October 15, 2021
A new WBUR-Dorchester Reporter-The Boston Foundation poll shows a majority of Boston voters think the conditions on the MBTA are generally safe. But many say there is room for improvement after a series of recent accidents.
In just the past five weeks, the MBTA suffered an escalator malfunction at Back Bay Station that resulted in nine reported injuries, a deadly fall on a rusted, fenced-off staircase in Dorchester and a derailment on the Red Line. That's in addition to the dozens of other derailments in recent years.
“I do see a lot more train situations and accidents and derails happening more and more as time goes on,” said Jeremy Dunajski of Jamaica Plain, who said the T is his main form of transportation.
The poll (topline, crosstabs) found 73% of likely Boston voters rated the MBTA at least somewhat safe. But just 19% called it "very safe."
“A lot of people think it's mostly OK, but very few people think that it's completely fine,” said Rich Parr, research director at the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the research for WBUR, the Dorchester Reporter, and the Boston Foundation.
The poll showed even more people had reservations when the poll asked about COVID-19. Parr says the data shows the pandemic is still heavy on people’s minds, despite broad access to vaccines and fewer restrictions.
“It's just a reminder that that COVID mindset is still very much out there and the T needs to be thinking about that as well when they're trying to convince people to get back on and ride,” he said.
The survey, which included more than 500 likely voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Mike McFadden of Roxbury says he only rides the T to get to work. McFadden said he doesn’t trust the T’s cleaning efforts and is hesitant to bring his children onto the system.
“Kids, they like to touch everything, and I'm not sure how well they're wiping these trains down on a regular basis like they used to,” McFadden said.
The poll showed 43% of voters don't ride the T at all now, more than double what it was before the pandemic.
Angela Golay of Roxbury says she hasn’t taken the T since 2019. She has a medical condition and uses transportation provided by MassHealth to get to her appointments. For other trips, she catches a ride with her partner or someone else Despite this, she says she has nothing against riding the T.
“Ain’t nothing wrong with the T,” Golay said. “If I ain’t had no other choice, I’d be on that T. I would be on the MBTA. Trust me.”
The agency's data show average weekday ridership is gradually rising. But it's less than half of what it was before the pandemic.
Still, the vast majority of Boston voters want to invest in the T. The poll showed 69% consider improving public transportation a major priority.
This article was first published by WBUR 90.9FM on Oct. 15, 2021. The Reporter and WBUR share content through a media partnership.