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The MBTA: Boston's great equalizer

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  September 14, 2012 05:28 PM

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disappointed hes too young to tweet.jpg

(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

This little boy is frustrated that he’s too young to tweet about his #MBTAannoying experience.

The MBTA: Boston's great equalizer

Storified by Jeremy C. Fox · Fri, Sep 14 2012 14:40:45

The MBTA is no respecter of persons. It doesn't care who you are or how much money your daddy makes. In the eyes of our beloved, beleaguered, bedeviled transit system, we're all the same. It doesn't matter if you're racing to catch a plane and the man next to you is passed out drunk and has been riding the train all day just for the air conditioning (some trains have it, really). You're going to get to the same stop at the same time. 


On the T, no one is any better or more important than anyone else. Consider this in contrast to, say, the limousine industry, and you can see there's something very American and egalitarian about the T, and really about all public transit. As this week's first #MBTAannoy tweet shows, even Boston Globe editors aren't immune to the frustrations of the MBTA. 
Major #MBTAannoy: Red Line conductor who slammed doors shut after I ran and failed to make it.Roy Greene
See, that's a universal experience. Anyone who has been riding the T longer than a week has had that happen. What makes us unique individuals is how we each respond to such a situation. Some curse, some stomp their feet, some tweet, and some quote Rick Ross lyrics.
Everyday I'm hustling (to catch that train that just pulled up!!!) #mbtaannoyJesse Purvis
These frustrations do sometimes get the best of us, though. Some of this week's tweeters were so #MBTAannoyed they didn't quite explain why they were frustrated. But they made it clear that they were, especially Alayna K. Daily commuters can easily imagine what might have caused these tweets. 
#MBTAannoy #MBTAannoy #MBTAannoy #MBTAannoy #MBTAannoy #MBTAannoy #MBTAannoyAlayna K.
@mbtaGM another ride from hell. thanks for ruining my morning one more time #mbtaannoy #ihatethegreenlineKNRuval
Per usual, the green line is a joy today. #mbtaannoyKrista Marie
Sometimes the cause of our frustrations is the exact thing that makes the MBTA so egalitarian: all those other passengers who have the same access, rights, and privileges and who sometimes abuse those rights and privileges without any thought of their fellow riders. 
I hate sitting next to someone who just smoke a cigg on the train #yousmell #mbtaannoySean Fahey
Love chicks on the train who talk louder rather than close the door. #MBTAannoyAnn McDonald
If you want to be rude & have your purse or backpack in my face, step on my feet,I'm just going to let the train tumble me around #mbtaannoyMorgan E.
They should apply the same rush hour rules to stroller utility vehicles as they do bikes. Many of them are just as big #mbta #mbtaannoyrev8056
Why do people seated side-by-side on the #OrangeLine feel the need to shout their conversation as if on opposite ends of a field? #MBTAannoyJeremy C. Fox
Really, people, indoor voices! We don't all need to know that your boss got on your nerves today!


Occasionally, though, a fellow passenger's bad manners inadvertently lead to something positive. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
I usually hate it when ppl listen to music on speakerphone on public transit but in this case the music rocks! #mbtabragLukas Akerley
But those bad manners can combine with the frustrations visited upon us by the system itself and lead to unfortunate confrontations. 
Davis maybe if you ran southbound trains at this hour 2 people might not be as close to fighting as they are now #mbtaannoy ##mbtarev8056
Alongside fellow passengers, of course, T-riders must deal with the transit system's employees, which include at least a couple of careless conductors. 
@mbtaGM thanks for over shooting the platform while I am on crutches and had to use the stairs #mbtaannoyKath
Umm, the man sitting next to me on the 5:50pm train to Lowell used a zone 5 pass...from AUG! It's September 12th people! @mbtagm #MBTAannoyCarey Mercier
But, as this week's first two #MBTAbrag tweets show, there are also some MBTA employees who are genuinely nice folks. 
Dear #MBTA 64 bus driver who let me on even though I lost my pass / didn't realize til on the bus, I love you. #mbtabragCraig Silva
The blue line is great. A T operator saw me running for the T and held the doors for me so I could board. #mbtabraglauren
And others are both thoughtful and stylish. 
It's nice getting good service by the MBTA; it's sweeter when your bus driver rocks the David Crosby mullet! #mbtabrag http://pic.twitter.com/YHlLISZrRob Tiongson
But nice only goes so far, especially when your commute is made powerfully uncomfortable by something like the temperature inside your train.
Of course the first time I wear pants for the fall the train is like 100 degrees #mbtaannoySean Fahey
But before you can even get into an overheated conveyance, of course, you often have to contend with long waits caused by late trains and buses.
MBTA you HAVE to put more AM service on the 11 route. Waiting 40 mins to get on a bus is NOT cool #mbtaannoyDarren Mackiewicz
Awesome. 9 am on a Friday morning and the next silver line isn't for 15 minutes. #MBTAannoyLBNathan
It's been more than 10 minutes and this Orange Line train is still stuck at DTX... #MBTAannoyJustin
This is all typical, of course. It happens every week of the year, but this isn't just any season -- it's back-to-school time, and that can only mean one thing:
First day of class and the T made me so late. #mbtaAnnoyElliott von Wendt
Speaking of delays, let's check in on regular contributor Sabrina and see how the Red Line is treating her.
@mbtaGM The red line is late again! We've been stopped before JFK for a long time now! Let's go! #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
@mbtaGM Come on, red line! I have to get to work! #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
@mbtaGM The red line is late again! Police investigation on rush hour?! Why? #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
So, pretty much the same as usual. 

Poor Sabrina had such a frustrating week that when she finally had something to #MBTAbrag about, she forgot that hashtag and still used #MBTAannoy. 
@mbtaGM Hippity Hip Hooray! The red line was on time this morning for the 1st time in 2 weeks! Yay! #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
Is it sad that that's cause for celebration?


Despite the MBTA's overall egalitarianism, there is one way that it really doesn't seem to play fair: often you wind up watching several trains headed the other direction or trains from other lines pass by while waiting for just one train headed to your destination. 
5 empty northbound trains before the packed Braintree. Davis you do know that people go southbound dont you? #mbta #mbtaannoy #mbtaGMrev8056
So that's one example, now look at this tweet from Monday morning rush hour:
Okay seriously? @mbtaGM @mbta_alerts where is the 39 inbound and the E line?!?!?!?!?! #mbtaannoy_veritaserum
Now check out the next one, tweeted just 31 minutes later. Wherever those E trains were, they appear to have stayed close together. 
@mbtagm this marks the 3rd Heath st train in 20 mins, without sign of the B line. #mbtaannoy #mbta #goingtobelateDan
One rider neatly sums up the problem. 
Too many people, too little trains #mbtaannoyCristin Costa
But even when your train arrives and you climb on, headed for your destination, there are times it seems you just can't get there from here.
Second day in a row E line train turns around at Brigham Circle. 'Rerouted'- I don't have to get to riverway or anything... #MBTAannoyTyler
And then when you get off the train, your problems aren't necessarily over 
New topic amongst Braintree parkers this AM. The horrible new parking system It took 30 min to leave garage yesterday #mbtaannoy #mbtarev8056
Long lines at the 2 parking ticket machines It is only 530AM way to go Larsz parking making the commute worse #mbta #mbtaannoyrev8056
Indeed, as this next tweet shows, it can feel like there's no escape from the frustrations:
Even when I drive the #mbta manages to mess up my commute by stopping a train on the Kingston tracks. #mbtaannoy http://pic.twitter.com/hNwAGTI5Joshua Warren
It's not just stalled trains that create problems, though. The commuter rail offers all sorts of #MBTAannoyances, apparently. 
Another day of useless WiFi on MBCR. #MBTAannoy Fix it!Ann McDonald
Meanwhile, Neenah indicates that there are already issues with the new countdown clocks the MBTA has recently begun installing. 
Blue line's countdown counter at Government Center still broken. #mbtaannoy @mbtaGM http://pic.twitter.com/Qx12Ulk7Neenah Estrella-Luna
And Trisha thinks the MBTA could be using signage to better communicate some messages that her fellow passengers just aren't getting. 
Should make the led bars saying the destination say "front door only will open". No one gets it. #MBTAannoyTrisha Fortin
And Arthur is a little concerned about what he'll encounter making that trip up front. 
Last thing I want to hear on a train packed full with baseball fans: "Front door exit only." #MBTAannoyArthur Liu
Chris also has takes issues with the T's attempts to communicate with riders. 
Why do they ring the bell as the durn train is pulling *out* of the station? Not enough time to reach platform #MBTAannoy #MBTAChris Helms
And Christine has her own concerns about getting unreliable information from the T. 
According to the bus schedule, I should be home by now. I'm still at Kenmore. Thanks a lot, @mbtagm! #MBTAannoyChristine Varriale
That's a frustrating situation, but it's the kind of thing that happens with all public transit systems, right? 


To lend perspective, Sacha provides context that shows how the MBTA could be far better than it is ... and far worse. 
Dear #mbta, This is what I want my morning commute to look like. http://ow.ly/dHA4i Not this. http://youtu.be/ZN-RbuKJUjc (via @elisa_anne)Sacha
Considered this video for last tweet, but having people to shove you into the train=service > #mbta http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0A9-oUoMug #MBTAannoySacha
Should the MBTA hire shovers to help ensure we get the maximum possible number of riders on each train? Or do Bostonians do a fine job of shoving without professional assistance? Share your thoughts on this and other issues you encounter during your commute using #MBTAannoy and #MBTAbrag. You could wind up quoted on this page next week. 

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @YTDowntown.

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