Decision to shut down MBTA during hunt for Marathon bombing suspect unprecedented
The MBTA’s early-morning decision to shut down all services until the remaining Boston Marathon bombing suspect was the first time the T has been shuttered for a reason other than the weather.
Richard A. Davey, the state’s secretary of transportation, and Beverly A. Scott, general manager of the T, defended the decision to close all public transportation on Friday, saying they could not take the chance of hampering law enforcement’s efforts to apprehend Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, one of the suspected Marathon bombers, who remained at large Friday morning.
“We did not want to have customers potentially put in harm’s way,” Davey said. “And we didn’t want to give this suspect the opportunity to get out of the city using public transit.”
Scott said the T would stay closed until police deem it safe to reopen.
“We’ve got to be able to isolate this guy,” Scott said.
The decision was made shortly after 5 a.m., before any of the T’s trains left their stations. At that point, about seven commuter rail trains had already left their stations, and were halted and reversed, taking passengers back to their originating stop. Fifteen buses had begun their routes, and carried passengers through to the end of the route, then returned to garages.
Amtrak trains leaving from South Station have also been shut down. The Ride, the T’s paratransit service, has canceled all its scheduled trips for today, and the commuter rail ferries have been docked.
MBTA conductors and staff continue to wait at stations throughout the region, waiting for word on when they will be able to restart the system.
Todd Johnson, director of the MBTA Operation Control Center, said the trains have stayed on and conductors continue to man them. If an arrest is made or the go-ahead is provided by police, the transit system can start back up within minutes, Johnson said.
“As you can imagine, to shut down a system as big and as vital as ours, it’s a hard decision. It’s a brave decision,” Johnson said.
Scott said she received a call early this morning from Peter Rogoff, head of the Federal Transit Administration, offering any help that the T may need during the unprecedented closure.
“He told us, ‘If you need it, we’re there,’ “ Scott said.
Though the shutdown was done with the safety of commuters in mind, many were irked when they learned the T was not running Friday morning.
Jonathan Cruz of Dorchester was on his way to his apprenticeship at Youth Build Boston, a program that teaches young people construction skills. An acquaintance stopped him on his way to the JFK/UMass Red Line station, warning him service was canceled, but Cruz kept going, hoping to get more information at the station.
He arrived at the station at about 6:30 a.m. and found no signs about service cancellation and no employees, he said. His program has a very low tolerance for tardiness, and he was supposed to be in Roxbury by 7 a.m.
“I think they should have put signs up but the problem is, we have the Internet and we watch TV all the time, so they thought we would know,” he said.
He finally found information about the shutdown after scrolling through Facebook on his cellphone. He left a message for his boss and headed back home, saying he would gladly miss a day of work if his safety could be at risk.
Deniz Alagoez of Dorchester was on his way to catch a bus to Connecticut at South Station with a friend.
Finding the T’s doors locked was frustrating, he said.
“Is it easy to find a cab here?” he said. “Oh, I can’t believe it.”
He and his friend decided to try to get to South Station and see if non-MBTA busses were still running.
“He’s hiding out in Watertown? Why is the whole system shut down? I don’t get it,” Alagoez said.
Xheni Kurdari walked up the stairs at the JFK/UMass station and tried to open the station’s doors. No luck. She could not make the short commute to her job at State Street Bank and Trust Co. in Quincy.
Kurdari said she went to bed early the previous night and did not hear the news of the police chase and shoot-out with the bombing suspects. She heard some sirens in the morning, but did not think much of them.
“I was wondering why there were no people around,” she said. “I’m gonna call my husband, I’m gonna wake him up, probably, and I’m gonna have him drive to work.”Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at email@example.com.