‘We deserve a better T’: Red Line pilot launches silent protest
Ride a standing-room train at Harvard Square a recent morning, Merullo received curious looks from other runners watching from their phones. She agrees to bring the sign on her daily 45-minute commute until regular service is restored.
Merullo, who works at Tufts Medical Center, is frustrated with what feels like a daily deluge of bad news about our transit system, from derailments to mechanical problems to vandalism. The morning I was on the red line with her, there were several text alerts about delays, includingg the dreaded “20+ min” waiting time message on the platform screen.
More worrying were safety concerns raised by federal authorities investigating T-Operations following a series of accidents, including a biker who was dragged to death in April after becoming trapped in the car door. a Red Line car.
“I always felt comfortable on it, and I still do, but these safety issues make me nervous and upset,” Merullo said.
She hopes to inspire other irate runners to wave, so a one-woman demonstration can become a movement that brings Beacon Hill to finally fix the T.
Transit rider Justin Brown likes Merullo’s strategy and thinks his message is right. The 24-year-old data analyst takes the T two or three times a week to get to work in Boston. With the reduced service, his journey can take twice as long, almost an hour between Davis Square and Downtown Crossing. With the amount of taxes everyone pays, Brown believes the service should be faster.
“We do deserve a better T,” he said.
Another Red Line rider, Shubham Tapadiya, also wants a change. The 24-year-old software engineer takes the Red Line from Central Square to South Station and then switches to the Silver Line bus for his work in the Seaport district. During the morning rush hour, the Silver Line is so full that he often has to wait for two buses to pass before he can get on.
These days, a journey that normally takes an hour can stretch to an hour and 20 minutes. Tapadiya said his sign would read, “We need more frequency.”
But some MBTA drivers are resigned to the dismal status quo. Among them is Lorna Davies, one of Merullo’s colleagues. Davies rode the commuter rail and the subway for more than three decades. She said she had completed countless MBTA surveys and given feedback on how to improve service.
“I was very blunt and brutally candid,” said Davies, administrative coordinator at Tufts Medical Center. “Nothing was done.”
Davies, who lives in Salem, said she can tolerate delays in the summer and fall, but when winter sets in, she knows the commute will be tough. At 71, she wants to keep working because she likes to stay busy, but now she’s rethinking that plan.
“When it’s not a mechanical problem, it’s a signal problem. Some bridges need to be repaired. There’s always a reason,” Davies said of the delays. “I’m actually thinking about retiring because of the MBTA.”
Merullo, who grew up in Belmont and Watertown, has been a T rider since she was about 13 years old. She has good memories.
“It was my first foray into independence,” she explained. “The first thing I can do without my parents.”
When she headed off to college in Washington, DC, she missed the public transit system in her hometown. She remembers the metro being laborious, with 15 minute waits for trains in the middle of the day.
“I remember saying, ‘The T is so much better than that,'” she said.
For now, Merullo has no intention of abandoning the T. She sees her cardboard sign as much as an act of protest as a desire to see the system succeed.
“I’ve always loved it,” she says.
As transit users, we don’t ask for much. Every time we pass a CharlieCard, we shouldn’t have to worry and wonder if our train will arrive and if we can get there when we need to go.
We deserve better.
Shirley Leung is a business columnist. She can be contacted at [email protected]