Continuing tale of woe for Mattapan trolley line: Buses replace line for weeks

Sandwich board signs alert commuters to bus stops for the Mattapan shuttle, which has replaced trolley service for the last two weeks. Photo by Bill Forry

Of all the region’s troubled rail transportation networks, the trolley line extension to Mattapan perhaps is faring the worst when it comes to service in the midst of historic snowfall amounts.

Passenger service on the 2.6-mile transit link that connects Mattapan Square to Ashmont Station has been suspended since Feb. 2, according to MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo, with buses ferrying passengers up and down Mattapan and Dorchester’s snow-clogged streets for the last two weeks.

“The MBTA apologizes for the interruption in Mattapan trolley service, but our severely limited resources are strained,” Pesaturo said in a statement. “And our limited number of snow removal crews cannot cover the entire system all at once.”

At the height of last week’s storm, the MBTA asked Red Line commuters to take alternate forms of transportation at the same time that public officials were urging residents to stay off the roads and take mass transit whenever possible. State Rep. Dan Cullinane, whose district includes the trolley stretch from Lower Mills into Mattapan Square, called the situation “extremely frustrating.”

Liz Sinclair, 44, of Milton, lives three minutes from the Central Avenue station. The Mattapan line woes have “contributed to her being late to work, or in one case, not going to work at all,” she said, adding the MBTA has done a “horrible job” of clearing crosswalks across trolley tracks. She said this was the first year that she has seen the shuttles employed preemptively and “used for days on end.”

The trolley shutdown has also affected a handful of businesses in Mattapan Square. Brothers Deli, which closed on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, estimated $10,000 in losses because fewer people are coming into the square. “People usually take the trolley down and hang out in the square,” said David, an employee at Brothers who declined to give his last name. “It helps the businesses. With all this snow, people can’t do that.”

And for the customers that can make it to Mattapan Square by car, parking is a headache. Last week, the city deployed snow-melters thatdispose of 150 tons of snow an hour to make a dent in the snow pile. They said it made them hopeful, but “one day is not enough,” said Greg Natale, another Brothers employee.

Despite Tuesday’s system-wide shutdown, it is not clear when the Mattapan Trolley will come back on line. “It is very difficult for MBTA crews to keep up with the snow that keeps falling,” Pesaturo said on Monday. Forecasters say Boston may see another 4-6 inches of snow at the end of the week, with another round of snow late in the weekend.

“We cannot have a thriving city without public transit that is consistent and dependable,” Cullinane told the Reporter, adding that the only real solution to the problem is more investment in the T. “People need to get to work and people need to get to school. We live in Massachusetts. Winter is a reality and we need public transit that needs to work in the winter.”