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In clearing bus stops, responsibility is murky

Posted by Cara Bayles  January 14, 2011 04:27 PM

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(By Cara Bayles for Boston.com)

Passengers who got off the bus at this Massachusetts Avenue stop had to walk along the street and access the sidewalk at the corner, because the stop had not been cleared of snow.

On Thursday afternoon—more than 24 hours after the snowstorm had subsided—riders getting off of the 1 bus at its inbound Tremont Street stop were dumped onto Massachusetts Avenue, and forced to walk alongside the bus.

Snow on the curb was already piled high after Tuesday night's storm, and the excess snow that had been piled on top to clear a path along the sidewalk made the snowbank impassible. The passengers accessed the sidewalk at the corner of Tremont and Mass. Ave., which was not shoveled either, but had been heavily trodden, and had deep foot holes that didn't exist at the actual bus stop.

Property owners are responsible for shoveling the sidewalks in front of their properties within six hours of the end of a storm, and will face fines and legal liability if they don't, thanks to a recent state supreme court decision. But the question of who is responsible for clearing bus stops is far more complicated.

The MBTA boasts more than 8,000 bus stops system-wide, but which agency is responsible for clearing ice and snow—be it the MBTA, an abutting landowner, or a private contractor—depends on the stop.

The MBTA is responsible for clearing 58 of them, which consist mostly of busways at major stations and Silver Line stops along Washington Street. All other stops are the responsibility of the abutting property owners, who can be reported through the mayor's constituent services hotline.

City officials could not immediately be reached for comment on whether abutting property owners can be fined for not clearing a bus stop, and whether inspectional services officers are ticketing residents as heavily for uncleared bus stops as they are for unshoveled sidewalks.

E-mail Cara Bayles at carabayles@gmail.com.

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