Boston Transit Sued Over Winter Failures

     BOSTON (CN) – With transit authorities offering only a measly discount to the Boston commuters they literally left out in the cold this winter, a class wants a court to intervene.
     “Years of MBTA mismanagement and a culture of indifference are the reasons the defendants breached the contracts with plaintiff and the putative plaintiffs – not the weather,” the April 22 complaint states, abbreviating the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
     Lead plaintiff Raquel Rodriguez says she bought month-long passes in January, February and March, but was unable to use them with consistency because of the MBTA’s service reductions.
     In the first three months of 2015, Boston faced record snowfall and numerous cold snaps that all contributed to crippling the mass-transit system, which saw day-long closures and reductions in service for almost the entire time period.
     Rodriguez blames dysfunctional management for leaving the system susceptible to the burdens of winter. Her complaint in Middlesex Superior Court names as defendants both the MBTA and Keolis Commuter Services, the Maryland company that the MBTA contracts to operate its commuter-rail service.
     The complaint emphasizes that “there were at least three (3) to seven (7) days between each double-digit snow storm,” the complaint states.
     “This should have been more than enough time to clear the snow and return to a full commuter rail schedule,” it continues.
     When the MBTA canceled “all commuter rail, subway and most bus service” on Feb. 9 through all day Feb. 10, Gov. Charlie Baker called the decision “unacceptable,” the class notes.
     Beverly Scott, then-CEO of the MBTA, resigned on Feb. 11 after applauding transit employees for “making a way out of no way … for ears without significant investment,” the complaint states.
     Though the MBTA announced a “winter recovery schedule” in February, the class says its commuter-rail and T service failures continued through March.
     Rodriguez calls it “unclear why defendants could run one (1) or two (2) trains per line in the morning on a weekday, but not more than that.”
     The new schedule was inconvenient and inconsistent – “trains were still being cancelled and delayed frequently without proper announcements,” the complaint states.
     Rodriguez calls the winter recovery schedule “odd, inconvenient and unreliable.”
     “The MBTA announced at some point in February that they would not have commuter rail service fully operation until the end of March 2014, well after the last of the double-digit winter storms,” the complaint states.
     The class scoffs at how the MBTA offered to make up their failure to customers on March 11 – a 15 percent discount on monthly passes for May.
     Since MBTA service remained below 85 percent operational for at least 10 consecutive weeks, the class calls the 15 percent discount inadequate.
     It also potentially helps people who didn’t buy useless monthly passes in the winter, the complaint says.
     A special committee Gov. Baker convened to review the MBTA released its findings earlier this month, Rodriguez says. She notes that report found that the MBTA had failed to spend $2.3 billion of its capital budget over the last five years.
     The report also showed that the MBTA had an unsustainable operating budget, ineffective workplace practices, a shortsighted expansion program, bottlenecked project delivery and organizational instability, according to the complaint.
     Rodriguez notes that Baker asked the MBTA’s entire board of directors on April 15 to resign.
     Asked about the lawsuit, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said only that “the MBTA has not seen the complaint.”
     When provided a copy of the complaint, Pesaturo did not respond to additional requests for comment.
     In addition to alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment, the class wants to the court to find that the pass discount that the MBTA is offering as refund has no binding effect on the case.
     A spokesperson from Keolis did not respond to requests for comment.
     The class is represented by Robert Richardson of Richardson & Cumbo LPP, who created www.mbtaclassaction.com to gather more plaintiff names.
     On April 24, two days after Rodriguez filed the complaint, the MBTA treated riders to a day of free service.

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