BOSTON — As the first blizzard of 2018 sweeps across the east coast, it's hard to forget what we dealt with back in 2015. The record setting snow piled on, crippling the transit system and leaving commuters out in the cold.
Now, the MBTA has a new CEO who says they've spent more than $101 million to make sure that chaos won't happen again.
The changes start with infrastructure; upgraded tracks and signals that will perform well under heavy snow and ice. Plus, heaters to keep switches functioning.
"In addition to equipment purchases, more inspections, more training and things like that. We've also upped our game in terms of how we respond to any emergency," said MBTA CEO Luis Manuel Ramirez.
Keeping the rails clear is always a big challenge.
"We also spent a lot of time doing a lot more tree trimming along the right of ways, and that's actually helped in the recent weather incidents that we've had," said Ramirez.
When it comes to snow, MBTA has a big weapon. Snowzilla can move a ton of snow off the tracks to keep trains moving, but smaller Bobcats have been outfitted to plow the rails as well, to cover more territory.
Riders should notice it's easier to catch the bus, too. The MBTA has worked with each community to make sure bus stops will be shoveled out.
"The people that are using those services can actually get to the right bus stop and have access to it, so that, to me, has been one of the biggest improvements that we've seen," said Ramirez.
The T is also ramping up its use of social media to keep commuters informed.
"If people know ahead of time that there's going to be a delay, it's not going to be such an inconvenience and they have other options," said Ramirez.
A series of new alerts across all forms of transportation will keep things clear.
"They can snap a picture and send it through Twitter and we can actually respond to something like that," said Ramirez.
The goal is to have riders call in problems so they can be quickly fixed.
"We can't control the weather, but we can control how we communicate to the ridership and that's something that's been a big focus on my end in the first few months of being here," said Ramirez.
Boston is ready for whatever winter brings. The city has 44,000 tons of road salt piled up and 200 pieces of equipment ready to roll out.
All of those trucks will have GPS units to provide real time information about what streets have been plowed.
"As people call us to say their streets haven't been plowed, we'll be able to see what the situation is and why they haven't been plowed," said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
As far as space savers, those are still allowed for 48 hours after a snow emergency, except in the South End where space savers are banned.
The city also plans to decide on school closings the night before a storm to give parents time to line up child care.
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