Days after deleting a pair of controversial tweets, the general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority briefly went underground on Twitter, preventing unapproved followers from reading his account, before resurfacing Tuesday morning.
Luis Ramirez, who became general manager in September, had set his account to private by Tuesday morning, meaning Twitter users could not follow him unless he approved them first.
He had also “blocked” several reporters and advocates who closely monitor the agency, meaning they would not be able to see his messages even if they were open to the public, and he could no longer follow them.
Not all who were blocked were critics. Ed Lyons, a supporter of Governor Charlie Baker who often tweets about the administration’s increased investment in MBTA infrastructure, said he was among those Ramirez blocked. “I wasn’t even critical,” he tweeted.
But by 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, amid questions about how he was handling the account, Ramirez had un-blocked many of those followers and reopened his account to the public, using a new handle: @LMRAMIREZGM.
This account has been updated. I look forward to communicating with our ridership.— Luis Manuel Ram�rez (@LMRAMIREZGM) January 9, 2018
Twitter has become a major platform for discussion about the T. The agency directs riders to check the account for service alerts, advocates discuss ideas to improve or expand the system, and riders often errupt when faced with a service delay.
Ramirez’s strange morning on Twitter came after he sent and deleted two tweets Saturday night as the commuter rail system struggled in the historic cold. Ramirez joined in a discussion about the rail network and suggested the agency could not run normal service in those conditions.
“No system in North America is designed for Siberian temperatures that last more than a few hours. In fact, fire hydrants are freezing, house pipes are bursting. All local infrastructure is impacted,” Ramirez said in the tweets, which he deleted before the end of the night after some T critics saw them as an equivocation on the agency’s ability to manage winter storms.
During a public meeting Monday, Ramirez repeated the point, but added some praise for the T. He said parts of the T functioned reasonably well through last week’s storm and its aftermath despite not being designed for the extreme conditions.
“We do our best to keep [infrastructure systems] running and we make investments to make them more resilient,” he said Monday.
Prior to Saturday night, Ramirez typically used his account in a similar manner to his predecessors, interim general managers Steve Poftak and Brian Shortsleeve: occasionally posting news and photos from around the system, but not usually engaging with critics. Ramirez also sometimes shared tweets from other Massachusetts public figures, and news about global events or from the energy industry, in which he spent much of his career.Adam Vaccaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adamtvaccaro.