When your car gets damaged by a pothole on the highway, is the state to blame?
Beth Greeley of Framingham raised the question just as pothole season is arriving. She wrote to say her husband recently took the Massachusetts Turnpike exit in Natick and “landed in a huge unavoidable/not visible pothole.”
“It tore a tire on our Mini Cooper, which runs on incredibly expensive run-flat tires,” she wrote. “We just replaced all the tires either this year or last.”
Michael Verseckes, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said Greeley is out of luck in getting the state to foot the bill.
State law keeps MassDOT on the hook for personal injuries from an accident caused by a pothole — but not any property damage.
Verseckes said the state is trying to be vigilant to avoid such damage, even if they can’t pay your mechanic. He said the state has made a concerted effort to let drivers know they can report any problem spots by calling 857-368-4636.
Verseckes also reported some good news for those who use that same exit: The pothole in question has been fixed, he said.
As for Greeley?
She said the news is akin to getting coal in her Christmas stocking.
“And after all the tolls we’ve paid for more than 20 years!” she added.
Reaching out for feedback
If you hurriedly refused a pamphlet from a woman in South Station during your morning commute a few weeks ago, you may have rebuffed the general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Beverly A. Scott spent two hours at South Station on Dec. 2 fielding comments from commuters during a “Meet the GM” event. She was joined by Thomas Mulligan, the general manager of Keolis Commuter Services, the company that has been operating the T’s commuter rail system since July.
During the event, Scott said she knew there is room for improvement.
“I know there are acts of God and things beyond our control, but the reality is that there are things we need to do,” she said.
In fact, the MBTA thinks there is plenty more that Keolis could do. Just last month, the agency hit Keolis with a $804,000 fine for delays in service, along with penalties for shortcomings in cleanliness, fare collection, and other issues.
Mac Daniel, spokesman for Keolis, said passenger outreach is “extremely important” to the company, and it plans to hold more online Ask the Managers sessions on Twitter and more meet-and-greet events.
“Passenger feedback is critical to helping us provide a reliable, quality commute,” Daniel wrote in an e-mail.
The company takes good notes about that feedback, too: In October, Keolis reports, it fielded 756 complaints at its customer service center, across the street from South Station.
Of those calls, 496 were about service, such as late trains. The others were about passenger information, such as not having train announcements, lost cards, or high fare prices.
At her session early this month, Scott heard some of those complaints in person: The Walpole Station bathrooms were unsanitary, outlets at South Station didn’t seem to work, the commuter trains have been later than usual.
When one man complained about frequently late trains, she mentioned that new equipment could help make things run smoother — something Mulligan had also said when he was in the hot seat at a recent MassDOT board meeting.
According to the MBTA, 54 of 75 new commuter rail coaches and eight of 40 new locomotives are in service.
By the end, the criticism didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the chatty general manager. Scott gave nearly every commuter her wishes for a “blessed holiday.”