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B Line Blues Over…for Now

T blames cross streets, snowplows for delay restoring service

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“It’s so cold,” said a smiling Suliman Alfaiz, as he joined a parade of students trekking down Commonwealth Avenue early Friday morning. “It’s been, like, four days and they didn’t touch the Green Line.”

Alfaiz, a Center for English Language & Orientation Programs student from Saudi Arabia, and hundreds of other BU and Boston College students will enjoy a reprieve from misery this week. The MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced Saturday that the B branch of the Green Line from Kenmore to Boston College would be back in business Sunday, ending a trying week of long waits, crowded buses, and long cold walks. Trolleys could be found running up and down Comm Ave on Sunday morning.

Why did it take so long to clear the B branch west of Kenmore, when other lines, with the exception of the far reaches of the Red Line and the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line, were up and running? MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo blames it on cross streets and snowplows. Pesaturo said in an email that clearing the B branch was complicated by its “close proximity to Commonwealth Avenue and its cross streets, and the condition wasn’t helped by street plowing that pushed mounds of snow onto the Green Line’s narrow right-of-way.”

The MBTA website reported on Friday that more than 60 workers were clearing snow from the tracks between Packard’s Corner, Washington Street, and the Boston College Yard, and plans were in place for overnight work removing snowbanks that have made safe travel difficult for pedestrians and vehicles.

Jennifer Bourne (CAS’16), who was hoofing it from StuVi II to Cummington Mall in subzero wind chills, was not sympathetic to the MBTA’s troubles. “This semester, I started riding the Green Line a lot. So right when I got excited and comfortable with it, it was like—nope,” Bourne said. “I just had faith in it, and then it just shuts down. It’s like, oh, right, I can’t rely on the service.”

Bourne’s walking partner, Amanda Kobner (SAR’16), lives off campus in Brookline and was finding a Green Line–less life definitely difficult. “The BU Shuttle [BUS] is way crowded,” said Kobner. “Everyone’s walking. And it’s freezing.” And, she noted, students who have bought monthly T passes “are kind of pissed that they’ve spent all this money on a pass that they can’t use for weeks now.”

“It’s a shame at this point,” said Kendra Dickinson (GRS’17), who walked to campus from her home in Lower Allston., “It’s not just, is it running or not? It’s also, will I have to wait two hours to get on it? I remember right after the second snowstorm, I went over to the stop before Packard’s Corner, and the line to get on the Green Line was through the entire station and across the street and around the corner.”

“I wish it were a priority, considering how central it is for access to BU and downtown,” Dickinson said. “It shows how the transportation system is really outdated. A large investment needs to be made, not just for the next season, but for the next 20 years.”

Eric DuPont (LAW’17) was philosophical about the situation. He had been biking to class until snow made it impossible. He spent a week riding a T bus, and then buses became overcrowded with former B branch riders. “So now, for about two weeks, I’ve been walking about two miles” from home in Allston, he said.

Looking on the bright side was Aobo Li (ENG’19). Li said that all of the extra walking he’s done in the last week or so has helped him lose some weight.

Students are not the only victims: businesses have been affected by the closing of the B branch, as well. At Blue State Coffee, directly across from the Pleasant Street T stop, manager Kaileigh Mulligan said that this winter has been really difficult and there has been a noticeable drop in business. “We have had to close a total of five days because of snow,” she said. “Deliveries are slow, and today we don’t have bread.”

Angora Café manager Jose Vazquez said business has definitely been down this winter, although he has seen an uptick in customers buying FroYo at night. He attributes that to its being “sad outside and FroYo makes people feel better.”

Leeba Salon’s manager, Sahara Albayrak, exhibited the winter’s ramifications by flipping through her salon’s appointment book. November? December? Packed, especially on the weekends. But the third week of February had name after name crossed out, as appointments were canceled. “The T isn’t running, and on top of that there’s no parking,” she said. “And when clients do come, they get parking tickets. I’ve been dropping my prices to try to help them out, and it’s hard.”

Help may be on the way, but probably not soon. Governor Charlie Baker announced on Friday that he was forming a commission to examine the root causes of the winter transportation meltdown. He wants a full report by the end of March.

Rich Barlow and Amy Laskowski contributed to this story.

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@bu.edu.

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