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MBTA’s fun little paint scheme survey goes off track

By Jack Newsham and Steve Annear Globe Correspondent | Globe Staff 

MBTA riders know all about irregular service. But now the T is looking into “evidence of irregular voting patterns” in an online poll that let riders pick the paint schemes for new trains.

The T acknowledged Tuesday that its fun little survey had gone awry. The agency said it would put off the choices on the paint job for now.

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“The MBTA has decided to hold the results of the survey in abeyance until this matter has been resolved,” spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an e-mail.

Voting for the paint schemes for the new cars on the Green, Red, and Orange lines took place over a two-week period that ended Nov. 3. For each subway line, people were asked to pick their favorite of three exterior paint patterns.

The T proudly announced the results Tuesday afternoon, saying that more than 175,000 votes had been cast. But questions quickly arose.

Most Orange Line color-pickers who participated in the survey submitted their votes early, shortly after the contest was publicized in late October, results show.

Vote totals were heavily skewed for the Red and Green lines. Hundreds of votes appeared to have originated from the same computer, which submitted as many as three survey responses per second, according to results posted online. Vote totals spiked unusually late in the survey period.

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Pesaturo said officials from SurveyMonkey, which hosted the survey, were also looking into the incident.

Steve Koczela, president of the MassInc Polling Group, said the signs of hijinks were as obvious as a train horn. “If you looked at the trends . . . or the IP addresses, that’s where the alarm starts to get pretty loud,” he said.

The first of 24 Green Line trolley cars will arrive in 2017; the arrival of the first 152 Orange Line cars is set for 2018; and the first of 132 Red Line cars is scheduled for November 2019.

The MBTA originally announced that the following designs had won the contest:

Green Line

MBTA

The T said a “commanding 89 percent” of ballots were cast for this paint scheme.

Orange Line

MBTA

41 percent of ballots were cast for this paint scheme.

Red Line

MBTA

90 percent of ballots were cast for this paint scheme.


Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam
Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.