April 27, 2009
10 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116
Dear Mr. Grabauskas,
Once again, I find myself writing to the T to complain about service which falls far short of “bad,” doesn’t come anywhere near “unacceptable,” and perhaps even falls just a little bit south of “What in heaven’s name is wrong with you people?”
Yesterday, my wife and two of my daughters left our house in Brighton at 12:20pm to take the T to the 2:00pm Boston Ballet performance. Tickets to the ballet are expensive, so a trip to the ballet is a rare, long-anticipated treat.
The trip planner on the T’s Web site told my wife that she could leave at 1:00pm and make it to the Wang Center with five minutes to spare. However, knowing the MBTA, my wife left a full forty minutes earlier. It’s a good thing she did!
Over a half hour later, she called me in a panic. The bus hadn’t arrived. There were people who had been waiting even longer than she and the kids. If the bus didn’t arrive soon they were going to miss the first act. What should she do?
I checked the T’s Web site and found no service alerts for route 57. I called your customer service department, which informed me that route 57 was running on a 40-minute delay. Thankfully, as I got off the phone, my wife called to let me know that the bus had finally come, at around 1:00pm.
However, that wasn’t the end of her troubles. The driver was informing passengers that there was not another bus behind his and doing his best to pick up as many passengers as possible. While his efforts were appreciated, the bus was packed (not surprising, given that the two if not three previous scheduled buses had not run), with many people who really should have been given seats forced to stand. Furthermore, the bus fell farther and farther behind schedule, since there were more people to board at each stop and it took longer for people to disembark. My wife arrived at Kenmore Square at around 1:35pm, making her total travel time around 75 minutes for a trip that shouldn’t have taken more than a half hour.
Three different complaints emanate from this experience:
Why can’t you people keep the buses running on time?
I have been a regular rider of route 57 for over 15 years. In all that time, it has never been reliable. Every time I complain, I get one excuse or another along with useless assurances like “we will send a dispatcher to monitor the route.” I don’t want a dispatcher. I want a bus when the schedule says that there will be a bus.
My experience is hardly atypical. Everyone I know who lives near route 57 has learned the hard way that it can never be relied upon: not during rush hour, not during off-peak, not on weekends, not on weekdays, not inbound, not outbound, never. Many people have simply given up on the route completely. Some choose to drive even though the 57 would take them right where they need to go.
What’s the point of having a system of notifying your customers about service delays if you don’t actually use it?
My wife checked the MBTA Web site before leaving to see if there were any problems. I checked the Web site over a half hour later when she called me. At no time during this service disruption was anything posted about it.
If the T had actually followed through on its commitment to notify people about service disruptions, than my wife could have found out about the problem before she left, and she could have walked to the green line (which would have taken less time than she spent waiting for the bus!), or she could have taken a cab, or I could have driven her.
It’s bad enough that you can’t get people where they’re going on time. But to lure people into a false sense of security by claiming that you’ll let them know if there’s a problem, and then to keep them in the dark, well, that’s much, much worse.
Why have you continued for years to publish schedules for route 57 which are obviously full of lies?
The schedule that the T publishes for route 57 is a lie. Simply put, the bus never runs as frequently as the schedule says. This has been true for as long as I’ve been riding the 57. A bus schedule is not supposed to say how often the buses run in some garage superintendent’s delusional fantasy. It’s supposed to say how often the buses actually run in real life.
Why does the T insist on lying to its passengers?
“We promise to provide you with the highest level of customer service everyday – at every stop and station, and on every bus, train, and boat you ride with us.” That’s what it says on your Web site. As a long-time rider of the T, I can assure you that the T doesn’t do that, the T has never done that, and I’ve long since given up hope that the T will ever do that.
Please, prove me wrong.
P.S. Every other public official to which I have sent a copy of this message publishes either an email address or a fax number on his Web site. Not only do you publish neither an email address nor a fax number, you don’t even publish a mailing address for your office – I had to call your customer service department to get it. Why not, Mr. Grabauskas? Do you think you are more important than all these other people? Is is beneath your dignity to interact directly with the public?
Cc: James A. Aloisi, Jr., Secretary of Transportation, Fax: 617-973-8031
Sen. Steven A. Baddour, Chair, Joint Committee on Transportation, Steven.Baddour@state.ma.us
Rep. Joseph F. Wagner, Chair, Joint Committee on Transportation, Rep.JosephWagner@hou.state.ma.us
Sen. Steven A. Tolman, Steven.Tolman@state.ma.us
Rep. Kevin G. Honan, Rep.KevinHonan@hou.state.ma.us
Governor Deval Patrick, Fax: 617-727-9725
Mayor Thomas M.Menino, firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilor Mark Ciommo, Mark.Ciommo@cityofboston.gov
Councilor Michael F. Flaherty, Michael.F.Flaherty@cityofboston.gov
Councilor Stephen J. Murphy, Stephen.Murphy@cityofboston.gov
Councilor John Connolly, John.R.Connolly@cityofboston.gov
Councilor Sam Yoon, email@example.com
Boston Herald news tips, firstname.lastname@example.org
Boston Globe news tips, email@example.com
“not enough funding, suck it up and deal” doesn’t really explain why the service on route 57 has always been bad, nor does it explain why the schedules consistently lie, nor does it explain why the General Manager of the T doesn’t make himself accessible to customers despite the T’s promise to let people “Write to the Top,” nor does it explain why the T doesn’t tell people about service disruptions as it has promised to do. None of these are money issues; they are basic competence issues.
But he knows he can just reply “not enough funding, suck it up and deal” just like Mr. Turnpike did after the Easter weekend toll backups. After all, he got flak, but he didn’t get fired.