The MBTA fails, yet again, to provide a minimal level of acceptable service

By | July 6, 2009

Cc: <>,
“‘Governor Patrick’s Office (imailagent)'” <>,
“‘Halbert, David'” <>

John Houghton
Superintendent, Cabot Bus Garage

Dear Mr. Houghton,

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  If so, then I must be insane to rely on the T.

It’s not so much that many of the 5xx express buses were horrendously delayed for hours this morning.  I understand that was caused by a problem  outside the T’s control, in particular, a stuck railroad crossing gate out in Waltham.

The service failure which puts the T yet again into the “of incompetents, by incompetents, for incompetents” level of service is that yet again, there were serious delays in service, and yet again, YOU DID NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO NOTIFY YOUR CUSTOMERS ABOUT THE DELAYS.

Here’s what is written in the confirmation message I received when I signed up for “T-Alerts”:

This service provides information to keep you up to date on MBTA services that you use.  We’ll send you T-Alerts  for new or changed services, timetable adjustments or other information that may affect your travel plans.

We also alert you when we have to cancel services or have service delays over 15 minutes.

Updates on all service disruptions will be posted on the MBTA website

Did the T notify anyone by email about this morning’s service delays?  No, you did not.

Did the T post anything about this morning’s service delays on your Web site?  No, you did not.

I was taking my daughter this morning to her summer ballet program, the first time I’ve attempted to do so by bus.   If the T had notified its customers about this morning’s delays as it has promised and yet repeatedly failed to do, then I could have taken my daughter by cab and she would have arrived with time to spare.  Instead, because we waited for over forty minutes for two different buses that never showed up before we finally gave up, my daughter was a half hour late, missed warm-ups, and was unable to dance with her classmates for two hours.

This is about much more than one late arrival at ballet school.  My daughter is forming impressions about the world which will last for her entire life.  When she grows up with experiences like this morning’s, is she going to be eager to rely on public transportation to help preserve the environment, or is she, like so many of my friends and coworkers, going to do everything within her power to avoid using the T?

I know that the MBTA, like every other government agency, is not exactly flush with cash right now.  But the fact of the matter is that YOU’VE ALREADY SPENT THE MONEY TO SET UP THE SYSTEM FOR ALERTING CUSTOMERS ABOUT SERVICE DELAYS. It will cost you NOTHING to use it.  So what’s your excuse, other than entrenched incompetence and a complete lack of caring about the level of service you provide to your customers?

Here’s a suggestion: It’s all well and good that you allow customers to apply through your “On Time Service Guarantee” program for piddling little refunds for delayed service.  How about this?  For every one of these refund requests, if the T failed to notify customers about the delay through both the Web site and T-Alerts as promised, you should DOUBLE the amount of the refund sent to the customer.  Even doubled, the amount of the refund is only a small fraction of what you actually OWE your customers for making them late to their jobs, their schools, and their lives, but at least this small gesture might suggest that maybe, just maybe, someone at the T cares that you mess up people’s lives on a regular basis.

Here’s another idea: When the T fails to notify customers about service delays as promised, someone at the T is NOT DOING HIS JOB, and that someone should be disciplined or fired.  Was it YOUR job, Mr. Houghton, to ensure that customers were notified about this morning’s delays?  Did you do your job, Mr. Houghton?  If not, then why do you think it should remain your job?

I’m trying to cut down a bit on my insanity, so rather than actually expecting this complaint to have any real effect, I am instead looking forward to your prompt, and yet pointless, reply.


Jonathan Kamens

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One thought on “The MBTA fails, yet again, to provide a minimal level of acceptable service

  1. AnonymousHero

    You can tell how angry he is by the use of Caps Lock and by the number of CCs.


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