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It really is Charlie on the M(B)TA

After years of resisting entreaties to ride the T, Gov. Baker says he commuted on the Blue Line early this year.

Governor Charlie Baker disclosed this week that he had been riding the Blue Line this past winter, to little public notice. Baker was pictured in September 2019 departing a Red Line train for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the reopened Wollaston T station.
Governor Charlie Baker disclosed this week that he had been riding the Blue Line this past winter, to little public notice. Baker was pictured in September 2019 departing a Red Line train for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the reopened Wollaston T station.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker says he was commuting on the MBTA this winter, and apparently even lodged a complaint about a dead animal along the tracks.

Baker disclosed his commuting foray at a media event Tuesday to mark the conclusion of a 28-day repair sprint on part of the Green Line.

“I was riding the Blue Line a lot in January and February,” Baker said. “And I was actually kind of surprised that, for one reason or another, the media never found out.”

The revelation came after Baker said he “absolutely” considers the MBTA safe to ride at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, and that he planned to ride on the system again soon. The Blue Line terminus at Wonderland is about six miles from Baker’s home in Swampscott, though the town’s commuter rail stop is much closer.

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MBTA officials were aware that Baker was on board — alerted, it seems, by a peculiar complaint from the governor.

“I had some knowledge of that,” general manager Steve Poftak acknowledged. “We may have had an animal removal issue that was brought to my attention. ... At one point when the governor was riding, he noticed that there was a dead animal next to the track. He sent me the information and we fixed it.”

According to the MBTA, the animal was located near Wonderland station, though officials did not detail what kind of animal it was. On Wednesday, the T said it did not have an incident report for a dead animal located along the Blue Line tracks this winter.

The governor did not volunteer more information about his trips, and declined an interview to further discuss them. So it’s not known how many times Baker rode the T, or why, after resisting so many calls to do so over the years. An aide said Baker had used the Blue Line “several times this year when commuting to Boston and plans to do so again in the future.”

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Moreover, it seems like a stretch that Baker, at 6 feet, 6 inches and one of the most easily recognizable figures in Massachusetts, managed to tuck into a busy subway car without much public comment from the commuter world.

But there was at least one eyewitness account: East Boston commuter Megan Houston said she did see Baker disembarking from a train at Bowdoin in January.

“I feel like I really should have taken a picture, but at the moment nobody else around even seemed to notice him so I felt like it would be weird,” said Houston, who added that Baker was talking on the phone as he exited during rush hour. “It’s all very anticlimactic seeing him, because clearly nobody else was really noticing, or if they did it was just kind of, ’whatever.’ ”

Houston’s colleagues at work did not believe her when she told them of the sighting — probably because of Baker’s refusal to ride the T in the past.

Baker has periodically come under pressure by T commuters to ride as a way to better understand their frustrations about the pace of improvements on the aging system. He has usually responded that he does not need to be on the T to know its problems, and argued that his daily travels are often so far-flung that he cannot take transit.

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He did, however, ride a Red Line train to check out a worksite about a year ago, and was joined by a Globe columnist for the ride. He caught some flak for that, as well, with critics calling it a photo op.

As skeptics on social media questioned whether Baker really rode the T, one Twitter user on Tuesday wrote that Baker “can’t catch a break” -- if he makes his rides public, it’s a photo op, and if it’s private, there’s no proof. That tweet received one “like,” and it came from the governor’s verified Twitter account.


Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.