In the days following the Jan. 4 snow storm, even as the commuter rail faced systemwide delays and cancellations, state transportation leaders lauded the MBTA, saying the agency had gotten much better at handling severe winter weather since 2015.
A healthy chunk of Massachusetts voters, it seems, agree.
In a poll conducted in the three days after Thursday’s storm, 45 percent of voters statewide said the T “is doing a better job handling the cold and snow this winter than previous winters.”
Just 3 percent said it was doing worse, while 30 percent said things had stayed the same. The rest didn’t have a concrete answer, according to the poll, which was conducted by the MassINC Polling Group and sponsored by WBUR.
MassINC queried 504 voters across Massachusetts, so some — especially those west of Worcester — likely have little familiarity with the system.
But the poll found that in Boston and its suburbs, more than 50 percent of voters said the system was working better this winter.
Also according to the poll, 45 percent of voters approve of Baker’s broader handling of the transit system, compared to 19 percent who disapprove. Overall, beyond just the T, 74 percent said they approve of Baker and 66 percent view him favorably.
It would, of course, be difficult for the T to struggle more than it did in 2015, when parts of the system were shuttered for days after successive storms dropped feet of snow on the aging infrastructure.
So far this season, the T has faced a fierce storm the first week of January, and Arctic cold on either side of it. But officials have said a combination of new equipment and storm management strategies have made the system better suited for winter conditions.
The 2015 storms led to a reform effort at the agency, as Baker installed new management that has sought to improve service by increasing infrastructure spending while limiting growth in operating costs.
However, officials have often acknowledged that riders have not seen significant service improvements yet. And last week they sharply criticized Keolis Commuter Services, the company that operates the commuter rail system, for multiple train failures and delays on Friday.
Jay Gonzalez, a Democrat seeking the party’s nomination for governor this year, has spent the last several days criticizing T service in the aftermath of the storm. On Monday he said the commuter rail is “miserably failing.” And while the T has described its 15-year plan to eliminate the agency’s repair backlog as “aggressive,” Gonzalez said the timeline wasn’t urgent enough.Adam Vaccaro can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamtvaccaro.