Wednesday, April 23, 2008
System in Crisis
Over the past three or four weeks, the Franklin #715 train is experiencing an unprecedented state of collapse. Ridership has increased enormously; every seat is full to capacity, the aisles are packed solid, and even the vestibules - which are supposed to be off-limits for passengers - are full of riders.
Yesterday there were 14 people riding in the vestibule that I was in. I was in the spot exactly between two cars; that spot is probably the most dangerous on the train, because it's the intersection between the two coaches. You can easily get your hand or foot caught and crushed by tons of moving metal!
Fares haven't been collected on the #715 for weeks. Passengers are openly talking about giving up their passes and buying 12-ride tickets instead, because you can easily get a month or two of rides from one; the conductors simply can't check tickets.
A couple of days ago I was jammed into the middle of an aisle, which is probably the second-worst place to stand on the train. Standing next to me was a pregnant woman; she had to be at least six months along. Nobody offered her a seat. When the time came for her to get off, she literally had to squeeze past me and through the rest of the crowd!
I've heard that ridership is up to a similar degree across the system. That's probably because of the skyrocketing price of gas. If so, I don't think the overcrowding problem is going away - ever.
It also occurs to me that during a recent train accident, the people who were standing were the ones who got injured. At at least 30 standees inside each coach, plus 12 or more standees in each vestibule (not counting the conductors), I count 190 standees who are being endangered by the willful blindness of MBCR and MBTA management to the safety hazard that's happening on their watch.
Governor Patrick is equally culpable, as is the Legislature.
Operating a train under these conditions must violate safety regulations. What agency is responsible for enforcing the law in the case? OSHA, perhaps?
The conductors are clearly miserable, incidentally. But it's obvious that there isn't a thing they can do. The passengers I've heard bitching about the situation have all made it very clear to any conductors in earshot that we do not blame them.