MBTA Resumes Limited Service

The head of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is staunchly defending her decision to shut down rail service as crews struggle to clear tracks of snow and ice and hundreds of thousands of commuters scramble to make alternative travel plans.

Her remarks came on Tuesday, one day after Gov. Charlie Baker called the performance of the MBTA unacceptable during the recent severe winter weather that has left up to 7 feet of snow in parts of the state.

Subways, trolleys and commuter rail trains remained idle Tuesday as Dr. Beverly Scott, MBTA general manager, told reporters that she didn't know when service would resume on the nation's fifth-largest - and oldest - transit system. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said later in the day that the MBTA will resume limited service on Wednesday.

The commuter rail system will operate on a modified weekday schedule, making approximately 70 percent of the regularly scheduled trips. The trains will not serve Plymouth, TF Green or Wickford Junction stations on Wednesday. The Green and Blue lines will operate, but with fewer cars and less frequent service. Service will also be restored on the Red and Orange lines, but the level of service won't be determined until later on Tuesday. Buses will replace service on the Mattapan Trolley Line.

Early into service wednesday, the MBTA reported that a Green Line D branch was experiencing moderate delays due to a disabled train.

The Blue Line also experienced moderate delays from a disabled train.

The latest service information can be found at the MBTA's winter resource hub at mbta.com/winter.

Scott acknowledged Tuesday that MBTA riders are "frustrated as heck. They are mad as heck." She said she hasn't spoken directly to Baker since the onslaught of winter storms began more than two weeks ago. Baker had said Monday that he planned to have a "long conversation" with MBTA management after the weather subsided.

Transit stations around the region, normally jammed with commuters on a weekday, were eerily silent Tuesday.

The sprawling Riverside MBTA station in suburban Newton was virtually empty except for a handful of plows and workers trying to clear away snow.

“Buses are running fortunately which was nice but I know tomorrow the commute will be miserable," said Samantha Hodgkins of South Boston.

Karlis Celms, who had to use Uber instead said, “Look at this board, every single train is canceled, all the red lines, you’d think maybe three in the afternoon they could dig something out, manage to do something.”

A few people who hadn't heard the news of the shutdown were surprised to learn there were no trains, including 91-year-old Bernard Udin, who walked several blocks to the station and planned to take a trolley to Newton Highlands to run some errands and visit the library.

"I'll go back home I guess," Udin said. "What else can I do?"

The subway station at Davis Square in Somerville was padlocked and some businesses in the neighborhood were closed.

"The fact the trains aren't running means no one is heading to work," said Jeff Brussel, who was trying to find one of the few buses still operating that could get him to Boston. "But I'm on a project with a deadline, and everyone is freaking out. So I'm going to do what I can."

Scott said she made the call to shut down rail service in part after dozens of trains broke down Monday after losing contact with the electrified third rail, including one in which passengers were stranded for more than two hours. She said upgrading the system would require more investment in new equipment.

Scott was appointed to run the T in 2012 after managing transit systems in Atlanta, Sacramento and Rhode Island and serving in leadership positions in others including the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York.

"I have been around 40 years. I have been through hurricanes. I've been through World Trade Center bombings, tornadoes coming ... 36 inches of snow, this ain't this woman's first rodeo," Scott said.

Asked Tuesday why he had not yet huddled directly with Scott, Baker said he had no direct authority over the MBTA, a semi-independent agency. He said he was dealing with it through Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, who has a seat on the MBTA's board of directors.

Baker said he hoped to meet with T officials Thursday.

The governor also struck a more conciliatory tone, conceding that the system faced severe financial pressures and that Scott and MBTA employees had been working around the clock to restore normal service.

"But we are going to have to figure out and they are going to have to figure out what the operating plan is going forward," Baker said.

But as the politicians squabble over who was at fault and what to do to fix it, commuters have to get creative to get to work– like the 25,000 employees at Mass General Hospital who have been carpooling, staying with friends nearby, or even sleeping on blow-up mattresses on the floor at the hospital.

“We’ve actually had hospital based sleep rooms as well, several different conference rooms, 50, as many as 100 people have stayed here at night, or during the day after overnight shifts, sleeping in tough situations," said Paul Biddinger, Massachusetts General Hospital Chief of the Division of Emergency Preparedness.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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