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Governor Charlie Baker "Ready To Strangle Someone" Over Latest Transit Snafus

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Governor Charlie Baker in the WGBH studios.
Meredith Nierman/WGBH News
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021816BAKER.mp3

A broken Amtrak signal brought commuter rail trains around Boston's bustling South Station to a screeching halt this morning, delaying the commutes of thousands of passengers. Governor Charlie Baker was not happy about it.

"I've been ready to strangle somebody all day," Baker said on Boston Public Radio. "I'm just waiting for somebody who looks like they deserve to be strangled."

The broken signal—which is managed by the federal train system Amtrak on behalf of the MBTA—was not functional in time for the afternoon commute, so MassDOT officials instructed passengers to avoid South Station unless they were traveling on the Providence/Attleboro and Stoughton lines. All other passengers were directed to board at other stations.

While Baker praised MBTA employees for providing service during this weekend's historically cold weather, he pointed to long-term capital problems with the organization as a roadblock to providing consistently good service in the future.

We simply have to do better and move faster.

"The big message in this, and we've said this for a while, we've been underinvesting in the core infrastructure of the system, on a capital basis, for a long time," he said.  

Baker's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year—announced in January—allocates $1 billion from state sales tax revenue to the MBTA, a $15 million increase from last year. An additional state subsidy will add $187 million, which remains stagnant from the previous year.

Baker said the T's "underinvestment" problem was reason enough to justify fare hikes for riders as high as 10%, despite disruptions in service like today's. He added that Boston's system was still a bargain compared to transit in other cities.

"You compare this to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago systems—we will still be far less expensive to the riders than all three of those systems. We are still going to be a great deal," Baker said.

But that doesn't mean the current system is a long, long way away from being in good shape, he acknowledged.

"We simply have to do better and move faster," Baker said.

To hear more from Governor Charlie Baker, tune into the audio link above.

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