davidn: (skull)
Whenever I am on time for the bus:


Whenever I am more than one nanosecond late for the bus:

Spaintree

Jul. 23rd, 2014 10:59 pm
davidn: (Jam)
Recently I've been redoing Track the T pretty much from the ground up, to make it less technically hideous and add a few features it's needed for a while.

My new Google Maps route plotter works perfectly, apart from Braintree Station which is in Spain.


davidn: (Jam)
My uncle in Germany is very into trains - he has a large collection of miniatures in cabinets around his house, and used to generously bore us all rigid with his slide projector at least once whenever we visited him. I've never understood how they can possibly be interesting myself, or have any comprehension of how anybody can care in places where I've seen posts like "Here's a photograph of an R1S5T on the southbound line from Brick Arch to Dog and Castle." "No, that's a R1S5T/C, I think you'll find."

But there's one part of it that I think I've suddenly understood - coming from this post, I'm absolutely fascinated by the notion that there are abandoned stations hidden somewhere underground, physically accessible but where no train ever goes and where you could never now get to (without walking down the tracks in the dead of night and risking being killed). It sounds like something from a science fiction novel - little pockets of complicated engineering hiding below the city that were once functional and used by people every day, but that have now been long abandoned and forgotten.

The presence of them is something that only really hits you if the subway has been a regular part of your life. Being familiar with the unchanging, fixed chain of stations that a train must always go through - Park Street, Charles/MGH, Kendall, Central, Harvard, Porter, Davis - it's really strange to imagine that that wasn't always the sequence. Near Harvard Station alone, there are three abandoned stations - there used to be one called Stadium that only got occasional use, but two of them were part of the main line. There used to be a Harvard-Brattle (which I imagine must have partially been absorbed by the underground bus tunnel), and most interesting of all, Harvard-Holyoake is apparently still visible down a tunnel if you're looking carefully when the train leaves the station on its current loud squeaking route. But not knowing that it was there, I never saw it - it's as if it was some sort of ghost hiding just out of view of the normal world.
davidn: (Jam)
I discovered this half-written post on what I should now call "my laptop", so I've had it in the backlog of dreams for absolutely ages. I remember I said to one of the people who appeared in it at the time that I would write it up, but somehow, the act of just finishing it off has completely eluded me. I'll see what I can remember of the details...

We were on the cruise ship that we were on in real life in October 2009 (it's possible that this dream took place during or just after we'd got back from that, so it was fresh in my memory). We were coming in to dock on a long, white jetty, and as we stopped, there was an announcement that there was going to be a security check. The whole wall of the ship next to the jetty opened up, and a troop of men in suits began to climb up on to the dock - they had exaggeratedly broad shoulders that made them look like grand pianos standing on end.

I left and went down to a subway that I recognized as one of the Boston ones, except it was different from how I remembered it. For one thing, you had to swipe your card to enter twice, once at the entrance and once when you'd gone down the stairs and turned the corner. The other difference from real life I recognized was that it was significantly cleaner. Once I'd got in, there was a woman on the customer service desk who was investigating singing in the subway, and was telling people to stop if they were so much as humming to themselves as they came in. There was also a bomb threat drill going on - as I moved further into the station, I saw a number of boxes strewn around the place. Suddenly they went off, with some of them emitting red clouds of smoke and others spewing out brownish... ribbon things at all angles.

Somehow - through the subway or otherwise - I arrived at a restaurant, where there were sort of passport control type people hanging around the entrance, and you had to answer their questions to get in. By this point I was with [livejournal.com profile] diarytypething (see, I told you I'd mention you - even if it took me two years) and the questions were "what colour are your fingernails?" and "what part of America were you born in?" - and fortunately, in this dream, she had been born somewhere there, even though she most certainly wasn't.

My notes sort of come to a stop here, so I can only vaguely say that I remember walking around to the dark alley behind the restaurant and seeing a few creatures in the shadows which sputtered out of existence when any light touched them. In the end, I was walking away with the woman who had stopped me in the subway, and I asked if the thing about arresting people for singing had been a new MBTA policy. She replied that it had. "I thought so," I said, "because like everything the MBTA does, it was a phenomenally stupid idea."

Proving that I still keep a large part of my waking personality even in my dreams.
davidn: (ace)
In a remarkably similar turn of events to the last time I was in a Boston newspaper, Track the T received a stunning half a sentence in a Boston Herald article a week after the transport reporter contacted me for a phone interview. He was particularly interested in its catering to Blackberry users, as it was until recently unique among the MBTA showcase in being a service that was on the Internet and could be accessed via anything (even a desktop computer, as you would think I was the only person in the world who still uses one).

I might as well take this opportunity to ask my watch list in general... what exactly is the attraction of "apps", now, anyway? I've been encouraged from a couple of quarters to produce iPhone or Android application versions of my current page, but even though I say to them that it's a possibility (and would do so if I had the time, seeing as people would then pay for it), I just don't really see how it helps to produce functionally identical things for specific devices when they can all get to the existing one anyway. It's been demonstrated to me that you can create a pseudo-app that links to a webpage on the iPhone itself, so you're not even missing out on the convenience of being able to open it from your desktop.

Still, if people are going to pay again for something you've already done if you make it available to far fewer people, all the better. And I should be proud of getting my name in the paper - most people have to be hit by a train to achieve that.
davidn: (savior)
Much faster than I thought they would, the MBTA managed to release the real-time data for their trains yesterday, so Track The T now supports the red, orange and blue lines. I've been getting more and more emails about the service - it looks like there are about five hundred regular users of it now.

Unfortunately the green line (semi-subway tram things from about the 18th century) is more problematic for them, because they don't really... know where any of those things are at any point, and all communciation with them is done by radio. It's a vicious cycle of the system being too appalling to be able to support predictions, and predictions being the most vital to that track for exactly the same reason.

I also meant to mention that when I was taking my parents back from the airport, I saw something on the touristy adverts that you get relentlessly played through a television screen at the back of the taxis here - they had a list of famous authors that were born in Boston, and included Robin Cook, the American thriller writer. But someone had just typed his name into Google Image Search and picked the first decent-looking photo, and had therefore illustrated the list with a picture of our Robin Cook, the garden gnome, instead.

That's about where my life's interests lie at the moment.
davidn: (ace)
As it's been at least eight hours since I mentioned this last, I want to mention that the MBTA officially launched their real-time bus information yesterday, which hopefully means that future feed updates won't break this entirely any more. I would now be very grateful for the inclusion of the CT2, if I hadn't moved house and therefore passed the point where it would be useful to me in the time it took to get it up there.

They now have an application showcase, and I'm in it with a reworking of my bus tracker in a mobile-friendly page called Track the T. I was also given a passing mention on boston.com for it yesterday (I had wondered why the 558 seemed so disproportionately popular compared to the other routes). The addition of a Facebook button does wonders for addictiveness of checking its popularity - about 30 people have shared it so far and I haven't even promoted it myself yet.

Speaking vaguely of other works of mine (but unrelated in reality), I'm thinking of entering the inherently mockable Kamelot "Poisoned Pen" poetry competition with an expectation-defying meta-epic in limerick form, ending with the line "Roy Khan do what Vanderbilt Khan't". But it'll need a bit more fleshing out before then.
davidn: (skull)
This went up on the site of the local public transport authority a couple of days ago.

From its inception, the MBTA′s Customer Bill of Rights has always stated that any customer whose trip is delayed by more than 30 minutes is eligible for a complimentary fare. The MBTA, which is pleased to be one of the few transit systems that make such a pledge, will continue to honor this commitment to its customers. The MBTA, however, can no longer afford to provide a complimentary round-trip fare in instances in which no more than a one-way trip was delayed. By adhering to the On-Time Guarantee program′s original intent, the MBTA is able to maintain this important customer service initiative while remaining focused on providing safe and reliable public transportation.

Translated out of the sugar coating of the marketing speak, this means that they've halved the refund they give you if your journey was delayed by half an hour - it would appear that I've used up their entire budget. Sorry, everyone.

It's surely a sign that there's a problem if you have to revoke your confidence that your service works well enough not to have to refund people for using it. I would have thought that a more satisfactory solution would have been to make the network run a bit better, in keeping with the whole "On-Time Guarantee" bit.
davidn: (rabbit)
I was at a meeting with the department of transportation yesterday evening - I'd found a reminder about their invitation to developers when I went to look for updates on the bus feed, and went along to find out what the other people working with them were doing. It was the closest to a suited board meeting that I'm ever likely to get - it was held around a long table in a dimmed conference room, with a whiteboard in a cabinet and everything, at the top of a tower after everyone else had gone home, like being part of some secret transportation illuminati. No, of course it wasn't, it was just talking about buses and how to improve the information that we gather from the feed, but you've got to allow me some sort of illusion of importance - particularly as there were some things discussed that we were asked not to mention to anyone else just yet, because the plans for them aren't quite worked out.

In the morning, I got an email from the manager who'd organized the meeting, saying he'd looked at my bus tracker, that he himself had used it in the past and that I should be promoting it more. So I'm going to finally get a few real domain names for myself, including one for the tracker specifically - I just need to work out what to call it. Track the T? Watch the T? MBTA-watch? BostonBusTracker? wheresmysoddingbus.com? I'd welcome any outside suggestions.

Later the same evening, I got the chance to actually see it working for the first time - from the flat and in the office, I'm nowhere near any of the buses covered by the available routes, but yesterday we were in a cafe with the 66 bus route right outside through the window. From there, I could load up the countdown page on a borrowed iPhone, and just look at it when there was about a minute left and say "There's going to be a bus going that way behind me... now". >Zoom.< (Actually, that's not really an appropriate sound effect for most of the buses - it should be more along the lines of "Wheeze, cough, splutter", but that's not as impressive.) It sounds like such a little thing, but after just having to wait blindly to be picked up for so long, this thing is like having a window into the Matrix and seeing how it's working underneath. It feels really special to be one of the few people who know that it's available just now - but my duty now is to remove that exclusivity by spamming it around to as many people as possible!
davidn: (ace)


Don't fall asleep with excitement, but - remember when I posted about the Massachusetts department of transportation making some of the bus locations available to people? They added twelve more routes to the trial feed last week, including one that Whitney uses to get to work. So I spent an evening working altogether too hard on the bus arrival time tracker that I'd previously done up for it - it's now been included in its own section on my site. You can give it a try here, for example:

http://www.clickteam.info/davidn/mbta.php?stopId=927&routeId=66&update=true

I haven't really made the Javascript updating very robust yet, which is why it's still only an option in the URL (it just counts down from whenever the page was loaded, without checking the actual feed again) - but it looks nice!
davidn: (skull)
Dear The T,

I'd like to share the experience of my commute this morning.

I walked up to the Brandon Hall station of the C Green Line at about five to ten with the intent of catching a slightly earlier trolley than normal. After waiting for 25 minutes with no transport in sight, I called my wife to ask if she could look on the "Service Alerts" section of the MBTA site to tell me if there had been a crash, derailment or reservoir flood, but no alerts were listed for the C branch even though the D and E lines showed 10 or 15 minute delays. Shortly afterwards, an express train sailed past the waiting passengers, and five minutes later a trolley finally arrived.

I took the trolley as far as St Mary's Street, and had I stayed on it at this point I would probably only have been about twenty minutes late for work. However, I tend to avoid going underground on the T's services wherever possible, because three years of being fairly frequently caught in dark tunnels with no hope of escape or word of rescue from the drivers (on one occasion for nearly three quarters of an hour) were enough for me to catch claustrophobia. At this point on my commute I instead usually switch to the CT2 bus to get to Kendall Square, but I had already missed it by the time I arrived this morning. As the arrival time of the Green Line is a gamble at the best of times, though, I always have the backup route of taking the 47 from the same stop instead, going to Central Square and then taking the Red Line. I did this today, and was actually impressed at how promptly the bus arrived after I started waiting.

This particular 47 bus dumped all three of its passengers unceremoniously off at the roundabout just after the Boston University Bridge - the driver said that the road ahead was blocked and that we had to leave, but offered no advice on seeking a route to continue our journey. (This trifling mile-long shortening of the route also went happily unlisted on the MBTA's site this morning.) As it trundled off, I considered walking back across the bridge to wait for the next bus likely to transport me to work, but given the performance I'd seen so far, I decided to forget it and completed the last one and a half miles of my commute on foot. I arrived at the Kendall Square stop that the next CT2 would have taken me to about two minutes before it got there itself.

My normally reasonably short commute lasted a full hour longer than usual this morning, making me late for work on a truly unprecedented level. I would like to request a refund on my $56 LinkPass as it's unlikely that I'll attempt to use your services again this month - this morning has shown me that walking is rather more pleasant and indeed can be slightly faster.

---

Unsent as yet. It needs more stewing time.
davidn: (rabbit)
Last November I was very excited that the MBTA was experimenting with an XML feed that gathered the locations of buses along five of their routes and made the data available to web developers, and I wrote a PHP page to keep track of them even though none of them were routes that were at all useful to me.

The trial still hasn't expanded, but someone has now provided something of a substitute for the interim period - Nickolai Zeldovich's MBTA map shows the last known location of all buses with GPS units, and tries its best to guess what route they're on based on where they've just been. (Also sometimes puts them in Bolivia or the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but that's a separate data problem.)

I tried this on Monday with the CT2, the route that I sometimes take home, leaving the office when I saw one of them approaching a couple of streets away. I drew into sight of the bus stop just in time to see it leave, so it seems that I need to work on my timing to compensate for the delay in updates until the actual time predictions are in place.

But after missing it, I opened up the computer, got on to the nearby bookshop's free wireless and was able to watch the buses approaching remotely, matching up the ID numbers painted on their sides to the ones that I was seeing coming past in front of me - it was amazing. Well, perhaps I'm just easily amused, but more importantly, it's striking how much the wait is improved when you can see something coming, and don't have to just stand around wondering if you're ever going to be picked up or not. This map made me enjoy waiting for the CT2, and as far as I'm concerned, that puts it well into Nobel Prize territory.
davidn: (rabbit)
My giant floppy ears were alerted to a promising development in the MBTA yesterday by the Livejournal community that was set up to moan about its usual ineptitude - they've got together with some sort of national online service provider called NextBus to provide an experimental feed that makes the GPS locations of its buses freely available.

What this means in less dull terms is that it's now possible for people who are web-inclined to tap into that feed and find out where buses are and how long it's likely to take them to arrive at their destinations - and therefore yet another project has been added to my already groaning pile. Only five routes are represented during the trial period and none of them are anywhere near the places I actually travel in Boston, but I spent some time yesterday creating a small page to collect the predictions for individual stops together, then didn't sleep at all due to having some terrible nightmares about buses.

I'm very much looking forward to it being expanded to the rest of the system and taking the guesswork out of the CT2's largely fictional timetable - for now, I've tragically been spending my compile time watching the 111-117 buses race each other to Broadway and Fourth Street remotely via the Internet.
davidn: (Default)
(Yes, it's a bit of a stretch, I'm sorry)

On-street canvassers and I have never had the best of relationships, but in the middle of the week I had the most surreal experience with one ever.

I was waiting for the bus across the river in an (ultimately futile) attempt to get home quickly from work, and though the epidemic of clipboard-wielding grinning maniacs isn't nearly as bad in Kendall Square as it was in Davis Square, there are sometimes a few of them around telling people about some issue or other. This one was preying on the people who were waiting at the bus stop and trying to get them to sign up to donate to the ACLU, and asked me just before I sat down if I had a moment to talk about gay marriage.

And even though previous experience has made me always prepared with some convincing excuse that puts them off talking to me instantly, you can't say no to that, can you? Even though the Americans had a good start in this regard, for a long time now they've been slowly voting to reverse all their shreds of cultural evolution, and pretty soon their only contribution to Western civilization will be the invention of the pancake-wrapped sausage on a stick.

So I went over to him, planning to use my other tactic of talking back to him and hopefully keeping the discussion up until my bus came. He was very nice about it and even asked what bus I was waiting for so he could watch out for it. He handed me the clipboard so that I was unable to defend myself and talked for a while brightly about what I've just mentioned above while I nodded along, ready to talk about the recent vote in Maine at any moment but unable to really get a word in edgeways.

Eventually he paused in the middle of a sentence and looked confused, which I thought was my cue to start my side of the conversation while he'd forgotten this part of his routine, but once again he got in first.

"Do you know a girl called Whitney?"

"Yes," I answered after a moment, all my thoughts of return conversation having vanished at the sudden question.

"And you're married to her, aren't you?"

This was terrible. After honing my ability to avoid the regular variety, I had been caught off guard by a psychic canvasser. He could no doubt read my every move to escape before I got the chance to try it, and I didn't even have a second controller port to fall back on. The only thing left was to admit it.

But he then revealed that he was the husband of one of Whitney's friends, who I'd met once at a game night and hadn't recognized because his mass of hair was concealed under a wooly cap. So he then switched to talking about his rubbish job for a while and let me get off free back to waiting for the bus.

About twenty minutes later I was still there, so I phoned the MBTA and asked them where the bus was, and after I convined the woman on the other end to check she told me that the one I was waiting for had never left the depot for reasons best known to itself. But by now it was nearly the next one's arrival time, so after asking her if that one was likely to ever get there, I continued to wait.

He had been listening to me talking on the phone and came over again to cosmiserate about the state of Boston's public transport. "But do you know what would really make your day?" he asked, holding out the clipboard. After our shared friends had released me not half an hour earlier, he was going to use them to his advantage instead!

But at that precise moment, the bus came, so I apologized and leapt on, getting home in not much more time than it takes to walk. I set up my work laptop there instead, immediately went on to the T site and performed my monthly application to get my money back - everyone's happy. Except the MBTA, I imagine, but if you lived here you wouldn't have any sympathy for them either.
davidn: (skull)
My love affair with the CT2 was all too brief, as after a very good start I've discovered that, like everything run by the MBTA, it is completely awful. Rather than sticking to any sort of prearranged schedule, the best way for the online time chart to describe it would be just to say it comes "when it feels like it", and sometimes not at all - twice since I confidently switched to it, a bus has failed to arrive because of having broken down at some point along its route, and when there's only meant to be one every half hour anyway, that's fairly deadly to reliability. To make up for that, sometimes two buses going in the same direction (opposite from the one that I'm going in) will arrive together, and they'll turn one around to go back the way - without changing any of the signs, that is, so when you get on one of them you always have to disregard where it says it's going and ask the driver which side of the river they're planning on taking you to.

According to the almost entirely fictional timetable I have two choices of which one to attempt to catch in the evenings - one of them if I remember to leave the office a few minutes early and one if I don't. The earlier one, which I got the very first time and is run by a man who drives like his trousers are full of bees, actually has a fairly decent on-time record and gets to the other end in ten minutes. Most of the other drivers don't feel quite the same urgency (though they're more likely to get you there alive) - one evening one of them politely trundled behind a woman pushing a shopping trolley down the middle of the road for half a street before she finally got out of the way. It can only be for this reason that some of them manage to become twenty minutes late after going only two stops from the first station to where I catch it - the first time that happened, I remember saying that there was no way to achieve that unless the driver actually had to stop and ask for directions.

Something which was to become surprisingly real today. When I got on the bus this morning, which was ten minutes late, the driver announced that she hadn't been on this route before, and during the journey called over her shoulder to the passengers when encountering junctions to ask which direction to turn. I was up at the front eventually and half wondering if I should tell her to get in the back and let me drive instead. Fairly surprised that anyone could hand someone a bus and not tell them what to do with it, I asked her what had happened when we arrived, and she showed me that she had been given notes for the wrong route.

Sometimes it's surprising that I ever manage to get to work at all. At least I'm never trapped underground any more.
davidn: (savior)
As evidence of my life not having been terribly exciting recently, on Friday I was rather eager to try a new way of getting home from work. For two and a half years I've relied on the subway - both my workplaces have been right on the T's Red Line. The trouble is that the layout of the subway means that to get there I have to go all the way into the city centre on the Green Line and then back out again. That isn't so awful now that I work only a couple of Red Line stops down, but the further trouble is that when any arm of the subway breaks down (which is almost always, now - if you see no red exclamation marks on this page then consider yourself lucky) then they'll just keep you trapped in dark tunnels without speaking to you until the problem is sorted out. After experiencing a couple of these, including once when I was imprisoned between Park Street and Boylston (which are eight inches away from each other) in a crowded train for fully 40 minutes, I'm pretty sure that I've managed to catch claustrophobia. Even when the system was running perfectly the journey often took just under an hour altogether.

It was during a trip to that travel alert page that on a whim I decided to type my home and work locations into the T's route planner, expecting very little. But instead of the route that I was already taking, it gave me a bus that I'd seen around but never paid any attention to - the CT2, which goes between the Red and Green lines on its North-South route and happens to pass by the station next to my work and the last overground stop on the Green Line, therefore skipping all underground sections entirely. Despite my usual fear and loathing of buses brought on by working in Aberdeen, it looked very promising.


I tried it on Friday evening - even the route to the bus stop is as advantageous as possible because thanks to the U-turn it makes as it approaches my work, you have to walk backwards along its route for a minute before intercepting it further down, so you can always see the bus approaching and know exactly when to start running if it comes into view. As it happened, that evening I did exactly that - the bus zoomed past when I was walking to catch it, so after a bit of a dash in and out the other side of the hotel between the two roads, I arrived exactly as the bus did. Have you read this far? Goodness me. I was exactly half its ridership - though it could have been due to it having been a holiday for most people - and an indeterminate amount of undergroundness was replaced with ten minutes being rocketed through the streets by a bus-driving maniac. It dropped me off a few steps away from joining my usual route home (the T site says it's a ten minute walk, but this is only true if you're on a Zimmer frame or are a tortoise), and after a bit of a wait for the not-subway-at-this-point train, I arrived at home twenty-five minutes after I left work.

I feel like, after enduring two and a half years of the subway, I've just been handed some sort of instantaneous travel cheat code, or something. I also feel that it's probably a bad sign that that was the analogy that sprung to my mind first. It does have a catch in that that superfast bus only comes once every half hour, and with the T's usual promptness and reliability, getting to the halfway stop on the overground line while making the outward journey might be a bit of a gamble. But if it works out in both directions, then that's almost an extra free hour in the day I'm getting.
davidn: (skull)
This morning, two of the trains on the line I take to work managed to excel themselves beyond all expectations and hit each other. So after taking the Green Line as far as the underground section starts, where we were moved to another train that got two stations before giving up as well, and being redirected to a shuttle bus that eventually weaved its way through traffic to Park Street, I decided to give up and go home. Particularly as there's meant to be a bit of snow this afternoon and they've never been very good at dealing with that either.

And Charlie was looking as optimistic about it as ever.


I'll write about something more interesting than trains soon, honest.
davidn: (skull)
Well, some people found the first one of these funny. I also plan to make a real entry out of this, because last night was a real adventure (the kind that makes you want to kill people).

> DavidN has arrived in Davis Square Station.
> Waiting...
> Waiting...
> Train arrives.
> Train defends itself with Broken down and going out of service!
> DavidN almost attacks Train.
> DavidN finds Driver instead.
> Driver is found to be clueless.
> Waiting...
> Train begins to move.
> Train is stuck just after the station.
> Another train arrives.
> Another train is stuck just before the station.
> DavidN rolls against Judgement.
> DavidN's Judgement is Really Catastrophically Dreadful.
> DavidN takes train home anyway.
> Train has arrived at Porter Square.
> Train has left Porter Square.
> Train has arrived at Harvard Square.
> Train has left Harvard Square.
> Train has arrived at Central Square.
> Waiting...
> Train has left Central Square.
> Train has actually stopped one carriage away from Central Square.
> Waiting...
> Driver attacks with misuse of the phrase "we will be moving momentarily"!
> Waiting...
> Waiting...
> Waiting...
> Driver attacks with misuse of the phrase "we will be moving momentarily" again!
> DavidN attacks Doors.
> Doors are impervious to damage.
> DavidN moves stealthily down the carriage towards the emergency intercom.
> DavidN is spotted!
> DavidN initiates Passenger Uprising!
> Passengers demand to be let out of their steel prison and get a mode of transport that moves.
> Driver gets permission to back up.
> Train is defeated.
> Doors open.
> The party has moved to Central Square - Above Ground.
> DavidN hails taxi!
> Hail unsuccessful!
> DavidN hails taxi!
> Hail unsuccessful!
> DavidN encounters Seth.
> Seth joins the party.
> Seth hails taxi!
> Hail unsuccessful!
> The party encounters Graeme, Laura and Jen.
> Graeme, Laura and Jen have joined the party.
> The party heads for Kendall on foot.
> Graeme hails taxi!
> Hail successful!
> Laura and Jen have left the party.
> The party has moved via taxi over the Longfellow Bridge.
> Graeme has left the party.
> The party has moved via taxi to Boylston.
> Seth leaves the party.
> DavidN attempts to board train.
> Doors attack!
> DavidN is hit for 50 damage!
> DavidN's normal commute recommences at nine o-fscking-three in the evening.
> MBTA loses ability "Legitimate Mode of Transport".
> DavidN loses ability "Self-Control".
> DavidN finally gets home and orders a decently large pizza.
> DavidN attacks Pizza.
> Pizza is defeated.
> So is DavidN.
davidn: (skull)
Let me tell you about the horrors of yesterday evening.

As usual, I came down to Davis Square station, which was unusually crowded for 6:30. This sometimes happens when there hasn't been a train on for a while, but isn't anything special in itself, and it wasn't long before one came and we all squeezed on.

It wasn't until it took us ten minutes to get to the next station (a short walk down the road) that it emerged that something was dreadfully wrong. We stood paralyzed in a tunnel just before the platform for a while, then the announcer came on and said that they had some traffic problems ahead because of a fire at Park Street, the central station where I change over to another line. This was when I began to get worried, but stayed on the train because of the constant reassurances that we would be moving "momentarily" - this added grammatical torture to the experience as well, but was unfortunately quite accurate because from that point to the next station, we never succeeded in limping more than about a carriage length at a time.

It was then that I got a bit fed up, and decided that if I was going to make it home before Sunday evening, I would have to overcome my fear and hatred of buses (a condition brought on by taking a sleeper-bus to England a few times and being on too many when I used to travel between Dundee and Aberdeen in first and second year of university). So I left the train and went up to the surface, where I waited about twenty minutes for a bus to bother arriving. (Nevertheless, I would later find out that this was a very good choice).

As the bus tried with difficulty to navigate through the traffic (nobody knows how to drive in this city, there are no road signs and everyone is on the wrong side of the road), I had a decent conversation about Doom with the skater dude next to me, who recognized what I was playing on my laptop. Apparently, even though the bus seemed as slow as the train, that was its perfectly normal operational state. With some guidance as to where to get off to be nearest the Green Line, I eventually got to Coolidge Corner to see an entire pilgrimage worth of people stranded there waiting for a train to arrive. At that point it felt best to walk home - another journey that had taken me double the normal time.

But when I looked up the various Boston news communities, it turned out that I was the one of the people that had made a good decision. Later on its journey, when crossing the bridge from Kendall to Charles/MGH over the river, the train had stopped for about forty-five minutes, doors locked, with only the constant reassurances from the driver that they would eventually move. After an hour of this, driven mad by the heat, cramp and her misuse of "momentarily", the passengers formed an uprising against the MBTA oppression, forced the doors open and walked to freedom. (The story behind the link happened in the morning - so it's rather incredible that a repeat of the situation happened hours later).

Now, if Park Street had been a blazing inferno, I could possibly have understood the reason for this complete breakdown. But according to the news sites that I looked at, the gigantic incident at Park Street was a small fire in a bin that a station employee stamped out with his foot. Apparently there was also a bit of smouldering plastic that found its way on to the line, so they had to turn the power off and on again, but this hardly accounts for the delays that they were experiencing last night - something else must have been going on while the MBTA officials were cheerfully saying to the media that service was never affected. Unless Boston is now genuinely this scared of terrorism, light boards, batteries, fire and twigs. We might as well just give up and hide under blankets.

Coming Home

Sep. 7th, 2007 10:36 pm
davidn: (skull)
18:30: Leave work to see if Park Street has exploded.

18:32: Open laptop, start up a game from the "Retro" folder and wait as usual.

18:55: First train to Braintree arrives. Everyone piles on.

19:00: Train arrives at Harvard.

19:05: It's announced that the train will skip Central and Kendall.

19:08: Train stops because of "technical difficulties".

19:10: Train leaves Harvard.

19:14: Train stops at Kendall anyway. Doesn't bother opening its doors.

19:20: Train arrives at a boiling, crowded Park Street.

19:22: D train goes past on the wrong line.

19:23: D train goes past on the right line.

19:24: C train arrives, much to everyone's surprise. Some sort of announcement is made. Nobody knows what it is.

19:27: Train has limped to Boylston.

19:38: We have come out of the tunnels to reach daylight again. Or at least, we would if it was still light outside.

19:43: Laptop battery has run out. Continued log on stopwatch.

19:51: Arrive at stop halfway down the Green Line. Get off as fast as possible.

An hour and twenty-five minutes to get home - a new record. It's strange how short these spans of time seem when I actually write them out, but it's excruciating being stuck on a train that's going nowhere in the middle of a tunnel. I should probably be glad that I take the trains, though, because apparently the only reason that they arrive at all is because they're stuck to the rails - one of the bus drivers recently said to Whitney that we don't get many buses on the route outside our flat because his colleagues take shortcuts so that they miss it by miles.

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