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MBTA Comes Under Fire From Democrat After Cold Weather Failures

Jay Gonzalez is a Democrat running for governor this year.
Jay Gonzalez is a Democrat running for governor this year.
Courtesy MBTA

Gov. Charlie Baker's term in office started during the worst winter in MBTA history and now it's only fitting -- at according to some Democrats -- that the management-minded chief executive is going to be judged by voters this November on the success or failure of his transit system.

The MBTA's Control Board met for the first time since the frigid weather of the last few weeks began battering the transit system and causing numerous delays for riders. The board meeting's open comment period made the perfect venue for gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez, a Democrat trying to unseat Baker, to express disappointment with the T's winter performance.

"This is Boston. People need to get to work in the cold and to rely on the system and the commuters deserve better," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the agency's workers have been doing one of the hardest jobs in government with one hand tied behind it's back because he says the Baker administration's 15-year plan to fix the MBTA's maintenance backlog needs to be faster and better funded with tax dollars.

"We need a sense of urgency around this. We need to invest the resources that are necessary to get this to a state of good repair as quickly as possible," Gonzalez said.

The board, which Baker hand selected when the Legislature authorized him to overhaul the agency's governance in 2015, was mostly pleased with the work done by the MBTA through the historically-low temperatures and last week's blizzard.

Deputy MBTA General Manager Jeff Gonneville called the combination of cold and storm the  "greatest test that we have had since the winter of 2015," when the transit system shut down after unprecedented amounts of snowfall. General Manager Luis Ramirez said there was a lot to be learned from the way the T provided service last week.

The low point for the T was the Commuter Rail, which succeeded in on-time arrivals for only 34 percent of trips made last Friday, the day after the blizzard. Many of those delays were because of the aging locomotive fleet's inability to handle the cold. That fleet makes up much of the deferred maintenance costs in the T's repair backlog.

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