I’ve been commuting by public transportation in and around Boston for about a year now. While I still prefer it any day to driving through or around Boston during commuter hours, it’s a much less than perfect system. Here’s a list of some of my ‘favorite’ issues in the form of a top 10 list.
10. The bus didn’t see you. The tried to drive right past you. Maybe they did drive right past you. You’re wearing a long bright red coat, but somehow you’ve turned invisible momentarily. These things happen.
9. There is a delay due to slippery rail, mechanical failure, residual mechanical failure, disabled train, disabled bus, signal problem, medical emergency, weather related problem, residual delay, switch problem, heavy ridership, police investigation, traffic, weather related slip, heavy ridership, etc. My favorite of these delay reasons is “late train”. How can you describe the reason as the problem? Why is the train late? The train is late due to a late train. Okay, that clears things up. Here’s a good question: what’s the difference between a “slippery rail” and a “weather related slip”? Easy, one is caused by the weather and the other is caused by…
…you don’t want to know.
8. Someone has BO, too much perfume, permanent cigarette scent, and any other funk that you must now deal with. Pretty much any noise related issue can be solved with headphones, but even if you carry around a close pin or fruit-scented spray, there’s no really no way to effectively deal with this one.
7. You can’t get in the train. You’ve been waiting what feels like forever and need to get to your destination soon (or just would really like to). Oh, good. Here’s the next train. It opens. It’s full. A few people get off. A few people get on. Sometimes one of those people is you, but that can be almost as bad as being left on the platform waiting for the next one. If you are waiting for the next one, hope that this doesn’t repeat…
6. People won’t wait for you to leave to train before they try to get on. They somehow are always surprised to see you there trying to exit. It’s not the second coming of Jesus, folks. You should expect every time a train comes that at least one person is going to be walking through the opening and off the train. After a year, I don’t stop in the doorway and say ‘excuse me’ anymore and wait for people to register what’s happening. I just walk forward and hope that I can part the red sea of morons well enough to get through. I may not be Moses, but I have pointy elbows. Every now and then, someone decides to play chicken and keep walking towards me as if I’m going to get out of their way so they can board. Sure. I’ll just stay on the train for another stop so that you may board sooner. That makes sense.
5. Doors sometimes open in the front only, sometimes they don’t. While this happens ALL THE TIME on the Green line, I also see this on busses, and there are a host of similar issues. You know on this stop that doors are supposed to open on both sides. Then they just don’t for some reason. Or maybe they do, but have a weird delay to add to your confusion. Hm, these doors won’t open. I’ll just turn around and use the other- oh, hey, now they’re opening. Do I turn back and use those or just keep going? Some of this might be policies for certain stops at certain times of day, but it’s random enough that I think it’s a whim, or a cruel experiment. If it’s an experiment, why don’t I get a bit of cheese after when I choose correctly?
A kind of conditioning that starts to happen. I know I need to rush to the front doors in this long train. I’m dozing off a little or reading- THERE’S MY STOP! I get up and rush towards the front-
Only to realize I’m now in the far back of the train.
I turn around and run to the other side feeling like an idiot.
On the commuter rail, or any really big train, who knows where the doors are going to open. After a year I finally feel like I know which way to walk to and what to stand in front of to get off before we pull up. It’s always the same, except when it’s not.
4. There’s nowhere to go if you catch a crazy persons eye. If you’re in a station or at a stop, you need to keep waiting there. If you’re on a train, the car isn’t that big. If you’re on the bus, it also is not that big. The other people around you aren’t going to help you. They don’t want to catch the crazy’s eye. Employees don’t want to deal with it if they even are around and see it. What can you do? I usually ignore people and become super engrossed in my phone, book, or anything other than them. If you ignore them, they will usually move on. The biggest mistake I see is people trying to be nice. You might as well jump into a shark tank and slice open your leg. I’ve seen more than one conversation quickly go from crazy to worse:
A guy is signing very badly, “Hey, miss, do you remember that song? Hey. Hey miss.”
She makes eye contact, “No. I don’t.”
He sings a bit more, “It’s a great song. I haven’t heard it in forever,” sings a bit more, “Where are you from?”
She answers where she’s originally from.
“Oh cool. Do you think I could sleep on your floor tonight? I won’t take up much space.”
“Um. No, sorry.”
“It’s cold out! Please!”
And now we all feel awkward, and terrible, and aren’t sure what to do.
Some of these people are high, drunk, crazy, and/or homeless.
A tactic I’ve been seeing a lot lately is a homeless guy getting on, and then once he’s on asking people for change for a commuter rail ticket to a specific place where there is a shelter (or something else). The close quarters and no where to go are in favor of this guy. I feel bad for him, but I also feel bad for all of the riders aggressively being approached. That’s just awkward for everyone.
Some of these people are just jerks with no real excuse.
On that note, as a woman, you can imagine that a lot of awkward flirting and pickup attempts are to be had when you’re just trying to get from point A to point B. Normally I’m good at ignoring sexual harassment, but I’ve fallen for awkward flirting that starts off as innocent, casual conversation. To any guy out there reading that has done this, I’m only riding this bus, train, etc. because I don’t have a personal teleportation device and my mutant flying powers have not yet manifested. If you’re looking to find someone, might I suggest joining some kind of group activity to meet people?
3. There isn’t one pass to rule them all, but they make it sound like there is. Let’s take a place like Back Bay station where you have the orange line MBTA train, and commuter rail AMTRAK trains in the same building. You see signs for Charlie Cards (the passes for MBTA trains and busses) everywhere along with an explanation for the fees. Isn’t it great that you can use the same thing for both the train AND the bus? Well, it doesn’t quite work like that. Commuter rail passes are different. You can’t use your Charlie card on the commuter rail. You need to know to buy your pass at the machine in the station, unless you have cash, but they’ll charge you more on the train if you do it that way.
Well. Wait. They’re different passes unless you have one that covers both.
Some monthly passes can cover both, but if you have one, it’s not a Charlie Card. This means you can’t just tap it on a card reader when trying to get on a bus or train, you need to take it out and feed it into a ticket taker. That’s only if you’re on a bus or the T. If you’re on the commuter rail train, you follow the amazing scientific system of waiting for a person to come around and look at it. They have no card reader. They just visually check it. I’ll also add that that commuter rail is way more expensive, so I’m sure a lot of people scam this system. It gets worse. Unlike your Charlie Card that you can register online and get replaced if lost, obviously the one that is easier to lose and super expensive is not. So getting a combination bus, T, and commuter rail monthly pass, even if it’s economical for how often you use them, you’re eventually going to screw yourself by losing it.
Lets not forget that if you’re in an area right outside Boston taking a bus, you can now often use a Charlie Card! Wait! If you have a monthly pass it won’t work.
I found out some of this the hard way, and I see people mess this up all the time. This is terrible when combined with our next item…
2. People making the rules and working there assume everyone knows what’s going on. What, you didn’t know that at certain hours during the day on this specific commuter rail line that the inbound and outbound tracks switch? Lol. You should have read the printer paper sized sign by the stairs you ran down to get to the platform. It’s really clear, if you actually saw it and already knew what was going on. There is also a notice buried somewhere on our website I think.
Also, we switched the track number of your train that you take every day. We didn’t announce it, or maybe we did, in a cut-off garbled message over the speaker. Whatever. It’s not that hard to figure out that you need to board on a different track all the sudden. And really, get with the program when we switch back. We didn’t let anyone know we were, but you should be happy that it’s going back the way you wanted it.
Bus service replaces T service on this part of this line on these specific dates and during these specific hours that aren’t really specific. We’re going to start out early every time so you can’t plan around it even if you know.
I know no one told you, but you need to buy your commuter rail passes at a station of get charged a trolling fee. I know not all places have a machine where you can do that, so we only charge for those that don’t unless we feel like being jerks.
We’re on holiday schedule today. What holiday is it? It’s famous dead white guy Monday or day before an actual holiday day. Who cares. You should know that and know that this only effects the T and busses, but not the MWRTA bus or the commuter rail you’re trying to take today. Have a nice day!
You should know. Everyone who has been taking public transit has for their whole lives and had these secrets passed down from their ancestors. If you’re dumb and brave enough to think that joining this elite group would be easy, well then think again! You may think we’re trying to make money just like any other business, but really we’re government funded. Okay, well, we’re not really exactly fully government funded- look, it’s complicated. The point is that we don’t care if we discourage people from riding by making it hard.
1. We changed the schedule and raised the fares, and we even let you know about it! We don’t really care if you can’t deal with that. You just call up your boss and say, “Hey boss, I know I need to be in at this time, but this stop was cut, so now I can’t get there until that time. You understand, right?”. Is the new price too much? Well just tell your boss, “Hey, I need a raise.” Actually, just suck it up, because it’s still cheaper than gas these days unless you aren’t driving very far. Just be thankful and eat less.