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The MBTA in the eye of the storm

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  November 2, 2012 12:34 PM

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South Station during Sandy.jpg

(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)

People jammed South Station around noon on Monday, hoping to catch the Commuter Rail home before the system shut down at 2 p.m.

The MBTA in the eye of the storm

Storified by Jeremy C. Fox · Fri, Nov 02 2012 09:51:46

People can learn a lot about themselves when they go through a crisis. Is the same true of transportation authorities?

Everyone now knows that Hurricane Sandy did its greatest damage further down the East Coast and mostly spared the Boston area. But on last Sunday and into Monday evening, it seemed entirely possible that the unpredictable storm could lash areas this far north with 80-mile-per-hour winds and torrents of rain.

How did the MBTA respond? Twitter shows that WBZ reported cautious optimism at the authority on Sunday afternoon, which met with a jaded reply from this week's first #MBTAannoy tweeter.
#MBTA planning normal service on Monday "as long as it is safe to do so" #wbz #MASandySteven Bognar
@alertnewengland "Normal service" for the MBTA includes delayed and/or cancelled commuter trains so it's just another day...#MBTAannoyChris Faulkner
On Monday morning, with many businesses and most government offices closed, those few hardy souls who ventured out onto the subway or into a bus found that hurricanes can have silver linings. 
First time I've ever gotten a seat on the Orange line in the morning #mbtabragAriel Shearer
Best time to ride the T is when there's a #Hurricane . Only about 20 ppl in my cart. #HurricaneSandy #MBTAbragCity Girl
#mbta running like buttah this morning! Every day should be like this! #mbtabragBurple Yak
But then, five minutes later, this happened:
Lulwut? That's what I get for tweeting #mbtabrag RT @aallredon7: The #mbta will shut down at 2pm today due to #sandy #bosandyBurple Yak
Later in the day, at least one rider found consolation in the MBTA's failure to consistently follow its own policy. 
MBTA still running buses even though they were supposed to stop hours ago. I'll make it home from work after all! Thanks @mbtagm! #MBTABragPious Poultry
By Monday night, it was becoming clear that the storm would not cause major damage in Eastern Massachusetts, and the MBTA announced that it planned to resume service Tuesday morning. That information was met by a response very similar to that which followed Sunday's announcement.
#MBTA Customers are encouraged to leave add'l time for their commutes tomorrow and expect delays due to storm. Updates http://bit.ly/TorQTSMBTA
@mbtaGM no different than any other day...hah. #mbtaannoyKrista Marie
The return to not-quite-normalcy had some commuters wary, including these graduate students:
I'm calling it: We'll have school, guys.Elise
@kookoocachoo27 Yeah, I agree. :/ If it is difficult to get to campus tomorrow, though, I am going to be more upset than usual.gehenna
@naufraga #mbtaannoy better watch out!Elise
(A couple of other recent MBTA announcements also earned frustrated responses from riders.)
News says #MBTA trying to stop backpacking ppl 4 fares. Seen it too much. 2day the agent said it was fine. Why am I paying then? #MBTAannoyCity Girl
“@BostonDotCom: MBTA sees another surprise increase in ridership in September http://bo.st/PmJRBt” Surprise? Open the backdoors #MBTAannoyRebecca Bellan
But despite concerns, some riders were impressed with the MBTA's response to the storm and its aftermath.
@mbtaGM is doing a great job this morning of responding to rider tweets about #mbta routes and cancellations. #MBTAbragMBTA Rider
Very impressed with the #MBTA response to #sandy. #MBTAbragTyler
Of course, that doesn't mean the last seven days didn't see the same long waits, slow-moving trains, missing buses, and inexplicable schedule adjustments as any other week.

(Side note on schedule adjustments: does the MBTA sometimes actually find its trains moving ahead of schedule?)
And get to FHills 10 min early, to find bus is 10 min late. What is the point of having a schedule?? #mbtafail #mbtaannoyJack Freeman
According to the mbta schedule, three 66s should have passed by now. #mbtaannoy ArchivingAloud
Back to normal Red Line @ 4 back to back empty northbound trains with infrequent packed southbound #mbta mbtaGM #mbtaannoyrev8056
In the time I have been waiting for a Braintree train, there have been SIX Alewife trains. SIX. WTF, #MBTA? #mbtaannoyErin Turowski
Train running late. Not weather related, just the usual #mbtafail I guess we're lucky it wasn't worse, but for all the $$ #mbtaannoycharlene mcbride
Dear 66 bus: you would be unbearably slow if not for the distraction of @ao3org. #mbtaannoy #omfg #sloooooooooowsnowgray
10 min delay at Park St. because of course there is. #bline #mbtaannoyElise
@mbtaGM Northbound train standing by at North Quincy for a schedule adjustment?! Come on! I need to get to work! #RedLine #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
@mbtaGM Another 'stand by'. This time at Broadway. Seriously?! Who is running the MBTA?! #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
Train was late last night, this morning & tonight. Tonight it's standing room only. @mbtagm can I get a refund? Ridiculous. #mbtaannoyMichelle Clements
great, train's already all messed up and i have a 9am meeting #mbtafail #mbtaannoycharlene mcbride
Some delays were also combined with wholly inadequate service. 
So it's Saturday so of course there will be only single cars on the green line. They'll come every half an hour. #MBTAannoy packed!D. Matt Brothers
There were some lessons to be learned in the aftermath of Sandy. For one thing, riders respond much better to straight talk and reliable information than they do to reassurances that don't seem grounded in fact. Riders don't like to feel they're being misled.
Don't run express and claim there's a train right behind us when there clearly is NOT. #MBTAannoy @mbtagmStephanie
If I can't see a train then there is not one right behind us. If there's no train for 5 minutes there's no train right behind us. #MBTAannoyStephanie
Dear #MBTA don't tell me there is a train in front of us when this is the first ashmont train in ten minutes. #mbtaannoyWilliam Holbrook
They also enjoy don't enjoy being unable to even understand what they're being told.
Driver: When you make a special announcement about taking buses instead of the subway to get to your destination, DON'T MUMBLE. #MBTAannoyCity Girl
Some riders may feel these situations demonstrate a disconnect between efforts made by upper management at the MBTA to build better relationships with riders and the decisions made by rank-and-file MBTA staff to make more expedient decisions.

Also, some of those rank-and-file staff members are just a bit clumsy.
Worst part about Halloween? Almost breaking my face from an overly abrupt stop. #MBTAannoyKellie Lee
Red line train just overshot N. Quincy. o.O #mbta #mbtaannoyJ. Levine
Some drivers aren't smooth like Barry White; it's true. But many are genuinely decent and kind folks, as Ari points out below:
#redline operator held the doors for a woman who tripped running for the train. Other px helped with her bags. That's an #mbtabragAri Ofsevit
Ari, though, had some criticism for the very hashtag he elected to use:
(although I think #mbtabrag is a #fail of a hash tag)Ari Ofsevit
Kellie also had praise for a driver who offered a little extra holiday courtesy.
Best part about Halloween? The bus driver letting everyone on w/o paying. #MBTAbragKellie Lee
While the last few tweeters were paying attention to their drivers, some other riders were noticing what their fellow commuters were up to.
You shouldn't be rattling the baby stroller like that...WITH the baby in it...on the escalator... #MBTAannoyTeesh
"I love watching passengers eat on the bus," said no one ever. #MBTAannoy ArchivingAloud
Bad enough to be on the miserably packed Braintree train I have to next to the paranoid woman talking to herself #mbtaannoyrev8056
But just as with the drivers, some or their fellow passengers displayed courtesy and unselfishness.
The not so #mbtaannoy moment: when an elderly woman offers her seat to a little kid. And then another person offers their seat to the woman.Harry Chiu
While some guy just displayed his upper body strength.

At least, let's assume these next two tweets are about the same guy, even though one was posted during morning rush hour on Monday, and the other was posted during evening rush hour on Wednesday. Could there be more than one of these guys? Is this a thing people are doing now?
This man was really doing chin ups on the over head bars on the train #MBTAannoyXavier
Dude is literally doing full pull ups on the high hand rail on the bus, & i mind that less than these girls convo.. 1,2,3 #wuss #MBTABilly Kall
When riders weren't being frustrated by each other, they were #MBTAannoyed by the T's unreliable technology:
So somehow my October T pass has died on me with 5 days to go. #wtf #mbtaannoy @mbtaGM #fbKatie Hamill
Train late again. Openmbta refused to indicate in real time. Coincidence or conspiracy? #mbtafail #mbtaannoycharlene mcbride
Love these decrepit Red Line trains Background noise registers 90 db which in in hearing loss range #mbtaGM #mbtaannoyrev8056
Or, in one case, the use of an unnecessary technology:
@mbtagm On this perfect (low #mbta traffic morning why are the AC's on? #mbtawaste #mbtapollution #mbtaannoylablu∞z
Snowgray said her problem is with the lack of a technology that would address basic issues:
There needs to be a signal when a bus driver pulls up to a T station to let the driver know that a train just arrived so wait. #mbtaannoysnowgray
9 bus at Broadway pulls away while people are obviously coming up from the train. Often. Driver needs to be told to wait! @mbtaGM #mbtaannoysnowgray
But this week also saw a remarkable number of genuinely positive #MBTAbrag posts, especially given last week's dismal showing.
Hey @jeremycfox Saturday's trip on Route 504 was quick, convenient and on-time to and from DTX. Calm before the storm. #MBTABragSusan Bregman
Thank you Orange Line for being reliable as always. Back Bay to DTX no problem. #MBTAbragKyle MP
@RhettyPants & @JoshNemes covered Jimmy Page Led Zeppelin cover in this non-descript #MBTAbrag corner. #SouthStation http://pic.twitter.com/AloqiBmoSupahFans.com
Nice to meet @mbtaGM CEO Rich Davey at Park Street today. Pitching The T a project soon. #DefendBoston #MBTAbragKevin Krueger
Have you been tweeting with #MBTAbrag when you have a positive experience on the T? Or using #MBTAannoy to sound off on all those delays? If not, what are you waiting for? Join all the frustrated and elated commuters above and experience the cleansing catharsis of self-expression.

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @YTDowntown.

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