Friday, February 02, 2007

T Tales: 40 minutes from Kenmore to Government Center

CME writes us at about her trip on the Green Line Friday morning

This may explain why I waited 25 minutes at Park for a Riverside train today.
Here's (part of?) why there was a huge backup on the green line this

I commute from Allston to Government Center, and this morning I was lucky
enough to get a 57 to Kenmore. When I hit the platform, there was a
pretty big crowd standing around looking impatient, so it seems something
was already delayed.

We waited about 10 minutes for a train, which, after we'd all piled on,
did the thing where it closed and then reopened its doors. This is
Kenmore-station speak for "This train will be standing by". A couple of
passengers made angry noises and jumped off the train in favor of the
other inbound train that had just arrived across the platform.

Our train pulled out a few minutes later and stopped, as they usually do,
in the tunnel right after Kenmore where the track takes a large, non-flat
curve to the left. And it stayed there. And stayed there. And of
course, the lights and the ventillation kept shutting off like they do
when the train isn't moving. At this point, there were quiet funny noises
coming from the front of the car/train (I'm not sure which, I was in the
back of the second car) as the drivers tried to reboot the train.
Finally, the PA system beeped, there was a long slince, and a grumpy voice
said "-workin' on it". Everyone around me gave an annoyed laugh at how
uninformative this was.

After a few more minutes of waiting, we heard voices in the tunnel outside
the train. Suddenly someone banged violently on the doors next to me
(rear doors on the righthand side), and all of the passengers nearby
jumped away from the door in alarm. The guy outside forced the doors open
and jumped on, panting like steam engine, then forced them closed behind
him. He pulled out his keychain and unlocked the platic panel covering
the control circuits over the door (this was a Breda Type 8 car), reached
in, violently threw a few levers back and forth, and in his hurry nearly
dropped the panel on the heads of the surrounding passengers. (It was
really great to see someone treating the problem like it mattered, but he
was as wound up as if someone were being injured, which was disconcerting
and causing him to make mistakes like almost braining a dozen passengers.)

It turns out that there was a fault in the door control circuitry such
that the door registered as open even though it wasn't, and the train's
safety systems wouldn't allow it to move with an "open" door. The T guy
repair guy had "isolated" the door; I assume this is T-speak for "turning
it off". They dumped us on the platform at Hynes and took the train out
of service; radio traffic from the repair guy indicated that that the
train would be taken to Park St without passengers so it could be removed
from service.

I was then on two more trains that were turned early; the one I got on at
Hynes (after skipping the first to come through) was turned at Park, and
the North Station train after that was turned at Goverment Center- by the
high-tech method of a T guy standing on the Government Center platform and
stopping the train to tell the driver this was his last stop. If I'd been
going farther than Government Center I'd have *really* been ready to spit
nails. As it was, total time from hitting the Kenmore platform to
Government Center? 40 minutes. You can bet I'll be filing an on-time
service claim.



Ron Newman said...

Do the Green Line cars have an override switch available to the driver, so he can say "yes I know it says the door is open, but let me drive the train anyway?"

Such a switch would avoid the entire problem described here. It would not be necessary to even take the train out of service until it reached the end of its run.

Anonymous said...

Cutting out malfunctioning doors is a well-established procedure on all transit systems. It's yet another serious design flaw if it's hard to do it on the Bredas.

I also see no reason why the whole train would have to go out of service.

Gary McGath said...

I don't know if I'd trust the drivers with an override switch. I can't count how many times I've moved between cars on commuter rail and found the doors open while the train was moving. The only time they make sure the doors are closed is when it's 90 degrees and the air conditioning has failed.

Heidi Ho said...

I waited for almost 25 minutes for a train at Chestnut Hill. A train finally comes but never stopped.. second one came and you couldn't get on. Third one comes I get on and bythe time I got to Arlington the whole fiasco took me an hour. Some days my ride is 20 minutes today it was an hour..Gotta love the T...

Anonymous said...

Gary, cutting out a malfunctioning door involves locking it closed. It's not like the driver would be allowed to just ignore a door-open light.