Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MBTA Oversight Hearings Scheduled

The Joint Committee on Transportation has agreed to the Senate Republican Caucus' request to hold two oversight hearings to investigate recent service interruptions and delays that have plagued the MBTA’s commuter rail system.

The committee has scheduled an initial hearing for Tuesday, April 12 at 2 p.m. in Room A-2 at the State House to question representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the MBTA and the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, which operates the commuter rail system under a contract with the MBTA. A second hearing, to obtain testimony from the general public, has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 3 at 2 p.m. in Room A-2.

Citing a “growing frustration with the MBTA among the residents of the Commonwealth,” Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Senators Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) and Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) wrote to the chairs of the Transportation Committee on March 7 to formally request the oversight hearings. A copy of their letter is attached below.

"We want to thank the chairmen of the Transportation Committee for responding so quickly and favorably to the Caucus’ request for an oversight hearing,” said Senator Tarr. “We’re not looking to point the finger of blame at anyone; we’re simply trying to get some answers as to why these problems are occurring and how we can prevent them from being repeated in the future.”

The commuter rail system has experienced persistent delays in service this winter. In January, 27 percent of the MBTA’s commuter rail trains were delayed and more than 100 runs were cancelled. Nearly 1 in 4 commuter rail trains were still running behind schedule in February.

The worst of the problems occurred during the week of February 28-March 4. On February 28, a commuter rail train from Boston took more than four hours to reach Worcester, even though the trip normally takes less than 90 minutes. Three days later, on March 3, several hundred passengers on board two Fitchburg-bound trains were delayed for about two hours when an electronic circuit board failed.

"These ongoing delays and interruptions in service are unacceptable, and we owe it to commuters who rely on the MBTA to get to the bottom of these problems and to work to resolve them,” said Senator Tarr.

Be sure to check out recent coverage from the Lowell Sun, Newburyport Daily News and yesterday's Gloucester Times editorial.

MBTA Oversight Hearing Letters