This MBTA prediction came true 👀🚇

It’s Tuesday, Boston.

🍕 Get in losers … we’re driving to Chelmsford … for pizza … Barstool’s Dave Portnoy gave a spectacular score to Joanie’s Pizza in Chelmsford on his latest one-bite pizza review. But we probs didn’t need him to know it’s good: It has a 4.8 review on Google, with one customer claiming it has “ZERO flop.” 

👀 What’s on tap today:

  • MBTA winter service changes
  • Northeastern made a boo boo
  • Santa Claus makes bank

Up first…

12 DAYS OF B-SIDE

Our 2023 predictions came true

Looks like we can add “psychic” to our resume. Last year, we asked five local experts what they predicted would happen to the MBTA, the housing market, the restaurant industry, and more in 2023. Spoiler: They went five for five. 

Here’s what came true: 

🚇 It was the year of the shutdown. LiveableStreets Alliance executive director Stacy Thompson expected more MBTA shutdowns in 2023, and between the CVS-receipt length list of mini diversions, the Ashmont/Mattapan branch closure, and the start of 20-plus planned shutdowns through 2024, she nailed it. But she noticed a marked difference between the partial Red Line closure in October and last year’s Orange Line closure: it actually ended in better service. “The tools are going to be the same, but under new leadership, we got better results,” she said, shouting out new MBTA general manager Phillip Eng.

🏠 Apartment hunting was a competitive sport. The rental market at the top of the year was as tight as it comes, and BostonPads CEO Demetrios Salpoglou predicted that unless there were significant layoffs or a burst in housing supply, those numbers weren’t going to change. Surprise! Neither happened. And the data shows: The current real-time vacancy rate in Boston (a.k.a., how many open units there are now) is .58%, compared to .45% a year ago. His advice? “If you see something you like in a neighborhood that is your first choice, take it.” 

🪧 College students kept on unionizing. Unionization made headlines across several industries this year, and higher ed consultant Dr. Laura De Veau predicted college campuses would be in the mix. This year alone, Boston University RAs and Northeastern graduate student workers unionized, and Emerson RAs filed to unionize, to name a few. And De Veau thinks the unionization chatter is only getting louder; RAs across the country are openly sharing what they make with each other on Reddit to keep the momentum going.

♻️ Gov. Maura Healey made climate policy a priority. Part wishlist item, part 2023 prediction, Logan Mailk, the former executive director of the Mass. Climate Action Network, anticipated Gov. Maura Healey would get the ball rolling on several key environmental policies. In his eyes, she delivered, specifically with her admin’s $50 million investment in a green bank to kick start affordable, decarbonized housing development, and a new regulatory strategy to move utilities away from natural gas to zero out emissions from fossil fuels.

😅 There was some tension between diners and restaurants. Restaurateur Tiffani Faison told us in January that, thanks to inflation, “a case of romaine used to be $32, it’s now like $110,” which would inevitably fall onto diners, causing some grumbles. Faison said that friction continued through the year, and “in addition to inflation, we dealt with the fear of a looming recession, creating further nervousness in consumer spending. We all sharpened our pencils all year.” 

TOGETHER WITH MBTA COMMUTER RAIL

On the 12th day of Christmas, the MBTA gave to me…

🎄🚆 A ride on the Commuter Rail for FREE (well, for kids 11 and under). With schools on holiday break, treat the kiddos in your life to family fun by train. In one quick trip, you can be ice skating in the Common or holiday crafting at Hale Farm nearby North Beverly Station — all without the hassle of parking. Kids always ride free, and adults can also save with the $10 weekend pass (which now includes holidays!).

 December showers bring … Power outages? Monday’s massive rain and wind storm had major impacts across New England, leaving over 600,000 without power (289,000 of which are in Mass.), grounding flights out of Logan for several hours, causing flooding across the regionshutting schools early, and even causing two deaths. It’s currently unclear how soon things will get back on track, but for their part, the National Grid is bringing in extra backup to get power back ASAP. You can see photos and videos of the storm’s damage here.

🚇 Now arriving: The MBTA’s winter schedule. TL;DR: There will be increased service across the Red and Orange Lines as well as across several bus routes, especially during weekday rush hours, but you can see the changes in more detail here. Bonus: After a year of waiting, the Lynn temporary commuter rail platform has officially opened, and trains will run about every half hour on weekdays. But we’re still TBD on when a permanent station might return.

💻 Northeastern has gotta get a new IT guy. For the second year in a row, due to a “technical error,” the university mistakenly sent acceptance letters to 48 random applicants for one of their masters programs while they were still in their application reviewing stage. Apparently, recipients of the emails were quickly notified of the mistake, and informed that the emails had no bearing on their actual status, so they’ll have to wait a few more painstaking weeks to find out if they got in for real. At least it wasn’t as bad as last year’s boo boo.

📚 Next up in our deluge of year-end rankings is … books! The Globe recently released their book critics’ list of their favorite reads of the year, and there’s a lot to pick from (55 across several categories, to be exact). Plus, if you need even more inspo, the Boston Public Library just dropped its 2023 year-end list, which wraps up the year’s most checked out books, movies, music and more across all the branches. You can check it out here.

ONE LAST THING

Santa Claus makes bank

If you thought that Santa impersonation was a casual affair, think again. 

Formany Santa impersonators, their work is a full on (not to mention lucrative) lifestyle, complete with Santa impersonation classes, thousand-dollar Santa suits, beard bleaching, meticulous schedule planning, and seriously impressive rates (one charges a whopping $700 per hour!). 

Globe Reporter Diti Kohli looked into the big money, big commitment world of Santa impersonation work, and she found that as demand for pro Santas has exploded over the last few years (especially Black and Brown Santas), an opportunity has arisen for those who don the suit to make a lot of money during the holiday season if they’re willing to put in the time, commitment (and dollars) upfront. 

You can read more about the plight of Santas here.