Monday, April 28, 2014

GUEST POST: Transit Tales: Red Line Rescue Mission

As I work on a monster Service Change post(s) about the Bermuda bus system, here's the blog's second guest post! This one's from a friend of mine, about a very unique experience on the Red Line...

Hi, my name is Maggie and I have gone to school with Miles for 10 years. I'm new at this so please don't judge me, and I hope it's OK - I'm not the greatest writer.

I'm a member of a very expensive, very important, stuffy, and highly talked about choir that meets in Dorchester, called the Boston City Singers. Every Tuesday I ride the Red Line from Harvard Square all the way to Ashmont Station, which can be a long ride especially when the train is running behind or there is another train somewhere up ahead in the tunnel. Now y'all being fellow passengers on the MBTA, I'm sure you just love when you really need to get somewhere but there is another train stuck in the tunnel just ahead and you are delayed for a long period of time. Well this time we were on that stuck train.

We had just moved probably a few feet into the tunnel, right out of Harvard Station when the train stopped. For a brief few seconds the lights in the train went dark and we were immersed in pitch black. Then they went on again. That should have been our first warning sign.

Now normally the train gets stuck like this, so we figured it could be any number of things and we decided not to worry about it. After about 10 minutes of pretending to train surf and talking loudly so that the other very annoyed passengers could hear us, we started to get confused. It had never taken this long before. Right about when I decided to take the empty seat next to me a scratchy female voice came over the loudspeaker. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing some delays, we are very sorry for the inconvenience, the train will begin moving again shortly. Again, the train will begin moving shortly." At this we were slightly relieved but also a little sad because it meant that we would most likely get to choir on time, and let's face it, who wants to go sing for 2 hours when vacation is just 2 days away?

We sat there for about another 20 minutes, and by then we were starting to realize that the train wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. The woman had not come back over the PA so no one had any clue what was happening. The noise level in the train was slowly going down as people plugged into their iPhones and tried to sleep through the event. Outside the windows all we could see were the pitch black walls of the train tunnel.

Clang Clang Clang Clang!
CREEEAAAAK!
Clang Clang!
SLAM!

Everybody was suddenly awake and craning their necks out into the aisle to get a look into the train cars behind us. A man in a bright orange vest was dashing through the cars, opening and slamming the doors as he went through. When he ran into our car, somebody near the door tried to ask him what was going on, but he didn't respond, only rushed by and down the rest of the train.

For another 15 minutes after that it was pretty quiet. Then suddenly he came running back through. Five minutes later there he was again, soon followed by a woman in a bright yellow vest. The noise in the train car had gone up as everyone tried to figure out for themselves just what was going on when a crackling overhead shut everyone up.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are still experiencing some minor delays, we apologize, the train should be moving again shortly." We all believed her, since we had been sitting there long enough, and obviously the bright vested workers had fixed the problems, so we settled back into our seats.

A half hour later the woman came over the PA one last time to announce that our train had broken down and that they were going to send another train to come and push us into the next station (Central Square). For the next 15 minutes, every 3-5 minutes would be halted with a loud mechanical "Ladies and gentlemen, this train is out of service. Please do not get on the vehicle."

Which of course was entirely unhelpful since we were all already on the train, and we could not get off in the middle of the tunnel. Finally, we heard a loud screeching in the tunnel behind us and knew our rescuer was here, but the ride was far from over.

Minutes after the train came up behind us both brightly vested workers rushed through to the back. Soon after there was a loud booming sound and the entire train shook. I'm guessing hooking a Red Line train to another Red Line train is not as easy as it looks. The lights flicked off again, and after 10 more agonizing minutes and a couple more lovely reminders to the people living in the tunnel that our train was out of service, we felt a little jolt.

Everyone on our car cheered, thinking that after almost an hour we were finally in motion. We weren't. Another jolt a few minutes later edged us just an inch farther into the darkness of the tunnel. I was beginning to wonder why we had not been passed by a train going the other way. It's not like the trains in front of us were stuck too.

Another jolt, this one moving us a few feet. Finally, five minutes after the third jolt, we began to move, ever so slowly. At first it didn't even feel like we were moving. Or look like it either. If your train has ever gotten stuck between Harvard and Central you will know that it is possibly THE LONGEST TUNNEL IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. It took at least five minutes to very slowly edge us into the station,and the whole time sparks lit up the tracks all around and a very strong smell of burning rubber filled the train cars.

When we finally pulled into the station we found it to be packed with people. There was barely enough room for us to get off, let alone make our way to the stairs and get outside. But the whole time I remember thinking, "I can't wait to get to advisory tomorrow and tell Miles!"

One thing is for sure about that trip. I certainly was not excited for the next time I had to ride the Red Line.

Thanks, Maggie!

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