Now these problems aren't all the express fault of the MBTA -- fires happen, trains can derail -- so that's not what's so annoying and infuriating about the story. The real problem lies in the T's response, or lack thereof, in the afternoon problem. In a situation like this, what does the T do for the passengers on the affected trains? Apparently nothing, because after being stuck for nearly an hour in a hot, crowded to the point of bursting Red Line train with no power, no A/C and a bunch of near-panicked middle school kids running out of air, one passenger reports that the folks stuck inside her train near Kendall actually forced open the doors and let themselves out. Upon reaching fresh air, they noticed another train stuck on the Longfellow Bridge whose passengers were similarly evacuating themselves. There was trouble on the bridge as passengers tried to keep the cars on the bridge at bay so the passengers could get off safely, too.
But where was the T? Were any announcements made? Was there any attempt made to reassure the passengers in the stuck trains? Did the drivers go from train to train telling folks it'd be all right, letting them know what happened, reassuring them that things were going to be fixed in due time? Did they even attempt to explain what was wrong, and when they might expect to be going?
Well? Did they?
Or did they just figure well, we'll just let the passengers sit in a darkened train for as long as it takes, they'll be fine, no need to tell them anything?
I don't know either way. Nobody blogging on the bloggity blog world said anything about hearing any announcements or instructions from MBTA officials, and all I could find on an official T response was a Globe article where Joey "The Mouthpiece" Pesaturo explained that an MBTA official was on the scene and that the evacuation was "unauthorized." Oh so there was at least an official on the scene. Did that official do anything official to help, or did they just sniff dismissively and make chiding "this was unauthorized!" prattling?
Take a look at the pictures on the page with the first-person account of the evacuations. Notice how people are helping their fellow passengers out. Notice how they're making sure everybody negotiates the way-too-high step off, using a fencepost for a foothold, notice how people are holding hands and providing assistance and, eventually, staving off the cars on the bridge who didn't seem to want to stop with a sudden influx of pedestrians on the road.
People were helping each other, making sure the people on their train first A. didn't panic in the hot and cramped compartments and B. made it off the train safely so they did not have to suffer any longer for, as far as they knew, was a wait for an indefinite amount of time.
What was the T doing? Judging from the pictures and the lack of any T employees involved in the evacs, not a whole damn lot.
This is just further evidence that the T treats its passengers as cargo -- freight cargo -- and not people. Freight doesn't care if it gets stuck in a boxcar for an hour or two. It doesn't complain or worry about lack of air or wonder what the hell's going on. Freight doesn't need to be told what's going on. All freight needs to do is sit there and eventually it'll start moving again, and it doesn't care either way, really.
People, on the other hand, well, people are sentient. People need to know what's going on -- even if it's "We're not sure what's happened" -- and they need to know that they're going to be okay. That's because they have brains that can rationalize and make cognitive brain thingies.
I can't say the same for the T.
Frankly I find it absolutely deplorable that the T ignored its stuck passengers to the point where the passengers felt like they had to evacuate the trains themselves. That is terrible customer service -- hell, it's not even service at all -- and staying in the trains could have posed a serious health problem if someone had panicked, or if someone had passed out, or otherwise required serious medical attention while stranded on the tracks, especially in the Kendall tunnel if there was no cellphone reception or any way to call for help.
So the next time Danny Boy Graubaskas pipes in on the station intercoms with his pre-recorded "it's your job to keep us safe from the terrists" announcement and begins his inane speech with the useless platitude "Safety is our number one concern at the T", if you hear someone in the station loudly coughing "BULLSHIT!" that person will probably be me. Because it's clearly obvious that's not the case. I wholeheartedly encourage you to join in on the coughing whenever you hear that.