This one may come as a surprise: the good ol' Boston MBTA was recently rated one of the best public transit systems in the country. Yep, we’re as shocked as you... but it did get us thinking: is the T really that good? Also, is it really that bad? Or is it just our bottomless need to direct the blame somewhere that has ruined the T’s good name for Boston residents? Well, we did a deeper dive, and had to concede that the T might actually be the best, while still being the absolute worst. Here, the point-counterpoint.
Ours is the oldest transit system in the country
... or, as the MBTA itself puts it on its website: “While Boston is the birthplace of American liberty, it is also the birthplace of American mass transportation.” The history of our lamented system is actually pretty great. It starts in the 1630s, with the creation of a ragtag ferry system between Boston, Charlestown, and Chelsea. “America’s First Subway” came along in 1897, in part as a response to the Great Blizzard of 1888, when workers died attempting to walk home after above-ground streetcars were waylaid. Our humble little system thus set the standard for every US system that came after it.
... which would explain all the infrastructure issues
DC has nothing on us. One last-minute 24-hour closure? Try aging signal systems and months of shuttle busing thanks to track repairs. In fact, just a couple of months ago, we had ridiculous Red Line delays owing to some planned Longfellow Bridge repairs that somehow still seemed to throw the MBTA into a tizzy. Some of the Mattapan trolley cars, now more than 80 years old, are also in perpetual need of repair, with parts actually sourced from -- *face palm* -- trolley museums. And, of course, there was last winter, when cars broke down, tracks became impassable, and commutes doubled or tripled in length. Historical, yes, but also historically underfunded.