Friday, February 20, 2015

There's No "T" in Horse Ownership

Imagine a city that can't function in the climate in which is it situated. Disaster strikes and suddenly over half a million people are stranded. Everything comes to a standstill.

Sounds like some new sci-fi drama/ thriller coming to Fox in the summer doesn't it? It's not. It's where I am right now. That city is Boston.

The Boston skyline - my view from my office.

This is my fifth winter commuting in and out of the Boston for work, and while the city's public transit system, commonly known as "the T", generally has a reputation for being late and rickety, it's never been quite like this before. I've always been able to get to work in a relatively timely manner. 

But this year the T has completely shut down service for 3 days - two weekdays and one Sunday - leaving residents and commuters like myself unable to get to work. I could drive...except for a statewide gubernatorial driving ban on those storm days. In the time that I've been commuting to Boston, the entire public transit system has only once ever shut down before - and that was due to a  city-wide manhunt for a terrorist suspect. Now it's shut down three times within 2 weeks. Fortunately I'm a salaried employee, but I have several friends who have now lost out on around a week of pay either because they can't get to work or because their employers have had to shut down for snow days.

This week they're running a special "Recovery Schedule" for most commuter rails lines, which essentially means that they've cancelled a bunch of trains ahead of time. The General Manager of the MBTA said earlier this week that as long as there are no more significant snowfalls it should take around 30 days for the T to resume normal service.

There are supposed to be two sets of tracks between me and that other train.

It both is and isn't the city and the MBTA's (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) fault at the same time. Are these extraordinary circumstances? Absolutely, yes. But should the public transit system be in better repair and better able to handle these circumstances to some degree? Also, yes. 

Boston's subway and commuter rail system is the oldest public transit system in America and the fourth largest in the nation. For a city that is inherently proud - proud of our sports teams, our colleges, our history and heritage - we're not proud of our public transit right now. 

Do I know why the T is in such disrepair right now? Not really. I'm no historian, economist, politician, or city planner. I'm sure it has something to do with funding and politics. Do I know how to fix it? Nope. Does anyone? I'm not sure.

What I do know right now is that I haven't had a normal commute in weeks. This Wednesday I left work at 4:30 pm and didn't get home until nearly 8:00 pm. I haven't been to the barn after work like usual and I haven't been to the gym either this week. I've just called it quits after getting off my commuter train and gone straight home to have a late dinner and a glass of wine. Having it take 3 hours just to get from work to home really puts a cramp in do-it-yourself horse ownership. I'm very lucky to be a part of a group of friends that work together in a cooperative situation.

For the sake of the city and all of it's residents - and for my (and my horse's) sanity - let's hope that now we're over halfway through February things start getting better!


  1. I commuted in to Boston on the T for 3 years, mostly on the commuter rail. I don't miss it one bit. I mostly used the Lowell line, and the expense, exhaustion, and time were just mindnumbing. Not to mention, how on earth did they ergonomically design every single seat on every single commuter rail train to numb your butt within 2 minutes?!

    While in some ways I am sad I'm missing out on this winter, and sad Vermont isn't getting as much snow, I do not envy you those commutes, not one bit!

    1. Ah yes, so you went out of north station too then! I'm on the Newburyport line. You're not kidding about the butt numbing seats...I totally know what you mean! I'm astonished that I've been able to put up with it for 5 years already...but I guess that's the price I pay for living outside the city. I have absolutely zero desire to live inside the city (that would be even less horse ownership friendly).

      Where is Vermont are you? I went to UVM! Even in my time in Vermont I have never seen this much snow!

    2. Ah yes, North Station. I was commuting through there when it got completely redone and made much nicer. It was a 45 minute trip on a good day - Orange line to Mass Ave after getting on at the Woburn station on the Lowell line. I did like the time I spent reading on the train, but blergh.

      I moved in to Somerville for the last two years and drove to work in the Back Bay, then left the Back Bay to drive to the Rhode Island border at rush hour every day. I REALLY don't miss that commute!

      I'm in Montpelier, horse is in Plainfield. I went to Middlebury, actually. We haven't had much snow but it's been the coldest winter on record, officially. Our average temp in February was 4 degrees. o.O

      (As a UVM grad you will appreciate that I had lunch at Al's French Fries on Sunday. ;)

    3. Oh man, I miss Al's!!!! What I miss more than the french fries though is the maple creamees in the summer. maple creamee = pure bliss. I had a friend from high school who went to Middlebury, so I went and visited down there a couple time a year - gorgeous! I just miss VT...though I'm certainly not envying those temps!

  2. :( That sounds SUPER frustrating and like it would make me scream.

  3. I would be slowly driven to madness if I had to rely on the T for work commute. We lived in Quincy for about a year and would hop on one of the last stops on the red line to go into the city. I was always frustrated by how early the trains stopped running at night.

    1. You should be extra glad you don't live there anymore! That line has really gotten the worst of it - it's been completely replaced this week with (spotty) shuttle bus service only. Which is a nightmare, I'm sure you can imagine. My sister lives out that way now :(

      On the bright side though, they actually extended their late night hours last summer and trains stop running at 2 am instead of midnight now!

  4. what a frustrating situation :(

  5. Back in the day before everyone moved to Brooklyn, I used to "commute" into the city on the dreaded F train. Which could sometimes take hours even though it was only a few miles as the crow flew. No need to wonder what "F" stood for... ;D

    At least there was the option to walk over the Brooklyn bridge when necessary. I feel for you - it's been a nightmare of a winter up there. Hope it's sorted out soon. :D