MBTA complaint of the day

By | May 15, 2007

It never ceases to amaze me that the folks who run the MBTA can’t seem to handle the simplest aspects of running a working public transit system.  Over and over again, I’ve found myself complaining to them about things that just shouldn’t come up, because they should just be handled properly to begin with.

My wife recently took a three-day trip to New York City with our daughters, and she spent a day touring the city with the girls on foot and by public transportation.  She said that every “Walk” signal worked (not so in Boston!), drivers actually stopped for pedestrians (not so in Boston!), the subway signs were clear and accurate (!), the fare collection system didn’t have people lined up waiting to board the buses (!), all stops were announced (!), and every time she asked a transit worker, other city employee or even a stranger on the street for advice, they were helpful and knew the information she needed (!!).

Everything about Boston is smaller than New York City.  One would think that it would be rather easier to run Boston to the same standards as New York City.  So why is Boston instead run like a dump?

In any case, here’s the complaint, which I just sent to the MBTA, which prompted the rant above:

The other night, I was riding the B Line outbound, intending to disembark at a stop I rarely use and with which I am unfamiliar, Sutherland Street.

I noticed when boarding the train that it was making its automated stop announcements, both audibly and on the LED displays, so settled down to get some work done on my laptop while lending half an ear to the announcements so that I would not miss my stop.

A bit later, I realized with a jolt that at least one stop had gone by with no visible or audible announcement being made.  I rushed to the front of the train as it pulled up to the next stop and said, “Is this Sutherland Street?”

Driver: “No, this is Chiswick.  The last stop was Sutherland Street.”

Me: “Why didn’t the train announce Sutherland?”

Driver: “It never does.”

There are at least two things wrong here.

First of all, obviously, the automated stop announcements should be working.

Second, your driver was apparently unaware that the driver is obligated by Federal law to announce all stops, and thus that if the automated stop announcements aren’t working, the driver is obligated by Federal law to announce all stops herself.

Some stop announcements is rather worse than no stop announcements.  If there weren’t any announcements,I would have been paying attention to every stop, and I wouldn’t have missed mine.  Luring people into a false sense of security by announcing some of the stops and then just stopping is unacceptable.

Interestingly, the same thing happened to my wife earlier the same day when she was traveling to exactly the same stop.  Worse than that, before boarding the train at Park Street, she checked a B Line map there to confirm which stop she should disembark at, and the map she reviewed didn’t even have Sutherland Street on it; it showed Mount Hood.  It seems to me that the maps in Park Street should reflect the actual stops the trains are making.


Jonathan Kamens

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29 thoughts on “MBTA complaint of the day

  1. Kari Bosco

    I have a complaint about one of the bus drivers on Bus 77 Arlington Heights. On some evenings, when I am taking the bus home from work, I have had some unprofessional service. I ring the bell for
    “stop requested” and the driver neglects to stop. I am the only one who speaks up to the driver to stop. Nobody else speaks up to the driver. This has happened something like 5 times already! This really disgusts me. I would appreciate some support.
    Kari B.

  2. JTorres

    Sept 18, 2013 I writing to complain about the buses route 23 & 66 lately. I have taken the buses 23 to Dudley station, starting from Ashmont station. You have a bus driver early at 6:45, bus number 2273. That he is upset in taking everyone in the buses at that time, even when he knows theres no more space to fit more passenger. He is getting late to Dudley and for that reason, who ever have to be transfer to bus 66 can not get the bus on time and they don’t want to take any more customer even if there in the station. I’m concern about this because with the school starting and all the extra delays to get to work, school or appointments. They need to realize people need to get to work early and not make it a diffcult ride from on station to another.

  3. Badiuz Khan

    Today is Saturday, 8/24/2013. A Route-1 bus clearly defied my
    request and did not stop for me. It left Harvard Square @ 1:30 PM.
    Before it reach the corner T-stop on Quincy Street, I was standing
    there, and requested the driver ‘raising hand ‘ repeatedly to stop.
    He had seen me clearly and drove away. I had started ‘showing’ my
    hand when the bus was waiting at a red-signal, and I was crossing
    the street, showing my hand to stop. I reached the stop before he
    did. Yet he did not stop – possibly because I did not look American
    enough to him – and he thought it was OK to ignore me.

    The driver was an Afro-American young-man wearing a sunglass.

    I would like to know the outcome of this complaint.

  4. Offcer Melendez

    I am a Special Police Officer for the City of Boston and I take the T everynite to go to work and i have never had a problem until now. It 11:20 of Sept. 2, 2012 i was going to work and i went to Andrew Station but my monthly pass that i just purchased a few days ago wasnt letting me go through so i went to approached the man that was sitting inside the booth listening to his phone with the headphones on his ears ,i needed his help and i was banging on the window glass cause he couldnt hear me or he was trying to ignore me . So when i got his attention i explain to him my problem and i walked back to the gate thinking that he was going to get up and help me but instead he was telling me from the booth to go behind some people that was going inside the gate but i couldnt hear him cause of the distance i knew he was saying something but i couldnt hear him clear so he finally got up and started yielling at me i told you to go behind those people and i told him that i coulnt hear what he was trying to tell me so he said yielling “yeah you just wanned me to come out here and started talking with a bad attitude like he wasnt supposed to come out of the booth and i said to him that he was there for customer service to help who ever needs helps . thats for what his getting paid for ,not to sit in his ass and listen to music with headphone on trying to ignore customers . So he started cursing me in a bad way and told me to keep walking and not to tell him what to do, and i told him that i will notified the office complaint , i mean all he had to do is help me out and not give me attitude and a hard time just cause i interrupt him from listening to his music on the phone , he didnt wanna be bother with nobody so why is he their for . this is unacceptable for the MBTA it doesnt give a good image of customer services . Any question my telephone is ___-___-____ [Phone number removed. – ed.].

    1. jik Post author

      I’m sorry to hear about your negative experience with the T.

      Please note that this is not an official MBTA complaint site, and you are not going to get any sort of response from the MBTA to any complaints posted here. I just wanted to point that out since it seemed from what you wrote like you might be expecting such a response. If you want to complain to the T, as opposed to about the T, you should do it at http://www.mbta.com.

  5. prudence

    I know several T employees and I am amaze that since the started working for the t they have become scam artists… we are talking about people that were hard workers prior to getting on the T and learning how to scam for disabliltiy from more seasoned employees….I have watched one be out of work more than they were in work for the last 3 years…claim after claim and they use a law firm who provides them with doctors…it just amazes me that nobody in upper mgmt has caught on to these scams…Of course this is just one person but the problem lies in mgmt because the so called ‘inspectors’ are the ones that teach people how to beat the system…it is absurd and I am not surprised at all that the t is broke

  6. john

    The C line is awful. It only opens 1 door and it gets crowded by coolidge corner. The trains are a lot slower now that they have made these changes then ever before. I would love to meet the people who are in charge of the MBTA because are doing an awful job making sure people are getting to work on time. I can not tell you how many times I have been late due to late trains, broken trains or just the lack of service. Something needs to change. It is not fair to hard working people who have to get to work on time…

  7. Janae Wagy

    Outstanding article. I did saved your website. Keep sharing. Regards

  8. misty

    well my morning started off on the wrong foot…
    I was pulled aside this morning at the train station for a security check.
    well, okay fine. I dont really like it but I understand that I have a certain look and I’m wearing sunglasses and all black clothing.

    However, after I’m swabbed and cleared, I decide to walk over and get a newspaper… no one else was around and I felt the security people watch me go and get the paper, as I’m walking back to the station the woman AGAIN pulls me aside and says, please come over here for security clearance… huh? I said, you JUST did a security check on me. She says, but YOU walked away. argh… I say you’ve got to be kidding me! I just went for a newspaper… she says YOU walked away!!!! and the men standing there say, relax? the train isn’t here! as if I should be praising them for doing such great work. And he swabs my purse handle again, not the newspaper or my clothing… as if I were to go and get something in the 30 seconds they were watching me walk to and from the metro stand and hide it in my purse handle. I was furious… but I didn’t say anything else… instead as I was walking away a woman walked up and put her bag down on the table and they said, no no, no, you dont have to be cleared, go ahead…
    and I started laughing (in anger) and said yeah, sure, they’ll let you go through but I was flagged twice, nice!

    Then I cried on the train in frustration that I couldn’t or didn’t say something… they are doing what they are supposed to be doing? Well this isn’t the first time I”ve been pulled aside for security clearance… the last time the guy actually made a joke… guess you picked a good day not to carry a bomb. what?! I told him that wasn’t funny.

    why should they get away with such rudeness! I feel it is racial profiling and I’m not allowed to complain because that seems combative and raises more suspicion.

  9. Bonnie

    MBTA Corporate T-Pass Program Flaunts Ease-Of-Use; But Does Not Deliver–AND THEY’RE GOING TO TRY TO RAISE RATES?!
    It has now been 13 days. My T-pass was submitted as lost/stolen on December 28. That is $4 x 13 days, which equals $52. Plus, they will be taking another $59 from my paycheck for the Corporate Pass Program on top of what I’m having to pay out in cash.

    This is not just a small inconvenience anymore, and a stolen card could happen to anyone. It is my understanding that the Corporate Program is supposed to be properly administered by the firm to enable the quick replacement of lost or stolen cards. How can we ‘customers’ find out what plans are going to be put into place to ensure this does not happen to anyone else?

    How is the new online MBTA Corporate Pass Program better than the old consignment program?
    The new, state-of-the-art MBTA Corporate Pass Program provides an electronic ordering, reporting and tracking platform (web order, electronic fulfillment, electronic payment) and automatic reloading of CharlieCards. The new program is much more flexible and dynamic than the previous program, providing more pass options to further assist companies with providing a transit benefit to all employees, including occasional transit users. Furthermore, the new program provides additional service options including the replacement of lost or stolen CharlieCards and utilization reporting for CharlieCard recipients which can be used to meet the State of Massachusetts Auto Insurance discount requirement.

  10. Anonymous

    While waiting for the number one bus on Sunday November 27 at 10:10 am on bus number 0813 the bus driver was very rude to some passengers so that has to stop if they don’t us to be rude they shouldn’t be that way too thank you

  11. Este

    Okay so i had a very similar problem just this morning, i found this site while I was searching for a complaint #. Everyone knows its a bad weather day today, infact worse, by far, this entire winter. so i was out and I took bus 65 and expected it to stop at the ‘Deaconess road’ stop but the driver didn’t. i noticed they were announcing all the stop but not this one. I asked the driver to stop and she slowed down first and then kept driving for a few more seconds and then says ‘you know what i dont even think this is a stop anymore, it doesnt announce it either. I will give this one to you…’ by that time she finished her sentence, i had gotten off. so heres my concern from what she had said: ‘i dont ‘think’.. my question is what do u mean u dont think?? shouldnt u know! and then she made it seem as if she was doing me a favor by stopping! so i checked the 65 schedule posted online and ‘Deaconess’ in fact is a stop. i tried calling the mbta line and a man who responded gave me another # and when i tried that mbta #- no one responded and thats when i started searching for a complaint # online and found you.

  12. Robert Loree

    I live near the Commuter Rail Station in Randolph and use the train. There is a robotic Public Address announcement that is played randomly and loudly and redundantly. It is very annoying and I can hear it from my house and is annoying and unnecessary and insulting to be aired more than once particularly like right now on a quiet Sunday morning when there is no one at the station to hear it.

    I am amazed when I go to other cities to find how clean, pleasant, and user friendly public transportation can be.

  13. Edmund

    This morning (December 21, 2009) at the Randolph/Holbrook Commuter Rail Station commuters were left stranded without parking or access to the platform.


    The MBTA did not plow snow from the parking lot.

    No parking was available. None.

    MBTA buses could not even access the lot to get to the bus stop.

    There was not even a path plowed to the platform. Commuters had to walk through large snow drifts just to get to the train. Horrible mismanagement. Shame on the MBTA!

  14. Mahu

    The most interesting aspect of this is the (supply any race) aspect of things. I made that change to make the material suitable to a public readership. However, it’s instructive for all readers to supply various combinations and really get in touch with their own responses to said hypothetical combinations.

  15. Mahu

    The following is the complaint that I lodged with MBTA on their website and by phone this morning for what happened this morning. The worst of it is that the handful of bad employees give the many good, polite, decent, hard-working ones a bad name.

    This complaint involves driver number #### of bus route 39 on 12/3/09 at 8:55am. I boarded a very crowded 39 bus at Riverway at approximately 8:54am, preceded by a few individuals. I was the last passenger to board. A middle-aged woman with a cane was just in front of me and thickly crowded by students, but with space to move back into the bus. Instead of moving back into the bus, she chose to fiddle with her handbag or something or other in her hand. I was stuck standing on the disabled persons ramp by the door. The driver said, “You need to move back. You can’t stand there.” I responded, “I’m trying but there’s no room to move.” I certainly did not wish to jostle a woman with a cane. He insisted. I explained again that there was no room. INSTEAD OF ASKING PEOPLE TO MAKE ROOM, most especially the woman with space in front of her, he merely insisted on my moving again and said, “If you don’t want a ride…” and started to pull over. I was on my way to work and didn’t have time to lose. I tried to push past the woman, who thereupon gave a yelp of annoyance and said “Hey there!” I looked at the driver and said, “See?” He responded, “This conversation’s over. This conversation’s dead. Move back.” It was fortunate that my having inconvenienced the woman prompted her to move farther back in the bus, thereby affording me room to move back myself. I sat peacefully and quietly for the entirety of my commute to work, whereas the woman (who seems to have known the driver) walked up and talked to him AS HE DROVE THE BUS all the way to her destination about 5 stops away. At my destination, Clarendon St. stop in Back Bay, I requested the driver’s badge number. He grumbled “####” and just looked at me with a sour expression while I informed him briefly as I stepped out of the bus that “I’ll be reporting you today.” He thereupon audibly called me a “mother-f***er.” I am disgusted by the way I was treated this morning. Not only was I offended by the sheer rudeness and foul-mouthedness of the driver, but I’m also disturbed by something a bit more fundamental. I was publicly embarrassed by the driver, and I am inclined to feel that it was based on age-appearance and perhaps even race. I am a 32-year-old (supply any race) professional. However, I live in a college neighborhood and have a youngish appearance. As soon as I boarded the bus, the driver made me feel like dirt and as though I had done something wrong. I seriously feel as though I was perceived and treated thus because the driver has negative perceptions of (supply any race) and/or young people. Also, the driver’s failure to encourage the woman (of the same race as himself) to move back to make room for me to move while publicly embarrassing me reinforces this perception. Nothing explicitly racist was said, but I was made to feel extremely extremely extremely uncomfortable and I feel that this was due to my being (supply any race) and having a youngish appearance. Regardless of my perception, the driver shouldn’t treat anyone that way for any reason. All I want to come of this complaint is an apology. That’s all. A sincere apology from the MBTA for the treatment I received.
    Thank you.

    1. Este

      that is unfortunate. i can understand what you mean though. its wrong and they should be taught good customer service. now i have noticed some very good drivers too. who are so kind even on a rainy day. i called and praised those drivers but the one i faced this morning was simply horrible!

  16. CJ

    If you think that is bad try being on the Blue line with the new trains.
    Seats might as well be greased.. and the frackin drivers totally slam on the
    breaks! They drive like my grandfather start stop start stop..
    They should realize that they don’t need to pull on the controls so hard!
    I saw an elderly lady slide onto the floor from her seat one day!

  17. gece

    regarding the govt green line crash..well what about the front car driver conversing-chatting to rear car driver? I often sit up front and hear them chatting to each other and not paying attention to their responsibility.
    last qwwek on B line the train approaching a curve and slow down sign suddenly the driver applied the brakes..very sudddenly. I grabbed the elder lady next to me as we were being force propelled-were we on foot we would fall. on these Breda trains i also note a slight sharp brake propellison> passengers compared to older japanese comfy well engineered models..it is ever so slight but Noticeable, nonetheless!the new busses also are a horror of engineering..the front of older versions had seats up front for weak elderly to sit comfortably etc.these new versions have a huge over wheel box long area so when bording often the bus acellerates> before weak fragile folk get> seats..i notice also the buses lean or the shock absorbers are differently engineered to older comfy to ride busses..
    baby carriages on crowded busses should be folded so as to not inconvenience passengers in these narrow areas.
    ? why are folks allowed to board T vehicles with liquids in hand like hot coffee etc? as i described the jerking/braking makes these liquids spill over..I cannot fathom why this is allowed.
    3.B-line bouncing to expressing.
    On B -line four criticsl stops were removed 2006.We commuters at a meeting we were over 500 there protesting this decision.I live on the highest hill over boston corey hill of which summit ave N.b.! SUMMIT is a high sholder of this hill from which at the summit ave stop you see for miles distance.We Summit ave folk have to walk summit ave are frankly,so so neglected..the rason at the time was delay supposedly..well the seconds to stop -desembark at one of these 4 stops was minimal compared to the delay at the time( pre charlie pass) of painstakenly getting bills> fare box where the problem of delay occuired.they simply had decided to close and not hear us at all really blind folks were ignoored folks wh bought condos on B line strickly to avoid driving-ignored.elders ignored..etc.etc.
    now with charlie cards so speedup b line well frankly from harvard aved. bc stop now 8 out of ten trains go express making the 85-90% riders mostly elderly frails to be booted off cars going express.it i very very frequent and the inspectors ordering the expressing often order the large amount of passengers boarding at very used Harvard ave stop where they come from bus> B-line going home to senior citizen places on b-line well a stop after or 2 stops after we get told”going express so we have to climb down with bundles and re-board..so folks the closing of these 4 stops wasnt at all the cause of delay as NOw delay is WORSE ..so Please reopen our very needded original stops..yes the early commute hours with read door borderng helps..
    next time sirs: consult commuters regarding suggestions to T engineering/and t commuting.we know the nitty gritty not the consultants.

  18. Phil Robinon

    I am quite disturbed at the foolishness and unprofessional attitudes of some drivers. Let me first say, many, many drivers are caring, professional drivers and this comment should not reflect on the majority of the drivers that do care.

    Recently, I have met a few just willing to make your life difficult.
    Currently, on selected weekends the Redline that runs to Ashmont has been rerouted. After the JFK/UMASS stop on the redline the passengers are shuttled to FIELDS CORNER along Dorcester Ave.

    On two different occassions I have taken the shuttle which runs along Dorcester Ave after 6pm in the evening (which by the way NO SERVICE exists for me) and the driver would not stop the bus for me at a marked bus stop. As I had said this had happened at least twice.

    I also want to note other drivers have been very considerate and left me off when I have alerted them to stop by ringing the bell.

    Please what is your policy? Is it if the driver wants to be nice he will stop or if he want to be nasty he says, “screw you” and he makes you walk back when he could have easy enough let you off.

    I approached at number of MBTA-employees wearing the Yellow Jacket driven by Customer Service? C’mon is this a JOKE? When I mentioned this to them I think they tried hard enough to hold back the chuckle.

    Please if you are going to reroute passengers due to on-going construction. Please be aware there are older/disabled passenger who can use a little consideration and kindness and let them off on Dorchester Ave so they don’t have to walk back because you don’t provide any evening service.

  19. Susan Dodge

    This morning one the Green Line, E train, the driver flat out refused to let passenger off at the Mission Hill stop. Just flat out refused and forced us to stay on board to the next stop, some 3 blocks away. Isn’t that kidnapping?

    1. jik Post author

      Posting your complaints here gives them visibility, which is good, but you should also be sure to complain to the MBTA! When you encounter one of these issues, write down the train or bus number (not the route number, but the number of the specific vehicle) and the time of day, and then go to http://mbta.com/customer_support/write_to_top/ to find out where to send your complaint. In this case, it would be Deborah Gies, the MBTA Green Line Chief, at greenline@mbta.com.

  20. Chris

    Where did you make the Mbta complaint? on their site?

    last week i was walking up to a bus at the base station (it waits there for anywhere from one min to 10 mins). the door closed as i approached the rear of the bus so i ran up and knocked. At this point the bus had pulled 1′ from the curb and was surrounded by cars and a redlight – so it was stopped. the driver pointed in the direction the bus was going and screamed “just go to the next stop!” as if i had annoyed the heck out of him. The bus didnt get around the corner for another 3 mins. we waited for the next one.

    I lived in the NYC area for over 10 years and i agree with you. The MBTA is the worst run organization, but i feel this is a reflection on another poorly run organization- the boston leadership and goverment. This is one rundown town especially considering the tax rate.

    dont even get me going on the cops (or lack thereof).

  21. Ginny

    This has happened on the Fitchburg train line also — stops sometimes not announced.

    Today, the 6:40 am train was more than 1.5 hours late due to:
    1- the train in FRONT broke down.
    2-My train stopped at an intersection, the lights went out, and alarm screeched in our ears for 1/2 hour!!
    3-the train inched into North Station, because it had to PUSH the broken down train
    4-it stopped twice at every single stop
    5-the train was freezing cold, even though I am wearing a sweater and coat.

    It is a cattle car at best!

    And what’s more, I never have received any reimbursement for my funding requests through the MBTA website.


  22. dean machichi

    the buses they dont run on schedule,i think the driver have their own schedule,and their attitude about it,i always be at time selon schedule but unfortunately theres no bus, also theres nobody to talk to,even if theres they respond you with attitude,or i dont know,this things going on on malden center,also,i seeing alot driver they use cellphone while driving,is it law to do that, be honest with you buses ,and orange line especially its mess,its has been like this long time,why the orange line its too old,and seats are discasting to sit on,why we dont have a new train,like green line,very nice, bcs peoples who take orange line are foreign,and middle class,bottom line the mass mbta its stressing and depressing, the only thing you guys care about is increase the fair,god watching you as you torture as

  23. S Navarre

    Hi, I just had a very similar issue: the C line was running express from Kenmore to Coolidge Corner: they announced it, but without the microphone turned on, so the majority of the people in the train didn’t know. When people started yelling after the train ran through two stops (inexplicably), they stopped at the third stop to let everyone off.

    I had to walk back the 4 blocks to my stop, loaded down with lots and lots of packages. I may not have been as upset if I hadn’t just waited 1/2 hour for a train, and was loaded down, but their comtempt for the experience of their passengers was really awful.

    I’m glad you have this site: I’ll add a link on my blog (on yahoo 360).

  24. jik Post author

    Just got this response:

    Dear Mr. Kamens:

    Thank you for your email regarding automated stop announcements on the Green Line. I appreciate your taking the time to write and I apologize for any inconvenience during your commute.

    The MBTA maintains a firm commitment to serving our customers with courtesy and consideration and does not tolerate the conduct described in your email. Green Line Supervisors will be interviewing this employee and the necessary corrective action will be taken. You are correct stop announcements are federally mandated and should have been made by the train crew if the automated ones were malfunctioning.
    Again, I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

    I appreciate your bringing this matter to my attention and hope to serve you better in the future.

    Deborah Gies
    Chief of Green Line Transportation


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