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Frustrated passengers stuck on delayed trains during outage

With most lights and elevator service out, passengers were greeted with an eerie scene at the Copley Square station, Tuesday, on the MBTA Green Line in Boston.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The power snafu that interrupted MBTA service during the morning commute Tuesday caused delays for legions of frustrated passengers.

Carly Rounds said she was headed to State Street when her Orange Line train stopped for about 15 minutes.

“It definitely adds a lot of stress and anxiety to the morning,” Rounds, 28, said. ”Normally I’m there by 8 a.m., so I had to message everyone that I would be late, like, ‘Hey, standing by on the Orange Line.”

Rounds said her commute had already taken close to an hour.

”I know the MBTA is under a lot of pressure, but maybe just like, try to prioritize those fixes for people’s morning commutes,” she said.


Another passenger, who asked to be identified only as Brian, said his commute was twice as long as usual.

”It’s so frustrating,” he said as he waited for the Orange Line at State Street. “It would be nice if there was a more real-time communication system, because you just walk down there and you see a platform of 300 people and no one’s saying anything.”

The T said the power issue was caused by a transformer malfunction.

In a statement released about three hours after subway service was stalled, the T management said in an unsigned statement that a transformer failed on the system’s electrical network, which generated a power surge around 7:30 a.m. That, in turn, triggered a circuit breaker at the T’s South Boston power station.

The surge “caused signal issues on all rapid transit lines, and at some locations, in-station power was affected (including elevators),” the T said in the statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, all trains were directed to stand by and await clearance to move again.”

At around 7:15 a.m., Tatiana Niebuhr, 23, hopped on the Riverway stop of the E train of the Green Line for her morning commute. She was hoping to make it to her office in the Financial District by 8 a.m., but she knew that would be impossible when she was stuck at the Symphony stop at 7:56 a.m.


”I’m texting my colleagues right now,” she said, warning them that she might be late to an 8:30 a.m. meeting.

Around 8:55 a.m., the lights were still out on both sides of Copley Station as Green Line cars crept along the tracks and passengers took pictures of a station illuminated largely by train car headlights.

East Boston resident Jimmy Drevos stood on the platform, waiting for a train that wasn’t completely packed. As a lifelong MBTA rider, nothing surprises him anymore.

”It’s an old system,” he said. “They kick the can down the road. This is what we’ve got.”

Drevos pointed at the fare gates, stuck open by the outage.

”You can walk in for free,” he said with a laugh. “No wonder they’re always broke.”

As her train passed Boston University, Kelsey McCandless said she usually leaves home early enough to account for delays. Still, sometimes she has to text her boss that she’s running late.

”Do a little mental math: how much time is it going to take me to get to work? If I might be late, [I] text my boss,” she said. “If I drove to work, it would probably take like 15 minutes.”

At Government Center, a Boston College student named Margot said she and her friend take the Green Line from school twice a week to work. On Tuesday, her commute was almost 30 minutes longer than usual because of intermittent stops.


”I was a bit frustrated,” said Margot, who declined to give her last name. “[The MBTA] didn’t really seem to care. There was no apologizing for the delays, and you could just tell that everyone on the train was frustrated.”

Rahul Pal, 36, of Allston, said his Green Line commute is “always slow, but it’s definitely slower today.

“Every single day, it shouldn’t be an hour commute. It should be like 30 or 40 minutes,” he said.

By 9:20 a.m., trains were running continuously through Copley Station as maintenance workers walked down the track. Ten minutes later, an MBTA employee at Copley said only that station and the Arlington stop remained without electricity, but she hadn’t heard when power might be restored.

Other riders took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

“Redline is unusable right now,” wrote one exasperated rider at 8:17 a.m. “Taking twice as long to get anywhere. Terrible management and operations.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report. This story will be updated when more information is released.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Kate Armanini can be reached at kate.armanini@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @KateArmanini. Katie Mogg can be reached at katie.mogg@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @j0urnalistkatie Daniel Kool can be reached at daniel.kool@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dekool01.