Lawmakers ride on the MBTA to examine service levels

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – Weeks after many of their constituents endured dismal MBTA performance during a wave of snowstorms, Massachusetts lawmakers boarded MBTA trains Thursday to check out current service levels.

Legislators who live within an hour of Boston were asked to take a train, subway, bus, or boat by a grassroots organization called Gov On The T. Nearly 50 lawmakers committed to riding mass transit to work on Thursday, the last official day of winter.

Organizers of the ride the T to work event said they wanted to keep the transit agency’s troubles on center stage as the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker search for solutions to address the cancellations, delays and other problems that plagued bus and train routes this winter.

Rep. Thomas Stanley (D-Waltham) took the train from Waltham. He normally drives to Boston, but in previous jobs took the train every day.

“It brought back a lot of bad memories, I will tell you that,” he said after arriving at the State House.

“I have a lot of sympathy for everybody who is completely wild about it,” said Rep. Christopher Walsh (D-Framingham) as he arrived at the State House after taking the commuter rail.

Walsh, who typically drives to work, said he took the train a few times this winter. One time, it took him four hours to get to Boston after boarding an Amtrak train and then being rerouted to a commuter rail.

Walsh said he recognizes it was an unusual winter, but added “even now that that’s happened, we’ve really got to get our act together to know what to do with these things. I don’t think they are going to be unusual in the future.”

Rep. David Linsky, a Democrat from Natick, took the same train as Walsh Thursday. It was 15 minutes late, “which isn’t terrible,” he said. But the message board did not reflect the delay to passengers, Linsky said.

Commuters this winter often complained the MBTA failed to communicate about delays and cancellations.

“The ride itself was uneventful. But there’s a lot of frustrated people because they never really know when the train is coming. The message board, if it is going to be late should reflect that, and they should notify earlier,” Linksy said.

Linsky said he spoke with a woman at the train depot who was taking the commuter line to Boston for a job interview.

“Of course she was very concerned about being late for a job interview,” Linsky said. “It shows the importance of needing a reliable train service, and they need to stick to the schedule as best as they can.”

The MBTA subway system returned to full service Thursday for the first time since Jan. 22 when record-setting snowstorms began pummeling the region.

The commuter rail system, operated for the MBTA by Keolis Commuter Rail Services, continues to run with a reduced number of trains and limited schedule. Keolis plans to fully restore service by the end of the month.

Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for the T, said the Green Line returned to normal service Thursday with 146 cars running. The Green Line was the last subway line to return to full service.

“A big shout-out to our light rail vehicle maintenance crews who have been working around the clock to restore service to pre-blizzard levels,” Pesaturo said in an emailed statement.

On Thursday the Red Line was running 178 cars, the Orange Line 96 and the Blue Line 84, according to Pesaturo.

Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) also took the commuter rail Thursday, something she does occasionally but not every day. She said she did not experience anything she was not already aware of from her own commute and talking to other riders.

“The train was 20 minutes late, overcrowded with people standing not only in cars but between cars, and fares were not collected by the time it got to Wellesley,” she said.

Peisch described the train as “dangerously overcrowded,” and said she finds it “incomprehensible” that service has not been fully restored yet considering the last major snowstorm was more than a month ago.

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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