An accident waiting to happen

T moves fast on repairs it says were slated for this weekend

IT WAS A SIGHT to behold, and not in any good way.

While making my way up the stairs from the Red Line platform at the MBTA’s Downtown Crossing Station on Monday evening, I encountered a veritable obstacle course of hazards.

The stairs were pock-marked with holes easily large enough to catch a shoe tip. The stair hazard standout, however, was a step whose surface layer had buckled and completely separated from the base. The section was turned up a few inches from its anchor, a glaring hazard that could easily have sent an unsuspecting commuter tumbling down the stairs.

Mini craters pockmark the stairs. (Photo by Michael Jonas)

To a hard-bitten T rider it was as if the MBTA gremlins had declared, “If we can’t throw off your commute with a delayed train, we’ll trip you on your way out of the station.”

A tweet about the situation tried to convey that it was more than a case of a cosmetic defect (along with a woe-is-us lament about the shoddy conditions we T riders too often must endure).

 

The operator of the T’s Twitter handle promptly replied and asked for exact stairway location at Downtown Crossing. Of course, there is no reason for the Twitter operator to have known the location of the hazard. But it seemed incredible that the staircase decay had gotten to this point without anyone at the T flagging it for immediate attention, even if it meant roping off the most dangerous section of stairs until a fix could be made.

On Tuesday morning, the T tweeted that the authority’s maintenance division had been dispatched Monday night and carried out immediate repairs to the most glaring problems.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But not before assorted other T riders took the opportunity to chime in with tales of other maintenance woes in need of attention. (Misery doesn’t necessarily love company as much as it seems to attract it.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The swift maintenance response at Downtown Crossing on Monday night was impressive, but it still begged the question of why it took a T rider to flag something that seems like it should have easily been the radar of the T personnel, especially as the authority has vowed to redouble efforts at station maintenance and upgrading the conditions commuters face.

It turns out the crumbling staircase was indeed on the T’s radar, but the agency had not realized the situation had deteriorated to the point where it couldn’t wait even a few days.

“Yes, the MBTA was aware that the steps were in need of repairs, and such work was going to take place this coming weekend when the station is closed as part of the ongoing Orange Line improvements which have included thousands of feet of new track and third rail, painting, cleaning, repairs to stairs/tiles, new signage and lighting, repairs to fare gates, escalator/elevator maintenance and installation of new tactile warning strips along platform edges,” T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an email. “Your pictures made it clear that the repair work could not wait until the weekend, and we appreciate you bringing it to our attention. The work was to be performed this weekend by a contractor’s crew, but we dispatched internal forces last night to make repairs immediately.”

Perhaps not a giant leap, but one small safer step for mankind.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.