MBTA Finally Apologizes for Red Line Panic

03/22/2012 - Cambridge, MA - The MBTA Red Line turns 100 years old on March 23, 2012. This is the Kendall Square outbound platform - intended to mirror an archival handout image. Topic: 23redline. Dina Rudick/Globe Staff.
–The Boston Globe

It took over 24 hours, but the MBTA is apologizing after a mechanical error on a train caused panic at Quincy Station.

Passengers on a Red Line train were alarmed on Thursday when their train stopped and smoke began to encircle their cars. Initially unable to get off the train through more conventional exits, like the door, some passengers smashed windows to escape.

WCVB described the scene:

Passenger Jordan Tong said about 20 people in a car with doors that would not open were screaming for help, and there was no one from the MBTA responding.

“People were trying to pry open the doors,’’ Tong said. “The doors were all locked, and some big guy decided to kick the door and break the glass.’’

Their urgency to the point of vandalism comes nearly three weeks after 100 passengers were trapped in a Washington, D.C. Metro train as it filled with smoke. One woman died from smoke inhalation, while 80 more people were hospitalized.

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A spokesman for the MBTA told Boston.com on Thursday that the mechanical failure “resulted in a burst of smoke,’’ but that neither smoke, nor fire ever entered the train cars.

“There was no emergency,’’ Joe Pesaturo said. “There was no danger and no one was injured by the failure in the propulsion system. The MBTA was opening the doors when some people kicked out windows. There was no reason for this to happen.’’

“It’s unclear at this time why some reacted in that manner,’’ Pesaturo said.

The MBTA’s response was criticized by Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday.

“I’m disappointed with the MBTA’s response to the concerns that were raised by the riders,’’ Baker told WHDH. “I saw the video, it was compelling and when people get worried about circumstances and situations that seem dangerous, I think in some ways they acted accordingly.’’

Baker’s spokesman told WBZ that Baker and new transportation secretary Stephanie Pollack “urged the MBTA to take the gravity of the passengers’ frightening experiences more seriously.’’

Shortly afterwards, MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott released a statement that took a slightly different approach to the day before, apologizing to customers and calling the situation an “unsettling experience.’’

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“It was never the MBTA’s intention to question what the customers were feeling or experiencing yesterday morning at Quincy Center,’’ Scott said. “We greatly appreciate the loyalty of our customers and we strive to do everything possible to deliver the safe and reliable service they deserve. The MBTA will review every aspect of yesterday’s incident to identify areas in which we can do a better job. We owe that to every person who relies on the MBTA for their daily commutes. The MBTA apologizes for the unsettling experience created by the mechanical issues with the Red Line train yesterday.’’

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