snow stops falling.

“Let’s face it. This can’t happen again,” Baker told reporters at a Dorchester press conference early Monday afternoon. He said, “All I can tell you is it’s been very difficult to count on the representations that have been made by the T over the course of the past few weeks, and the first time that happens you can blame it on the weather, but after a while it starts to feel like something more.”

Speaking at a Department of Conservation and Recreation facility, Baker said he did not think MBTA officials had lied to him.

“No. I think they told me exactly what they thought was to be the case; it just didn’t turn out to be true,” Baker said. He also noted that he doesn’t have any direct oversight of MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, who is employed by the MassDOT Board.

“Beverly Scott works for the board,” Baker said. Baker has previously criticized the T’s performance, saying the public transit delays during last week’s snowstorm were “unacceptable.”

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo told the News Service a Red Line train was disabled on the southbound tracks between Quincy Center and Quincy Adams at 6:30 a.m., and after a number of unsuccessful attempts to move it, the 48 passengers were escorted off the train and onto a “nearby” bus. Pesaturo said “heavy snow was covering the electrified third rail.”

“Due to rapidly deteriorating conditions, the MBTA has suspended Red Line service between Braintree and JFK/UMass Stations and Orange Line service between Oak Grove and Sullivan Stations for the remainder of the day,” Pesaturo said in a statement shortly after Baker’s press conference. He said, “The MBTA announced yesterday that these sections of the Red and Orange Line would be shut down from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. today, but now it is necessary to extend the shut down through the end of service tonight. The MBTA will provide very limited replacement bus service during this suspension of rail service, but weather conditions are severely challenging our ability to provide reliable or frequent bus service.”

Baker had previously said the MBTA would run an abbreviated schedule. He also acknowledged the unique challenges presented by Monday’s storm, which has piled snow on top of the deposits left by the two previous storms.

“I admit that these are unprecedented levels of snow that have fallen over the course of the past 14 days. There is no doubt about that. And there are a lot of people there who have been working really hard to try to keep the trains on the tracks and the traffic moving over this period of time,” Baker said.

Others, including former Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, have previously praised the T’s recent handling of the snow and blamed the equipment malfunctions on decades-old train cars.

Pesaturo said the remaining subway and trolley service will operate at midday weekday levels even during rush hour when wait times will be five to six minutes longer than usual.

“Despite the third major snow event in two weeks, the MBTA is committed to providing service. The T’s focus is on keeping its passengers and employees safe, providing a limited level of service for those who need to get to work or other destinations while protecting critical components of the MBTA’s infrastructure and vehicle fleets,” Pesaturo said.

Baker indicated that MBTA officials represented that the public transit system would be able to operate on a reduced schedule Monday.

“We’ve been frustrated, disappointed with the performance of the T. We spent a lot of time over the course of the weekend talking to the folks at the T to make sure that they would be able to run at least an abbreviated schedule today,” Baker said. He said, “Once it stops snowing we plan to have a long conversation with folks at the T about improving performance.”

Briefing reporters on other aspects of the weather, Baker said the state’s largest power outage was in Randolph and said in general outages have been “modest.”

Municipalities have been struggling with places to put the snow, and Baker said Lawrence, Lowell, Salem and Marblehead have received Department of Environmental Protection waivers to dump snow into bodies of water. He said the DCR had also received a waiver from DEP and is putting snow on some of its beaches.

“We haven’t had a melting cycle yet, so there’s just no place to put the snow, so we are offering this as a solution,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton, who said it is “not standard practice.” Beaton said each application for a waiver is “vetted very carefully through the DEP” to ensure the protections of habitats and said, “It’s not just a dump and leave. It’s a very calculated and verified process that we’re engaging with municipalities.”

Baker said if municipalities need to pursue a DEP waiver “because of the emergency situation” they should.