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September 7th, 2005


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10:53 am - signal trippers suck
The up escalator at South Station has been broken for over two weeks. They have a guy posted at the bottom of the steps pointing people to the nearest elevator, which is slightly out of the way but at least it's better than having the old folks completely at a loss as to where to go. The sign on the escalator says "ESCALATOR RENOVATION" but that's what they said the last time the escalator was broken. Which was roughly a month ago. I think they just don't have any other signs.

The Red Line driver I had today was running late. I could tell he (or she) was running late, because she (or he) kept tripping all the goddamn signals. Tripping the signals involves illegally running through a red signal. Running a red signal is illegal, cause, you're, like, supposed to STOP at those things. When this happens, the train runs over an upraised "trip arm" which triggers an emergency stop, grinding the train to a halt and you have to reset shit and then proceed. Ever had the Red Line just screech to a halt and then pause for a minute or two? It's not because the train busted or anything. Someone just tripped a signal. Hooray, now you'll be late!

An experienced driver can often time the signals just right and approach a red at speed, assuming it'll change just before he gets there (I've seen NYC drivers do this) and I'm sure there's some nifty name for it like "riding the reds" or somesuch, but this Boston schmoe was wholly unsuccessful at it. Might have been an ex-Green Line driver, since I don't believe the Green Line has trip arms, but that's beside the point. We tripped the signals at least three times between Harvard and Central, if I'm counting correctly, and twice between Central and Kendall. There may have been a slower train ahead of us, but that's no reason to incur more lateness and passenger annoyance by tripping the signals and making the cars smell of burnt rubber brake pads. A hypertense driver, especially one who's worried about being late, is never a good thing.

Then to hasten things along, they kept trying to shut the doors on us at South Station. There were at least four of us inside the train, ready to disembark, when they tried to shut the doors for the first time. They shut on someone halfway through the train door. Ding ding! The doors reopened, the person in the middle made it through, and the doors defiantly tried to shut on the next person leaving. Ding ding! This one had some airport bags. The person behind her had airport bags too. Guess who the doors tried to shut on next. Ding ding! I ducked out safely and glared at the goddamn door shutter as the train roared off, no doubt to trip some more signals between South Station and Broadway. I've had the doors shut on me as I was running to board a train, but never as I was trying to get off one. Golly, but the MBTA is full of fun and surprises!

(Good thing we weren't in a car with non-recycling doors, eh?)

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:acsumama
Date:September 7th, 2005 05:34 pm (UTC)
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I'm kind of surprised they generally keep the drivers each assigned to a single line. I'd get so bored driving back and forth in the same tunnel. Also, there's one driver on the DC red line who I wish would show up on other lines, so I could for example take the "orange line to V-V-V-Viiienna/Fairfax!"
[User Picture]
From:laurenhat
Date:September 7th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC)
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What the heck is with the non-recycling doors, anyway?

And how did you learn these seekrit things about tripping the reds? And why are they red -- does red mean "other train up ahead, so don't go, you dummy"?
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:September 7th, 2005 06:02 pm (UTC)
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Non-recycling doors are doors that don't have automatic sensors that stop and re-open if they sense an obstruction, such as someone with travel bags. There's new stickers going up on those doors that explain things a bit better than "THESE DOORS DO NOT RECYCLE" (which makes it sound as if the doors are throwing their cardboard and glass bottles away instead of putting them in the blue bin or something.

As far as signals go, trains run on a block system. The signals mark the beginning and end of each "block", or section of track. Stations and platforms count as a block, too. To prevent smash-ups and other fun accidents, the general rule is that there must be at least one unoccupied block between two trains at all times (at least that's how it is with roller coasters.) Now I'm not sure how the Red Line handles all of its signals, but it's pretty much universal that a red signal, yeah, means "other train up ahead, so don't go, you dummy!" There's another signal, usually yellow, which means "Go slow, cause there's gonna be a red signal up ahead, you dummy." Each line has its own signal rules, as well as other signals (yellow over red, double yellow, some guy with a hammer and an evil grin) but that's the general gist of things.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:September 7th, 2005 06:03 pm (UTC)
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(By "each line" I mean each rail company. New York has its own rules, Amtrak has its own rules, etc etc etc. Boston's Green Line also has some variations, too.)
[User Picture]
From:jadasc
Date:September 7th, 2005 06:07 pm (UTC)
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There's new stickers going up on those doors that explain things a bit better than "THESE DOORS DO NOT RECYCLE"

On one train, I saw a "DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?" sticker below each one. It explained it in simple terms, then chastised the MBTA for not having made the change in terminology or mechanism years before.
[User Picture]
From:laurenhat
Date:September 8th, 2005 02:37 am (UTC)
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Ah! See, my theory was that the stickers were unofficial -- placed there by graffitiing activists who were complaining that the doors were somehow bad for the environment. But I wasn't quite sure what it was they were failing to recycle. The message still makes no sense to me, but at least now I know. And knowing is half the battle.
[User Picture]
From:bostonista
Date:September 7th, 2005 06:18 pm (UTC)
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Recycling is good for the planet!
[User Picture]
From:eeka13
Date:September 7th, 2005 07:18 pm (UTC)
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Especially if the planet gets stuck in the door.
[User Picture]
From:eeka13
Date:September 7th, 2005 06:29 pm (UTC)
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I just have to, as an eeka, point out that you seem to have perpetuated a stereotype that people with disabilities (who need elevators) are all old. Stoppit!
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:September 7th, 2005 07:11 pm (UTC)
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Point well taken. But the old couple with matching luggage asking the elevator pointer-outter man which way to the bus station were, yes, old.
[User Picture]
From:eeka13
Date:September 7th, 2005 07:17 pm (UTC)
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DAMMIT STOP CALLING THE OLD PEOPLE OLD PEOPL...uh wait...
From:yuda
Date:September 8th, 2005 08:17 pm (UTC)
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Of course, if Boston is anything like DC, the subway elevators also have a "fat, lazy people" constituency to them.
[User Picture]
From:eeka13
Date:September 7th, 2005 06:34 pm (UTC)
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OH, and on the subject of vertical transportation, the other day I was at Roxbury Crossing and there was a sign on the elevator, at PLATFORM LEVEL, saying "elevator out of order; see station attendant for assistance."

See, um, in order to get to the station attendant, one needs to GO UPSTAIRS FROM WHERE THAT SIGN IS.

I actually called a couple of friends who use wheelchairs to see if any of them were around and could train it over, get out at that platform, and allow me to photograph (and subsequently blog them) with that sign. It would have been SUCH a fun photo, given the open layout of that station, where I could get the person stranded on the platform and the upper level with the attendant all in one photograph and label it.

ATTENDANT ------>

VADER THAT DURNT WORK -------->

PERSON WHO CAN'T USE STAIRS ------>

But alas, no one I called picked up... :o\
[User Picture]
From:terras
Date:September 8th, 2005 04:43 am (UTC)
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The Red Line uses Automated Train Operation (ATO), which means that a nice computer, on the train itself, will prevent the driver from operating in an unsafe manner. If you over-run the red signal, a penalty braking application is triggered, and more than two (I think) per shift gets a motorman pulled for retraining. I don't think that there are physical trip arms on the MBTA system, but I could be mistaken.

ATO is different from Automated Train Control (ATC), which BART uses (used?). Basically, with ATO and ATC, you don't need a human on the train, and everything from acceleration and braking, to the doors, can be controlled from a remote control center.

Personally, I'd rather that the T implement some form of ATO/ATC on the buses, since they could then kick the surly, ungrateful, drivers to the curb.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:September 8th, 2005 02:52 pm (UTC)
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There's still physical trip arms on the Orange Line. You can watch 'em do their thing right outside Wellington. But now I'm wondering if they're still an actual, functioning part of the signal system, or if they've just been left to raise and lower without any actual consequence.
[User Picture]
From:terras
Date:September 9th, 2005 02:42 am (UTC)
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The Orange Line's signal system, north of Haymarket, is being completely replaced. That's why the T is shutting down the Orange Line north of Sullivan most nights. Those trip arms should be in use until next fall, I think.

For transit-geekery, if you look carefully near the north end of the Haymarket platform, you can see a "Wayside Override" sign. That tells the motorman to disable the ATO for the remainder of the run to Oak Grove.

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