A Question About Boston’s T

Last week there was a horrible accident on the T (Boston’s subway), with the driver of the train killed. While the driver and others have been cleared of criminal charges, the NTSB is investigating, since it has been reported that the train was going too fast and the signaling system failed to alert the driver.

Since that incident, the trains have been moving really slowly. I understand that the tourist season has kicked into high gear, but that shouldn’t affect how quickly the trains move, at least when trains aren’t backed up. Is anyone else noticing this?
If this is true, and not a figment of my imagination, this means one of two things (or both):

  1. Maybe the trains are running slower in order to conserve energy and save money on electrical bills.
  2. The trains used to run too fast simply so they could run on time (or not so poorly…)–the accident has forced the T to run within safety guidelines. In other words, there’s no way for the transit system to function properly with the current number of cars.

Obviously, explanation #2 is very…disconcerting (if the whole phenomenon isn’t a figment of my imagination to begin with).
But remember: it’s not the government’s subways, it’s your subways. Or something.

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9 Responses to A Question About Boston’s T

  1. adamg says:

    If it’s the Red Line, it’s because the tracks on the Longfellow Bridge are in such bad shape they don’t want the trains to fall off the bridge or something. But you won’t have to worry about that this weekend or next – they’re not running the trains at all so they can fix the tracks.

  2. Joshua says:

    It’s not just the Red Line, though, it’s everywhere. I tend to ride at off-peak times in the morning (hooray for flexible work hours), so I haven’t had too much trouble on the Green Line, but one of my coworkers who lives in my neighbourhood has been bitching for the past few weeks straight about how bad things have been.
    I strongly lean toward your explanation #2. There were ridiculous delays all the time even before the accident, and between the summer rush and hypothetical measures to comply with the NTSB, things have been even worse recently. They definitely just don’t have enough damned trains for everybody.
    (Or buses. The CT2, for instance, is a complete clusterfuck. Half the time, the signage just isn’t working and the drivers have to tape the number in the window. And when the signs are working, they usually get the direction wrong. (Seriously, I got into the habit of just asking the driver if the bus was going to Ruggles, because the damned signs were almost always completely wrong.)
    And that’s not counting all the times that the trains have to come to a complete stop and restart their electrical systems in the middle of the damned tunnels… Or the doors don’t work… Seriously, all these things speak to massive, system-wide hardware issues, and the fact that these broken-ass trains are carrying passengers speaks to the fact that they just don’t have any others to put out there.

  3. Colugo says:

    Boston is stuck with very old and lousy light rail infrastructure. The T, especially the Green Line, is horribly substandard compared to the streetcar/subway systems of Chicago, DC, and New York. Slow, small (and often overpacked) cars and winding tracks that produce shaking and lurching. And the price of replacing the system would surely be greater than the Big Dig.
    It’s a lark to ride the T as a visitor but a misery to be dependent on the Green Line for one’s daily commute.

  4. Lora says:

    No, I agree with Joshua. It was bad before the accident.
    Another explanation: Due to gas prices, more people are riding the T who never rode it before. As n00bs, they clog up the works; I’ve heard a lot more “we’re not moving this ****ing train until you passengers CLEAR THE DOORS!” announcements, seen a lot more people baffled by the concept of train etiquette, heard lots of irate conductors shouting, “There’s a $2 surcharge if you don’t buy your ticket at the station! That’s why!” Also seen lots of people who appear to be shocked, shocked! that while standing on the platform at South Station and chatting idly on their cellphones, they find themselves swarmed by a roving mosh pit of aggressive commuters, and fielded lots of “does this train go to…?” from fellow passengers.
    Given that the trains are not run by anything as fancy-shmancy as a computer system, but instead are driven like automobiles by individual operators, I would hazard a guess that the combined effects of shouting “passengers clear the doors” for 15 minutes straight at each and every stop, the mechanical issues cited above, and the extra checks performed by commuter rail conductors are all combining to produce a general crappiness.

  5. iRobot says:

    Just keep in mind that this breakdown has been the explicit goal of the Republican party since 1980. Cut taxes, increase military spending and pare back infrastructure spending. Eventually the system will crash and people will say they were right about government being worthless and give everything over to private companies.

  6. Colugo says:

    Boston’s miserable infrastructure is due to a) the fact that it’s just plain archaic and outmoded and b) Boston and Massachusetts’ incredible levels of cronyism and nepotism and its wretched spoils system. It has little or nothing to do with starvation by the feds.
    The entire Boston metro area reeks of highly uneven and unfair allocation of resources, even worse than a typical American city, especially a supposedly great city. Never mind the T – taking a bus within the Boston metro region, say between Allston and Roxbury, takes forever. Why? Because only nobodies need to take a bus within Boston. Yet the yuppies will whine if the trains connecting the pricey burbs to their tony downtown offices aren’t internet accessible. Boston’s zoo is a disgrace for such a wealthy city. I could go on and on.

  7. Lora says:

    Ah, youse guys take our public transit system for granted. At least we have one.
    I went to a conference in Philly last month, and had to drive I-76/I-476 during rush hour between West Chester and the airport. I gotta say, it was actually worse than the MassPike and I-95 in rush hour. Over three hours to drive 20some miles. In comparison, I can get from MetroWest to Cambridge in about 45 minutes during rush hour, most days, and that’s 30some miles.
    There’s plenty of starving cities in Montana who don’t have any public transit systems, young man.
    Boston’s not a nice city? Crikey, you should get out more. Have you seen what happened to downtown Philly, or been to Cleveland or Detroit recently? Remember what St Louis used to be like–what East St Louis is still like? Heck, what most of DC is like, when you get even a little bit away from the touristy government things. There’s plenty of cities (Atlanta, Cincinnati) where I wouldn’t live if they paid me a million bucks a minute. Boston’s OK, all things considered.

  8. Rich Lawler says:

    I like iRobot’s comment.
    Boston is a poorly run city for sure, but in general, the Republicans have choked all cities to death. This results in more frustration, higher crime, and ultimately turns those “on-the-fence-democrats” to move out to the city, have 2.7 kids, buy a minivan, and get complacent about recycling and community activism. They raise their kids in fear of cities because FOX news has plays up all the horrific crimes that occur “in the city.” As a result, the kids are raised as insular suburbanites who join soccer teams where everyone is a winner (even when they get their ass whipped by an inner city team); these suburbanite kids view poverty as a repugnant congenital condition, and eventually find themselves hoping to go to Dartmouth and join the college Republicans. During summers, the kids end up campaigning for substance-less ass-clowns like Bobby Jindal or other young whipper-snappers in the Elephant party. Meanwhile, the parents who now have no kids at home, continually vote “NO” on referendums to increase public school funding via taxes because their kids are all raised up. They do, however, still keep spraying inorganic fertilizers on their oh-so-green lawn at a cost of 79.99$ per month; these lawn treatments leach down into the ground water and increase litter size in chipmunks and cause birth defects in squirrels. Some well-intentioned scientist at the EPA (one of the ones who hasn’t resigned in fury…yet) gets a little funding to study how litter size increase in chipmunks is linked to over-use of lawn fertilizers. They begin their study, but in the meantime, some gee-ain’t-I-clever aid to a some mediocre Republican who is up for re-election gets wind of this study. The Republican candidate gives a sarcastic speech on the house floor about “we got our tax dollars going to study chipmunks!…meanwhile Mexicans are seeping into our borders…Mr. Chairman, I move to cut all extraneous EPA funding…” The bill is debated for a bit, but since few of our elected officials are actually listening, the bill passes but not before a rider-bill is attached that reduces federal funding to urban transit systems, resulting in more frustration, a few tragic accidents, and eventually more white diasporas to the suburbs. Ultimately, this leads to an increase in Chipmunk litter size.

  9. Colugo says:

    Rich Lawler, a) great url, b) have you seen this bit of lemur exploitation?

    Lora, your point is well taken, but Montana’s cities hardly are (Missoula? Please.) and places like Cleveland and Detroit have been crummy urban husks for decades (and something should be done about that, to be sure). (Tip: Visit the armpit of Mansfield, OH if you want to lose your lust for life.) Boston is supposed to be a great city, like Chicago or New York, albeit a smaller one. Boston is a global center of education, research, and technology, and has tremendous concentrations of capital. Its haunts for rich Eurotrash, yuppies, and bluebloods are lavish while its amenities for proles are grievously subpar. Pathetically, it can actually takes less time to get from downtown Boston to Providence than it does to get from one working class part of Boston to another.

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