Inside Boston's South Station, time is precious when you're hustling to make the train. However, day after day, passengers have been greeted with "out of service" signs along the heavily-traveled path between the MBTA Red and Silver lines and the commuter rail platforms.
"It's frustrating, especially during rush hour," one commuter told us. "I missed a train because it's been so backed up. I'd like them fixed."
What people want fixed are the escalators, which they described as being frozen in a state of disrepair for months.
Terry Gipson, who commutes through South Station on a regular basis, wrote to us in January about the situation.
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"The lack of action repairing this equipment makes one wonder who is in charge and how are tax dollars are being used," Gipson said. "Please visit to see how crowded and unsafe the stairs become during rush hour. Watch the elderly and handicapped try to get up and down the steps while flanked by two broken escalators."
We visited South Station and saw exactly what Gipson described. People arriving from Logan Airport struggled up the steps with heavy luggage. One parent carried her child in a stroller while trying to navigate through the crowd.
"These have been down for as long as I've been taking the train," a commuter told us as he walked by. "It sucks."
When we returned last week, we found little had changed, besides people's patience levels with "out of service" escalators in both directions.
"Are you dead serious with these escalators?!" an exasperated commuter shouted.
"I think it's disgraceful," another commuter told us.
Complaints to the MBTA we obtained via public records request date back to last fall.
Some of the highlights:
- "The escalators at South Station are an embarrassment to Boston"
- "There are escalator parts and pieces laying around as if the repair person just walked away and gave up"
- "The image clearly says to passengers that 'We don't care about you'"
- "Houses have been built in less time. Fix them!!"
Social media also reveals a timeline of disgruntled commuters.
The MBTA owns the iconic transit building, but leases it out to Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation. According to the lease agreement, the management firm is in charge of escalator repair and maintenance.
And according to T spokesperson Joe Pesaturo, the landlord is not happy with its tenant.
"The MBTA sincerely apologizes to its customers who have been inconvenienced by this management firm's unacceptable delay in getting both escalators fully operational," Pesaturo said in a statement.
On March 16, the MBTA also sent a "notice of default" letter to AAC that demanded corrective action to the escalators and other maintenance items at South Station within 30 days.
"Many of the issues raised in this Notice have become chronic," the letter states.
According to the letter, AAC has also failed to make timely repairs to the passenger elevator and place adequate temporary wayfinding signs for transit users.
"To get to the elevator, you have to through the hall and around the corner, and then around another corner just to see it," a South Station employee told us. "If I didn't work here, I wouldn't know it's there."
When we reached out to the South Station management firm, an Ashkenazy spokesperson told us both escalators were expected to be operational by the end of this week.
"We apologize for any inconvenience with the escalators and appreciate everyone's patience," the spokesperson said.
Sure enough, when we visited South Station on Thursday, the escalators were moving in both the up and down directions.
And in what is perhaps even better news for commuters who are frustrated with all the equipment's stops and starts, the Ashkenazy spokesperson told us as part of the modernization plan at South Station, new high-capacity escalators are scheduled to be installed in the first quarter of 2024.
Ryan Kath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.