It has been a rough several weeks for the MBTA. Its commuter and subway lines have proven unable to deal with a succession of severe winter storms, leading to widespread, ongoing service interruptions. It's not just the snow -- the trains also stop working in the cold.

While an on-time train has become something of a rarity, breakdowns are commonplace. Last week, passengers and passersby had to kick out windows to escape a Red Line car that was filling with smoke. Just yesterday, nearly 50 commuters had to be rescued from another Red Line train that broke down between stations.

MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott has been a fixture on local newscasts, apologizing for her agency's poor performance.

"Is any of this stuff acceptable? Of course it's not acceptable," she said last weekend, before the latest round of snow. "Of course we do the best we can. Believe me, we feel like everybody else. We are cold. We are tired."

The T then suspended commuter rail service after 7 p.m. Monday night.

Commuters are tired, too. They have a right to expect better from the transportation agency and their local lawmakers, snow or no snow.

Yesterday, Gov. Charlie Baker lambasted the agency, saying he was frustrated by its performance and suggesting that management changes may be in the offing.

Other politicians, of course, are using the man-made crisis to once again push for a huge investment in the MBTA and other transportation initiatives.

Rep. William Straus, a Mattapoisett Democrat laid the blame on voters who last November repealed a law indexing future gas tax increases to inflation. The move, he said, eliminated $2 billion in needed transportation revenue over the next 10 years.

"As a result of the ballot question, there is a gap that exists at least in so far as the next 10 years of transportation expenditures," Straus, the House chair of the Transportation Committee told the State House News Service. "Whether that gets addressed or not is something that the Legislature working with the administration will have to take up."

The MBTA's maintenance and upkeep woes are well known. A third of the trains on the Red Line for last month's blizzard were in use during the Blizzard of 78. Outmoded third rails perform poorly in the snow. In all, the agency faces a $3 billion maintenance backlog.

Even the most tax-hungry of legislators, however, can't put all the blame on voters. Those who went to the polls last November didn't vote against transportation spending. Rather, they voted for accountability. Lawmakers had rigged the gas tax increase to be automatic so they wouldn't have to raise the rate themselves and be answerable to voters.

That lack of accountability on the part of the MBTA and the legislators who want to feed it money is evident. Our sister newspaper The Salem News notes the decrepit state of the train bridge that connects Beverly and Salem.

Seven years ago, MBTA and local officials stood together on the bridge to announce a "permanent fix" would be complete by that summer.

That fix has yet to be made, despite the fact money was set aside for the work. And thousands of commuters from Rockport to Beverly and Salem to Newburyport are suffering because of it.

The bridge has been shut down three times over the past several days, including for nearly an hour on Tuesday afternoon. Buses were called in to take train passengers between Salem and Beverly.

And local legislators say they are shocked -- shocked! -- to learn the work wasn't done. Too often, their accountability ends with the last camera flash from the photo

op. A good chunk of the blame for the unrepaired bridge belongs to them. It's no wonder voters are hesitant to agree to automatic tax hikes.

Meanwhile, MBTA officials are singing a familiar song.

"The MBTA is not proud that it has taken this long to launch this important project, but we felt it was absolutely necessary to ensure this project gets done the right way," Pesaturo told reporter Paul Leighton in an email. "We apologize for the delay, and appreciate the patience of our loyal customers on the Newburyport/Rockport Line."

The time for apologies is past. The time for accountability -- for lawmakers and transportation officials alike -- is now.

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