Before the MBTA shut down at 3:30 p.m., riders juggled schedules so they weren’t left in the cold

A Green Line stop in Brighton was deserted at 3:30 p.m. today when the T halted all service due to the blizzard.
A Green Line stop in Brighton was deserted at 3:30 p.m. today when the T halted all service due to the blizzard. Credit: Patricia Wen/Globe Staff

Before the MBTA ceased operations around 3:30 p.m. today, people juggled errands and work schedules to make sure they weren’t stranded in the blizzard when bus, subway and commuter rail service stopped.

Passengers interviewed by the Globe said they understood and appreciated the MBTA’s advance warning on the closure—which was announced Thursday— so they could plan ahead.

“You got to prepare for the worst,” said Marisa Hezekiah, 21, a Simmons College student who waited for the Green Line at Park Street Station to do some morning grocery shopping before the T closed down.

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Beverly Scott, general manager of the MBTA, said the forecast demanded that the agency establish a 3:30 p.m. “final pick-up” time. She said any time she hears predictions of a foot of snow or more, she knows there’s a strong likelihood that train tracks will be iced over and blanketed in thick snow, making it dangerous for train travel. Also, the anticipated heavy winds of 65 miles or more would likely down many of the overhead wires that power many of the trolley lines.

Though the underground subway lines would be sheltered by the gusts and heavy snow, she said, the mass transit system cannot just utilize a portion of its underground section and operate in piecemeal fashion. She said that type of decision only creates chaos, with some riders boarding trains only to realize their final destination can’t be reached.

“People could get stranded and hurt,” Scott said in a telephone interview late this morning.

If the weather forecasts turn out to be accurate, she predicts that some portion of MBTA service will be restored by mid-afternoon Saturday, and full service restored by Monday. (For updated information, the agency suggests riders check their website (mbta.com) or follow their Twitter updates @mbtagm).

Scott said her agency considered closing a bit earlier than 3:30 p.m., but they wanted to accommodate the city’s hospitals, who generally have their first shift end at 3 p.m. By keeping the MBTA running until 3:30, the agency could help get the first-shift’s hospitals workers back home, and the next shift’s workers to their jobs.

Most riders said the advance warning about the transit shutdown – while inconveniencing them in some ways – helped them prepare ahead.

Waiting at the Park Street Station, Michaela Ratcliffe, a 21-year-old customer service representative for a clothing store, said she normally works from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but her boss decided to shut down her store early at 2 p.m. to enable her and others to leave in time to catch the subway.

A Cambridge father – joined by his 11-year-old son whose school was canceled—said he was relieved to hear the subway was running until 3:30 p.m., enabling him to still make it to his 10:20 a.m. doctor’s appointment in the Longwood Avenue medical area.

But knowing about the mid-afternoon shutdown means he and his son won’t dawdle on their way back home.

“We’ll hustle back on the T,” said OK Eason.

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