scorecardresearch Skip to main content
Starts & Stops

Potholes taking a toll on vehicles this year

Tim Haynes worked at Direct Tire and Auto Service, which is doing much more business this winter. Tire sales are up 26 percent.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Potholes mean expensive repairs.

Since January 1, the city of Boston is up to 8,817 filled potholes and counting — about three times as many as in previous years.

I’ve received a torrent of e-mails from readers complaining about pothole proliferation, and the damage they are causing to cars.

Grady Moates of Randolph sent a copy of a recent bill from work performed on his Ford Escape, with the subject line “Hubcap loss is nothing”: The jolt from a pothole had broken one of the metal “tone rings” that are installed on the axle-shafts that communicate with the car’s anti-lock braking system. It’s a serious problem because it causes the braking system to exert itself at the wrong time, and requires immediate repair.


The real damage, he wrote, came out to the tune of $352.82. Ouch.

But you’ve got to figure somebody somewhere is benefitting from the scourge, right?

Barry Steinberg, owner of Direct Tire and Auto Service, based out of Watertown, e-mailed a photo straight out of a vehicular horror movie: Tires, 27 of them, stacked up in Steinberg’s tire shop after having been ripped up by potholes.

“Pothole victims from today,” he wrote.

“I have been in the tire and wheels business for 39 years and have never seen so many damaged tires and wheels as we have seen this year,” Steinberg wrote. “On Saturday alone we had 7 cars brought in on flat beds, each with 2 flat tires and bent wheels.”

It turns out, Steinberg is not just suffering from the usual affectations of this-is-the-worst-winter-ever that strike every season. He has data to back it up: Between Dec. 1, 2012, and early March 2013 his tire shops in Watertown, Norwood, Peabody, and Natick performed 62 wheel repairs and straightening, and replaced 31 wheels because of damage that could not be repaired.


This year? 213 wheel repairs and straightening, 88 wheel replacements — more than double.

And tire sales are up 26 percent.

For the tire industry, it would seem business is a-boomin’. But Steinberg insisted he was about as frustrated by the prevalence of potholes as anyone.

“Is this good for business? Sure,” Steinberg said. “But this unexpected expense and inconvenience is not what our clients want or need. I would rather sell them tires when they wear out normally.”

Late-night safety on T

Nothing good happens after 10 p.m., the saying goes. (Or, if you’re a fan of TV show “How I Met Your Mother,” it’s 2 in the morning: “When it’s after 2 a.m., just go to sleep,” narrates the future version of the main character, Ted, repeating his mother’s advice, “because the decisions you make after 2 a.m. are the wrong decisions.”)

But it turns out that might not be true on the T.

For years, the potential for unsavory late-night shenanigans had been held up as a reason why the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority would be wise to refrain from extending hours on the subway and bus system — and since T officials announced in December that the agency would embark on a one-year pilot to provide service until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, even more concerns have been raised.

In fact, at this month’s press conference in Kendall Square announcing the March 28 premiere date, it was one of the first questions asked of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh: How did he intend to handle the potential for crime?


I asked Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey about those same safety concerns. There will be increased transit police presence, he said, and Davey also hoped that security cameras on trains and buses would also serve as a deterrent.

But, he offered one caveat: The idea that crime increases on the T at night is a total myth. In fact, he said, most crime on the T occurs in the late afternoon, as people are getting out of school and jobs.

I wasn’t convinced.

But it turns out, Davey’s right. According to the MBTA Transit Police, the largest number of crimes in 2014 so far occurred between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. — 34 reported crimes, or about 30 percent. There were 28 reported crimes between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and 19 crimes between 8 p.m. and 12 a.m.

But what about the potential for other brands of late-night mishap? There are crimes — and then there are, shall we say, lapses in decorum (and balance) that come after a night out on the town. Case in point: People falling off subway platforms. Surely, those must largely be a nighttime occurrence?

The MBTA does not keep a record of how many people have fallen onto the tracks in recent years, but after scouring media reports and surveillance videos uploaded by the T, I found at least 13 incidents of people falling from subway station platforms onto the tracks since September 2011.


Eight of those incidents occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Only two occurred after 9 p.m.

So, when it comes to safety concerns, forget about the T’s new extended hours — maybe the late afternoon is when passengers must be most on guard?

Martine Powers can be reached

Correction: An earlier version of this story attributed a quote to Neil Patrick Harris’ character, Barney, on the show “How I Met Your Mother.” It was Bob Saget as future Ted, who was repeating his mother’s advice to his children.