A Jamaica Plain man is so frustrated with the Orange Line that he’s challenged Governor Charlie Baker and other elected officials to endure the same commute as other public transit riders.
Brendan Halpin on Tuesday asked Baker and every member of the state Legislature to pledge to ride the T “for five consecutive work days,” by June 1.
Halpin put the pledge on a new website and urged other riders to contact their representatives and issue the challenge.
An adjunct professor at local schools, Halpin said his trips on the Orange Line are so overcrowded that he must wait for multiple trains before one has room for him to squeeze into. He does not believe elected officials are acting urgently enough to increase frequency and otherwise improve the system.
“If the people who control the T’s budget had to suffer through what the rest of us suffer through, they would not let it continue in this way,” Halpin said. “Day to day, there’s a lot of little things that don’t work. People who don’t take the T all the time usually don’t understand how much it’s adding to the stress.”
The Baker administration is in the midst of a major overhaul of the MBTA, boosting spending on repairs and new equipment and modernizing operations such as fare collection. The state is expected to increase repair spending this fiscal year to nearly $800 million and to more than $1 billion annually in the coming years, enough to close the T’s long repair backlog in 15 years.
The plan includes replacing and repairing parts of the system that frequently vex passengers, such as signals, and new vehicles on the Red and Orange lines that will be delivered by 2023.
Halpin said that’s not soon enough.
“People have to get to work today,” he said. “I would like to see this recognized as the sort of local and regional equivalent of an emergency.”
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo defended the 15-year repair timeline as “an aggressive schedule.”
“The reality is that major capital procurements are complex and lengthy, but they result in benefits to riders that will last for decades,” he said.
Halpin said the T’s mixed performance during the current early-winter cold snap was not the reason he launched the petition. He’s used the T for more than 20 years, he said, and believes service has worsened in recent years, regardless of the season.
“The T is like your heart. You only think about it when it’s not working,” he said. “And I think about it all the time now.”