Monday, June 16, 2008

A surprising series of screw-ups, part 2

Arriving at South Station 31 minutes late didn't exactly help our schedule. The Cambridge River Festival ran from noon to 6 PM, and it was already well after 2. We headed towards the subway station. A quick trip on the Red line would get us into Harvard Square before 3 PM.

But at the entrance to the subway station (which is part of South Statio, of course) we were waved back by T employees. "The station's closed!" one of them shouted. "Go up those stairs, there will be buses!"

What the hell?

Up the stairs and out on the street, we ran into a scene of budding chaos. There were fire engines, emergency vehicles, and firemen everywhere. The crowd wasn't yet overwhelming, but it was large and growing quickly.

And there wasn't a single damned bus in sight!

Whatever had happened in the subway station - and we heard several rumors, most of them being that there had been a fire (although we hadn't smelled any smoke at the station entrance) - it must have happened pretty recently. Either that, or the T was even more screwed up than usual, because it took a surprisingly long time for any buses to show up.

Here's the scene:

When buses finally started to appear they were all destined for JKF/UMASS, and therefore completely useless for us. In the meantime the crowd had become enormous, spilling onto the streets and greatly slowing traffic. There were several points where buses were pulling in, but it wasn't clear if there were particular locations for specific destinations. Many of the signs on the buses simply said "OUT OF SERVICE", and people had to shout and ask the drivers where they were going. It was, simply, chaos; nobody seemed able to organize the situation and let people know what had happened or where they should go. Parts of the crowd ran back and forth from loading-point to loading-point, trying to find buses to take them where they wanted to go.

Eventually a bus headed for Charles/MGH showed up. We ran like mad and managed to get on. It was jam-packed, of course. Traffic in the city seemed unusually heavy, and it took quite a while for the bus to reach Charles. By the time we reached Cambridge, it was well after 4 PM.

Sebastian was pretty worn out by this point. He's only six years old, after all! We stopped and had some lunch, but after that the walk to the River Festival was simply too much for him. So after all that we had to give up and turn back towards the T. We never got to see the River Festival after all.

But our weekend wasn't over yet. I'd hoped that the Red line was fully back in service, but of course that wasn't realistic. At Kendall/MIT the train stopped and everyone had to get off. So it was back on the bus for the trip back to Park Station. From there the subway trip to South Station was, thank goodness, relatively uneventful.

We took the Franklin train to Norfolk. Sebastian fell asleep on the way, but I was able to wake him (with difficulty) before we got there. The light was failing, but the sun hadn't yet completely set; and to my surprise I was able to navigate my way back home without a single wrong turn. We arrived home late and tired, but okay.

But that was just Saturday. The T had one more surprise in store for us that weekend...

It was a relatively minor one, but still annoying. We had to take the commuter rail in to Boston again the next day. And just minutes before we would have arrived at our destination, Ruggles station, there was an announcement: due to problems with the tracks, the train would not be stopping at Ruggles. Anyone headed for Ruggles would need to go one stop further, to Back Bay, and take the Orange line back to Ruggles. I imagine that would be particularly irritating for passengers who didn't have T passes, since that would mean they'd have to pay an extra subway fare.

I was pretty annoyed too, since my father was waiting in his car at Ruggles to pick us up. He didn't have his cell phone, so I couldn't call him and tell him that we'd be late. Fortunately he was still there when we finally arrived, but it was one last little screwup from the MBTA.

What a weekend!


Anonymous said...

Looks like a street festival. Except no fried dough.

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't need to pay an extra fare on the Orange Line, because the tracks are right across from each other. You would just get on the train travelling in the opposite direction. It's still annoying though!!

Anonymous said...

"You wouldn't need to pay an extra fare on the Orange Line, because the tracks are right across from each other."

The tracks are separated by a wall. You have to go up the stairs and through the fare gates to access the Orange line platform. Same for Back Bay station.

Anonymous said...

If you have a pass, it works on the T, too.

Quasit said...

In fairness, nobody asked us for the fare to get on the bus.