Monday, September 11, 2006

Shouldn't Have Laughed at the Inbound Train...

Let me start off by digressing to recognize and memorialize the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies and to honor all those who lost their lives in those tragedies on that fateful day, as well as the many people with failing health--or worse--who breathed in the foul air on that day with inadequate respiratory protection. There, short and sweet--not round-the-clock coverage. And to clarify this, I'm in no way downplaying the endless media coverage of the ceremonies today--this is after all the fifth anniversary and should be duly marked. It's just the fact that this is one those must-play things, like coverage of the 9/11/2001 proceedings themselves that the networks dare not stray from (even *gasp* for the weather) or else risk losing viewers to another network. Ironically the allegedly conservative Fox News network did make that mistake a few times.

Anyway, let's jump into today's rant about the MBTA: it seems ever since the Boston Public Schools started last Thursday, and the Orange Line fiasco last Thursday, that the T's excuse generator for the Orange Line is now in full swing--as opposed to half-swing, like it was during the Summer Vacation. The Orange Line has more than doubled it's emergencies due to: medical emergencies, traffic ahead, police activity and my person favorite, schedule adjustments.

I missed the the 6:48 inbound to North Station from Chelsea like I usually do because I decided that waking up at 5:16 to eat a complete breakfast, shower, put on my work business attire and gather up my gym stuff was not neraly as exciting as hitting the snooze and attempting to start my day at 5:29 instead. So, with all said and done, I actually didn't emerge from the house until 6:56, exiting just in time to see the 111 bus across the street pick up its last passengers and zoom away. And if you miss that, forget it--the 7:06 inbound train will get you to Boston faster. So I took that.

So we pull into North Station at 7:18, i.e. right on time, and those of us switching to the Orange and Green Lines do our daily shuffle to the subway station, nearly knocking over the poor saps trying to get out of the city this time of morning. I reach the still-yet-to-be-Charlie'd turnstiles, expecting, as usual no matter what time I arrive there, for there to be an outbound train sitting in the station with no warning of it's arrival because the multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art train announcing system apparently doesn't need to work for outbound Orange Line trains anymore (it hasn't worked for inbound trains in over a month). But no--there is no train--so I can actually take a leisurely stroll down the steps for a change. So I get down there...and I wait...and wait. And within a couple of minutes an inbound train comes in, again unannounced, and after the unusually cheerful station announcement, doors-opening-side announcement and "gather up your belongings and have a nice day" to the detraining passengers the doors open and, in an equally pleasant tone, the conductor announces that the train would be sitting "for about two minutes due to a schedule adjustment."

For those unfamiliar with this situation, let me translate: the T as a whole is designed like the the New York City Transit Surface (bus) System, not to be confused with the recent MTA Bus System, which took over the venerable private bus operators within the five boroughs: the schedules are so padded because it's assumed that the unit (one bus or train) is going to be running late, i.e. will be slightly behind enough such that with a little diligence it gets back to on-time. So when the unit actually *gasp* runs on time, it gets ahead of schedule and needs a "schedule adjustment," which can be achieved by either of two ways: run really slow to lose excess time or run at normal speed and sit; this train chose the latter. You could hear the grumblings of the people on the train from where I stood across the way. Meanwhile those less-than-diligent people still making their way down to the platform from getting off mine and other recent Commuter Rail arrivals were ecstatic. And me: well, as the article title says, I laughed. Because it's funny at this time of day, just before the heart of rush hour, for a train to actually be early. On-time--sure, could happen, but early--no way!

So here's why I shouldn't have laughed at those passenger's collective predicament: shortly after the inbound train departed an honest approximately two minutes later, the outbound train came, again unannounced (no scrolling message either, to satisfy your curiousity). It pulls in with the conductor giving a garbled speech, something to the effect of "Pork Playstation...Wars Soap and on the RITE" [North Station...doors open on the right]. Eh, whatever. But, apparently having taking a few sips of his coffee, the conductor then says in a much clearer voice as the doors open that the train would be sitting for a short while because there was "traffic ahead." Let me explain something to anyone remotely connected with the MBTA: if there hasn't been a train in seven minutes... there ain't traffic ahead. Call it what it is: a "schedule adjustment," police activity (conductor-can't-make-it-all-the-way-to-Oak-Grove impromptu restroom break) or a "medical emergency" (train operator is having similar bladder issues). But please don't insult my intelligence be even trying to convey the thougt that a train at least seven minutes ahead of the one I'm on can possibly be holding up the flow of traffic. Especially not when it happens again at Community College. I mean you figure if the train holds up at North Station to allow the train ahead to get some leeway--which, let me reiterate was crap in the first place--you shouldn't have to do it again one stop later. On bus routes, sure--one bus can get a leeway and lose it due to traffic or incompetence of the driver (111 bus operators, ahem), but this is the outbound Orange Line subway--there is hardly enough passengers boarding and exiting to slow the trains down past North Station. Even Sullivan Square, as busy as it is, pales in comparison to North Station in the morning (afternoon is another story, especially with all the park-and-ride suburbanite Sox fans going into town). So, all in all, I feel I cursed myself for laughing at the inbound train because the same happened to me... twice.

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