'It's Just Not Acceptable': MBTA Derailments Frustrate Riders

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An MBTA Red Line train was derailed just outside of JFK/UMass Station Tuesday morning. (Courtesy Boston Fire Department)
An MBTA Red Line train was derailed just outside of JFK/UMass Station Tuesday morning. (Courtesy Boston Fire Department)

The Red Line is sometimes called the "brain train," carrying students to Harvard and MIT, and scientists to the nation's unofficial biotechnology capital in Kendall Square.

But because of a derailment, the Red Line on Tuesday stranded some of the brains that make up the Kendall Square Association's Board of Directors, which had scheduled a meeting to discuss, of all things, transportation.

"It truly was ironic," said association President C.A. Webb. "I had multiple board members emailing me: one from a stopped train, one from a slowed train. They were, of course, apologetic [that] they were going to be late to my meeting. But they're not the ones that really need to apologize."

Frustrations mounted Wednesday, as residual damage from the previous morning's derailment caused delays and forced riders onto shuttle buses for a second straight day.

The latest disruptions follow a Green Line derailment on Saturday.

At Park Street Station, where the Red and Green lines converge, rider Angela Marini was exasperated.

"It's just not acceptable, of course," she said of the T's condition. "But we have been complaining about it for so long, and nothing happens. Nothing changes."

Jacqueline White was changing from Green to Red to begin the third leg of her commute; she had come into the city from Salem on the commuter rail. After 10 minutes on the platform, she still didn't know when to expect a train because a monitor that is supposed to display wait times wasn't working.

"It's a little frustrating," White said, "especially with the rates going up July 1."

MBTA fares will rise by an average of about 6% next month, under a plan approved by the agency's Fiscal and Management Control Board in March.

At JFK/UMass Station, near the site of Tuesday's derailment, Gail Jennes said she hopes "that there's a good wakeup call here."

"It makes me very nervous that they have these problems on the trains on the Green and the Red Line," Jennes said. "And I think that much more money should be spent on improving our public transportation system."

The MBTA recently estimated the cost to fix or replace its aging equipment and infrastructure at $10 billion.

MBTA derailments increased every year between 2012 and 2018, and have been trending upward for 15 years, according to Federal Transit Administration records.

There were 11 derailments from 2004 to 2008, 17 in the following five years, and 43 in the most recent five years.

Source: Federal Transit Administration
Source: Federal Transit Administration

The Boston Globe previously reported that the MBTA's 43 derailments between 2014 and 2018 were the second-most by a major transit authority in that span. Only the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, with 72, had more.

"We're in a state of emergency," said Webb. "I was encouraged by the number of legislators I saw saying essentially that [Tuesday]. But I was incredibly discouraged by Governor Baker's reaction. He said that the MBTA is on the right path. And my reaction to that is, OK, we might be on the right path, but if we get there in 50 or 100 years, it doesn't matter."

This segment aired on June 13, 2019.


Headshot of Callum Borchers

Callum Borchers Reporter
Callum covered the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.


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Zeninjor Enwemeka Senior Business Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a senior business reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.



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