Catch’em if you can!
Since I have chosen the image of an MBTA green line train that runs across Boston as the featured picture for the magazine, I thought it might be a good idea to open the 1st issue by talking about public transportation in the area. Unfortunately, my experience with the MBTA is almost a personal and intimate one full with an unlimited list of grudges for a multitude of reasons. First, Seldom is an agent at the information boot for passengers’ guidance; a fact that results in confusion, frustration, wasted time and tardiness.
Second, Regardless whether a passenger has a schedule at hand or not; uses the MBTA trip planner or not, delays are inevitable. Although all business-day-bus schedules announce buses to be running every ten to fifteen minutes, they rarely do. One main reason for the delays could be that each time buses show up, they all run in the same destination in a fleet-like parade which leaves no room for the promised punctuality to be in effect.
Third, a passenger would require a miracle or lots of prayers to make buses that take to areas such as Lynn, Salem , Winchester or Brookline, abide by the proclaimed schedule. As a regular MBTA rider and a Student intern, I taught myself not to build my day schedule around the MBTA’s. There were multiple occasions when I left home at noon to arrive to Winchester hospital at four o’clock. Yet, there was instances when I either got late or when my anxiety hit the roof because there was unannounced changes to the schedule, to the route or the the bus was declared suddenly out of service.
My travels to Salem Medical Center and Lahey Hospital in Burlington did not benefit from a better luck. The irregularly irregular bus schedules for both destinations had almost destroyed my health. The only way for me to be on time for the clinical practice that started at 6:30 in Salem New England Medical Center, was to spend the night roaming the streets in the cold winter weather while waiting for my shift to start as the buses for this route do not run early morning on weekends.
Finally, my dance was with the commuter rail was an equally breathtaking and thrilling experience. I nearly valsed with death as I was waiting for the train at canton junction station; instead of stopping to pick a passenger as announced on the formal schedule, the train rocket-sped through the freezing winter night. I had to cling to the handrails on the passenger platform with all my strength lest the forceful winds the train created would drag me under its rails.
Nonetheless, I was thankful to the country music that emanated from my my pocket radio transistor. I had to sing,-dance my way through the icy winter suburban night in an attempt to control my shivering body:I was both cold and scared. I was even more thankful and hailed to the man who opened the door to the station at 5:30 am in the morning and offered me a cup of hot tea that nearly burnt my hypothermic body.
One last and very important question that hangs on my tongue every time I am on a bus is : “ what are the MBTA standards for hiring its drivers?” There has been no instance when I was not bounced or almost bounced from my seat or while in trying to find one even when holding to the hanging belts or the handrails because of a driver ‘s bad maneuvers. A funny and scary thing happened as I was once riding the 111 from Boston to Chelsea, a female Caucasian driver placed her leg on the steering wheel; ironically, to show off that she was a good driver or simply out of disregard to the human life.
The MBTA has certainly been servicing The Greater Boston and its suburbs and had helped in many ways to improve the communities it serves; yet, it would not be much to ask it to use its hands to dexterously steer the wheel in a way that actually promotes safety, punctuality and social health in the community. One way to do so , would be to strictly screen its drivers prior to hiring them. Having replacement buses handy before declaring a bus out of service or changing its route would another. It would also be extremely helpful to adhere to announced schedules, remove extra sign on the same side so that riders would know where exactly a particular bus stops; the drivers are very strict on where a passenger stands. One final suggestion would be to actually have an agent who knows about the MBTA services, his/her job and ready to assist passengers who go to seek help at the information boot.