Monday, February 11, 2008

Don't Waste a Dime on That

First of all, a very belate Happy New Year to all my readers! I apologize for my third hiatus--very busy, as usual. I hope to respond to more current events in a timely fashion in the New Year.

I was going to title this rant in response to
this article, "Dear Clueless in Wilmington," but I realize that no everybody shares my same enthusiasm for mass transit vehicles (*gasp*). More on that later. Let me give you a little background on this article since the link may expire within a week:

A woman from Wilmington, who shall remain nameless--if you really want her name, check the article--wrote into Boston Metro's Q & A With Dan Grabauskas and was published today. Her question and concern: what's with the "awful smell that resembles burning rubber" that seems to start at Wilmington (where she boards) and wafts through the coach at each of the stops as her train makes its way to Boston. She is concerned about the potentially carcinogenic nature of the smell.

After consulting, um, consultants, MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas correctly replies to her that the awful smell that resembles burning rubber is actually the non-life-threatening smell... of burning rubber. Brakes, specifically. He goes on to say something so bizarre-o I tried paraphrasing it several times, but gave up:

The odor may also be more powerful for commuters sitting in the end sections of the coach or when the coach doors remain open longer than usual at busier stops. While this is not a quick fix to your concern, I will continue with further action. I have instructed Commuter Rail Chief Jody Ray to work with our commuter rail provider MBCR to ensure proper maintenance to the coaches continues, including maintenance to the breaking [sic] systems."

What the heck is "further action?!" Of all the MBTA/MBCR Commuter Rail's concerns--on-time performance, equipment malfunction, bridge malfunction, that nagging issue of being the last commuter railroad in the Northeast Corridor other than VRE to even partially electrify, etc.--this warrants further action?! Don't waste a dime on it, other than routine maintenance. It's not my fault the poor woman obviously didn't have fun in high school chemistry--I did. Let's just say there were a lot of fun things to let's-see-how-this-burns-and -smells with a Bunsen burner. But even still, I guess she's never been in a vehicle doing heavy braking on a hot day--yes, even your car can give off a burning rubber smell from heavy braking on a hot day.

Personally, I love the smell of train brakes (*surprise surprise*). In that odd breed of people known as rail buffs, train brake smell is sentimental to the operation of trains as the clickety-clack of wheels on jointed rail, the electrical smell in a subway and the hum of generators as units start and stop. Having grown up riding Amtrak 3-5 times a year, I probably knew what the brake smell, and accompanying mixture of humming and screeching, when I was--I don't know--three. Oh well, maybe it's time for a new hobby.





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