Yonatan Granda worked clearing snow off MBTA platforms during Saturday’s storm while on a break from his job as a food runner for a restaurant. Just four months after moving to East Boston from Colombia, Saturday’s snowfall was the second time he’d experienced a snowstorm.
Starting at 6 a.m. at the Green Street station in Jamaica Plain, Granda, 22, carefully shoveled snow from the edge of the platform to its center to prevent ice buildup where passengers board the Orange Line cars. A balaclava and four layers of clothing were enough to keep him warm despite the whipping winds, he said.
“There’s so much snow blowing, there’s always snow on the platform,” he said in Spanish. “It’s pretty, but it gets really cold.”
Granda was just one of thousands of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority employees and contractors working to make sure transit riders could get where they need to go during the storm. On Saturday morning, the MBTA bus, subway, and commuter rail systems were working as expected, said General Manager Steve Poftak in a phone interview. But as visibility and road conditions deteriorated into the afternoon, the MBTA suspended service in some areas.
“If our staff in the field feels it’s unsafe, we will cease service on a particular route,” Poftak said. “Two to 4 inches per hour is not something that can be dealt with easily.”
In 2015, a series of snowstorms paralyzed the MBTA system. For 56 consecutive days, the MBTA failed to have all its subway cars in service, and only one-third of commuter rail trains were on time in February 2015. Since then, Poftak said the MBTA has invested more than $100 million on things like snow-clearing equipment, switch heaters, and third-rail heaters. Communication has improved, he said.
“We can deal with problems in real time,” he said.
At around 11:15 a.m., the MBTA suspended Green Line bus shuttle service between North Station and Lechmere. Starting around 12:30 p.m., the MBTA suspended service on several buses throughout the afternoon, including the 220 bus, which runs between Quincy and Hingham; the route 211 bus, between Quincy and Squantum; the 215 bus, between Quincy and Dorchester; and the 713 and 714 buses in Winthrop. About 30 buses got stuck in the snow in the afternoon, said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo, and more than two dozen bus lines were rerouted. Some commuter rail lines experienced significant delays and cancellations throughout the day.
At Back Bay station, there were more pigeons than passengers in the waiting area.
Justyna Whitsey, 40, a nurse at CHA Everett Hospital, opted for an Uber to Back Bay over the 111 bus Saturday morning when her 12-hour shift ended at 7 a.m. She was waiting for the 10:25 a.m. train to Providence, where she lives, which was running on time.
She regretted leaving her gloves at home the night before when she left for work.
“I knew it was going to be bad but not that bad,” she said, pointing to the snow swirling outside the station.
On Saturday mornings, there would normally be a long line at the station’s Dunkin’, said Anas Sallam, 26, a student who works making coffee on Saturdays.
The Dunkin’ opened at 5:30 a.m. and by 9:30 a.m., Sallam said he’d only had about 20 customers.
“We’re going to see if we can close early,” he said.
Orange Line subway cars were largely empty in the morning, with only a few passengers on platforms at major stations.
Jensen Daly, 19, was waiting for the outbound Orange Line train from Back Bay. As a first-year student at Northeastern University, Daly is living in the Westin Copley Place hotel and has to use the T to get to campus dining halls.
“It’s a little annoying,” he said of the trek. If Orange Line service gets affected by the storm, Daly, from Burlington, Vt., said he wasn’t sure how he’d get back to his hotel room.
“I might walk,” he said. “I have to get food somehow.”
By mid-morning Saturday, Poftak said the MBTA had already provided 250 trips on its paratransit service, The Ride.
“They really need the T to be there,” he said. “The T employees out in this weather, how appreciative I am of that effort.”
Poftak expects some service disruptions to continue into Sunday as crews work to remove Saturday’s snow from tracks and roadways.