MBTA: “May Be Trains Arrive”

Perhaps it’s delay fatigue (as opposed to delayed fatigue), but the operators of the MBTA’s commuter rail had an awful, bad, terrible evening commute Tuesday in the warm drizzle of an early fall day that barely registered a blip on the news radar.

The Download, as regular readers know, has a lead item that wraps up coverage of one of the day’s most notable stories. But the problems which affected thousands of commuters got little notice from area media outlets, save for Fox 25 which based its story on riders lighting up the T on social media. With a paucity of legacy links, we’’ll turn this over to social media. (It’s an old joke in reporting circles, though, that local news isn’t a story until it affects an editor. So in full disclosure, I was one of the passengers on one of the severely delayed trains.)

The commute from hell got off to a rocky start when the 4:52 p.m. Greenbush train from South Station broke down in Quincy Center. That’s when the fun began. The packed train couldn’t move off the single-track, preventing both inbound and outbound trains from passing. And the Greenbush line shares tracks with two other lines – Kingston/Plymouth and Middleboro/Lakeville – between South Station and Braintree.

Waiting behind the stuck train was the outgoing 5 p.m. Kingston train. And behind that the Middleboro/Lakeville train. And behind that was another Greenbush train. And then another Kingston train, all leaving between 5 and 5:45. See where this is heading? Those halted trains also triggered a stoppage going north not only from trains that couldn’t pass but a lack of trains to pick up passengers at the start of their inbound trip because late-arriving equipment hadn’t arrived.

Many passengers complained on social media they weren’t being given any information about what was going on as they sat looking forlornly out the windows at Red Line trains passing by. But because the trains were stopped away from platforms, looking was all passengers could do.

“We weren’t near the station,” one rider named CeejTankGaming wrote on Twitter. “We were basically train-napped.”

“This service is BEYOND unacceptable,” another user tweeted from a Middleborough train. “No updates from the conductor, the train isn’t moving, and we’re now 2 hours delayed. Open the damn doors and let us find another way home.”

Keolis gave some updates on its Twitter feed, merely saying a “disabled train” was the cause and putting delays in the range of minutes. As in “105 to 115 minutes” because, apparently, minutes sounds better than hours.

The fix was as head-scratching as the delays. Keolis officials emptied out an inbound train from Middleboro/Lakeville so it could hook up to the broken down train and push it to Braintree. The passengers from the Greenbush train were unloaded in Quincy and put onto the former inbound train and taken home while the inbound passengers either waited for a long-delayed train or went to the relatively more dependable Red Line.

Many sent angry tweets to Gov. Charlie Baker but got no response. Some even pulled in Amazon to show the company what it’s getting into if it chooses Boston for its new headquarters.

“Surely Amazon will drop Boston from the running for HQ2 if they’re reading the @mbta_alerts,” one stuck rider wrote, tagging the online giant in the post.

Keolis put out a statement to Fox 25 late Tuesday night apologizing for the delays but offered little information about what they’ll do to fix it other than laying the blame on old equipment.

“A mechanical issue with a locomotive caused these delays,” Keolis said in a statement. “We continue to make progress overhauling our locomotive fleet, but there is still work to do. We appreciate our passengers’ patience while crews worked to keep them informed and reach their destinations.”

The problems weren’t limited to the south as a Worcester-bound train broke down and had to be pushed by a following train, causing an hour or more delay for other westbound trains. And early Wednesday morning, Keolis canceled a train from Providence with little reason but which the Boston Globe discovered was due to “late arriving crew.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez has tried his best to hang the T’s and Keolis’s problems around Baker’s neck. Gonzalez retweeted dozens of posts from the Tuesday commute to highlight the problem.

“Riders struggling to get home,” Gonzalez tweeted. “As Gov, I’ll ask the wealthy to pay more so we can fix our system.”

Gonzalez has said he’ll fire Keolis if he is elected, a stance many dismiss as simplistic. But after Tuesday’s failures, it will find a receptive audience among many riders.

“.@MBTA_CR question,” CeejTankGaming tweeted to Keolis’s account, “does MBTA stand for ‘maybe trains arrive’? Asking for a friend.”

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

The Herald delves into the lucrative-paying world of quasi-public affordable housing agency MassHousing, whose director and several top aides earn more than $200,000 a year, while more than 150 of the office’s 375 employees are paid more than $100,000 a year.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

In the face of a population boom not seen for 100 years, Boston officials are ramping up their housing production goals in an effort to keep pace with surging demand. (CommonWealth)

The Worcester City Council approved a loan authorization for $100.8 million to build a new 10,000-seat ballpark for the Red Sox top minor league baseball team. (Telegram & Gazette)

Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund has given LStar Ventures 30 days to show it can complete the long-delayed redevelopment of the former naval air base. LStar, which has started no residential or commercial projects this year, has been beset by management shake-ups, high debt, and lawsuits for nonpayment. (Patriot Ledger)

Two Lowell city councilors want police officials to look into bringing horse-mounted patrols back after a downtown brawl involving dozens of teenagers brought up the need for better crowd control. (Lowell Sun)

Two Boston city councilors want to see the annual “Hempfest” moved off of Boston Common, citing the blight of trash and dangerous stray needles discarded at the event. (Boston Herald)

The Brewster Select Board has formally apologized to the former town administrator and finance director, acknowledging they were wrongly blamed for what was thought to be a $37 million budget shortfall. (Cape Cod Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Senate Republicans have tapped Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor who specializes in sexual assault cases, to be the lead interrogator for them when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifies about her accusations of attempted rape by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when both were in high school. (New York Times) The Trump playbook has become the GOP playbook on the allegations against Kavanaugh: Deny and attack. (Boston Globe) Several former Yale classmates who had signed a letter endorsing his nomination say the “choir boy” image Kavanaugh tried to create in his interview on Fox News runs counter to the heavy drinking college kid they hung out with. (Washington Post)

The nation’s divorce rate is dropping and experts are citing the trend of people getting married later in life after they establish their careers and financial stability with the decline. (U.S. News & World Report)

ELECTIONS

Sen. Elizabeth Warren comes out in favor of the November ballot question that would mandate minimum nurse staffing levels at Massachusetts hospitals. (Boston Globe)

In the all politics is still local department, David Bernstein says one straightforward explanation for congressional primary victories by Ayanna Pressley and Lori Trahan is that both candidates were very good fits for their respective districts. (WGBH News)

Governing magazine takes a look at the ballot question ballot in Massachusetts over transgender rights.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Time to dump the Donuts: After a year of talking about it, Canton-based Dunkin’ Donuts announced it is dropping Donuts from its brand name and will just be called Dunkin’ starting in January. (Boston Business Journal)

A group of activist nuns succeeded in getting shareholders of Smith & Wesson’s parent company to approve a resolution asking the company to explain how it monitors gun violence and what it’s doing to make firearms safer and keep them out of the hands of children and others who shouldn’t have access to guns. (The Republican) A Globe editorial applauds the sisters’ work.

The last pieces of Necco equipment — as well as four of its candy brands — will be auctioned off this week as the book closes on the iconic confectioner. (Boston Globe)

With borrowing on the rise to cover a growing budget deficit and make up for tax cuts, the government will soon be spending more on interest payments than on the military, Medicare, or children’s health programs. (New York Times)

The Federal Reserve will raise its short-term borrowing rate a quarter percent, the third rate hike this year and eighth since the end of 2015. (Wall Street Journal)

EDUCATION

UMass Lowell has landed Oprah Winfrey for its annual Chancellor Speaker Series in November, hoping to turn the talk show host-turned-philanthropist’s appearance into a $1 million bonanza for student scholarships. (Lowell Sun)

TRANSPORTATION

The Lynn City Council voted unanimously to end a four-month trial of dockless bikes and ordered the two companies to remove the cycles by November 1 because too often the bikes are haphazardly left dumped on streets and sidewalks. (The Item)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Marlborough city councilors have given initial approval to a Fitchburg company that operates two medical marijuana dispensaries in other cities to open a medical and recreational store in a strip mall on Route 20. (MetroWest Daily News)

A lawyer for Mohegan Sun, which lost the competition for the Boston area casino license to Wynn Resorts, wants state gambling commission chairman Steve Crosby to recuse himself from the pending decision over Wynn’s suitability to retain its license, arguing he has shown bias toward the company. (Boston Herald)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Saying “fallen angels suffer most,” a judge sentenced Bill Cosby to 3 to 10 years in prison and deemed him a “sexually violent predator,” requiring him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life after being convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in his home in 2004. (New York Times)

John Pappas, a veteran prosecutor in the Suffolk district attorney’s office, was named by Gov. Charlie Baker to fill the remainder of the DA’s term with this week’s departure of Dan Conley, who is resigning for a private sector post. Pappas will serve until January, when the winner of the November election for the open seat takes office. (Boston Globe)

A man who killed an innocent 14-year-old New Bedford boy in a drive-by shooting nearly 25 years ago and became a quadriplegic when he crashed trying to get away is suing the state over his treatment in prison where he is serving a life sentence. (Standard Times)

A Superior Court judge dropped the town of Danvers and a cleaning company as defendants in a suit by the family of a high school teacher who was raped and murdered by one of her students. (Eagle Tribune)

A Salem Superior Court judge, saying the dangerousness statute applies to humans, not animals, has released a Peabody man who was being held without bail for allegedly killing his ex-girlfriend’s dog. The law has been changed but it does not go into effect until November. (Salem News)

A Herald editorial applauds the naming of Lt. Nora Baston to head a new Boston Police Department unit focused on community policing.