‘It's Frustrating': Commuters Complain of MBTA Bus Route

The 111 is one of the most popular bus routes for the MBTA, but passengers contend that it ranks as one of the worst you can take into Boston.

Complaints of delays, cancellations and overcrowding have long plagued the route, which will now be compounded by construction projects.

"It's frustrating. There are so many people waiting for buses," said commuter Lily Toro, who has been riding the route for 21 years.

Starting at the Woodlawn stop in Chelsea, the ride picks up passengers before heading across the Tobin Bridge into Haymarket. During rush hour, there is hardly room to move as the bus sits in bumper to bumper traffic, packed with people trying to make it to work.

"People are literally on top of each other," said Toro. "If I don't leave at 7, I definitely won't make it to work at 9."

The issue has been a constant source of frustration for city leaders in Chelsea, as well as members of the MBTA's oversight board. During a meeting in September, board member Brian Lang argued that the agency was putting the needs of its more affluent riders over ones who truly rely on the system.

"When people from Andover come in here because of some Wi-Fi towers, we jump to it. We have executive sessions about it. And we bend over backwards," said Lang. "When a community of working class immigrants start yelling, we don't do that. And that concerns me."

For its part, the agency has countered that it has invested in the route. During the first week of September 2017, the MBTA reported that approximately 220 of its trips were dropped and did not happen. For the first week of September 2018, they reduced that by approximately 90 percent. In addition, they have hired four drivers since September and changed some of its policies to reduce cancellations.

"The MBTA is at least now focused on the 111 bus," acknowledged Chelsea City Manager Thomas Ambrosino.

However, with construction work slated for the Tobin Bridge and other spots, he does not believe their efforts are enough. Given the issues, he has long lobbied for reduced fares for Chelsea commuters, but thus far, that has been rejected.

"This bus is heavily utilized by people who have no other means of transportation, they work long hours," explained Ambrosino. "It's more dependent on public transportation than a lot of other communities, and so because of that I think it's important for the T to pay attention here."

In the meantime, passengers who utilize the service said they have no other option then to make the best of it. They hope it simply improves in the future.

"You kind of get used to it," Toro said. "I think Chelsea is a small city, but there are a lot of commuters."

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