Baker says MBTA not an option for him due to travel patterns

[Video: Antonio Caban/SHNS]

BOSTON (SHNS) – Commuters on the MBTA should not expect to see Gov. Charlie Baker among the straphangers anytime soon.

Responding to a frustrated MBTA rider who called in during a radio appearance Thursday afternoon, Baker said he is focused on improving the reliability of the MBTA system but views it as his job to “make sure folks like you can have a reliable and predictable trip,” not necessarily to ride it himself.

While Baker was on Boston Public Radio on WGBH, a caller who identified himself as Josh in Cambridge detailed for the governor his commute to work — a 15-minute walk to Alewife Station, a transfer to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing and then a ride to Roxbury Crossing.

“I’m a little bit frustrated with how the T’s going,” the caller said. “Too often I’m worried that I’m going to show up late because the T is not running reliably.”

Josh in Cambridge also pointed out that Democrat Jay Gonzalez — who is hoping to be the party’s nominee for governor this fall — commuted from Baker’s Swampscott home to the State House earlier this week as part of a social media challenge to public officials to take the T for at least five days. The caller asked why Baker has not taken the T.

Baker, who is driven from event to event by his State Police detail and has previously declined to participate in the T-riding challenge, doubled down Thursday on his decision to not ride the T but only after co-host Jim Braude pointed out that the governor did not answer the caller’s question.

“The governor is not a point-to-point person. It’s very rare that I go from one place to the same place more than once, and that makes it extremely hard to think about how to factor that in,” Baker said. “And frankly, I really do believe that my job is to make sure that we make the T work for the people who need it to work. Period.”

Gonzalez, who said he would occasionally take the T if elected governor, responded to the governor’s radio appearance in a tweet Thursday afternoon.
“I took what would be his commute on public transportation earlier this week,” Gonzalez wrote.

“Not sure what he is afraid of.”

While Baker has not ridden the T’s buses or trains as governor, the transit system has been a focus of his administration. Baker reorganized the leadership of the T and pushed for investments to ready the system for winter weather.

“The frustration people feel on the T is something that we all spend a lot of time working on and talking about and what I would say generally is that any place it doesn’t work in a given day is a problem and we all know that and people are working it and working it hard,” he said.
The governor pointed to the purchase of new Red and Orange line cars — expected to be in service by 2022 — and investments in signals and switches, which cause numerous delays on the system, as evidence that his administration is trying to improve the system and set it up for future success. He said the amount of money being spent on the core system and the state of good repair backlog is “virtually twice what it’s ever been in the past decade,” Baker said.

Co-host Margery Eagan told the governor that “there’s a growing perception that people are better off doing UberPool or taking Lyft because the T is unreliable.”

The governor said the T’s openness about reporting delays, breakdowns and other problems is part of what feeds that perception.

“The T has gotten very aggressive about sharing any disruption of any kind with everybody, and that’s a good thing so everybody has a sense of what’s going on on the system generally,” Baker said. “That all by itself is going to create a lot more visibility around everything and anything that goes wrong on a given day, which is fine, it just comes with the desire of the T to be more aggressive about communicating with people about what’s working and what’s not.”