It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

The MBTA Follies continue

Hot on the heels of the MBTA's incredibly piss-poor response to passengers on stranded Red Line trains, who eventually took matters into their own hands and staged their own evacuation, comes a story from WBZ-TV regarding an alert viewer who noticed that some Emergency Exit gates in the Central Square station were visibly locked and chained shut. Rather than contact the T about it, which at this point would have accomplished nothing but a blank stare and no response at all, the wise viewer decided to contact the media about it. So out goes WBZ to investigate and boy howdy they go yup, them gates is locked.

The MBTA's crazy cuckoo clock goes BING BONG BING BONG and out trots Joe Pesaturo, the T's mouthpiece whose job I do not envy and would not wish on my absolute worst enemy, to babble these gems of wisdom:
According to Pesaturo, the exits are remnants from the day of T turnstiles, before the new Charlie Card gates. The new style of gate stays open in an emergency, eliminating the need for the specific Emergency Exits. "We installed ... gates at a lot of our exits that used to be just exits only, so now they're entrance exits," explains MBTA Spokesperson Joe Pesaturo. "In an emergency, the alarm is activated and (the gate) will slide open automatically, allowing people to exit the station freely."

Acknowledging the confusion and concern over having locks on gates marked 'Emergency Exit', Pesaturo told WBZ's Dawn Hasbrouck the gates would now be relabeled. "There's a sign on it that says emergency exit that doesn't look right, so the first thing we're going to do is remove that sign," said Pesaturo.
So lemme get this straight.

1. The MBTA is relying on the Charlie Card gates, which have a 75% chance of working properly during regular conditions, to recognize when some "alarm" is activated and slide open automatically.

2. The MBTA presumes the Charlie Card gates recognize this mythical "HEY AN EMERGENCY IS GOING ON" alarm, whatever the hell that is (just connected to the fire alarm? what?) even during a loss of electricity. I know power outages are so incredibly rare that they never happen during an emergency. I seem to recall an incident earlier this year where the Charlie gates refused to open during a power outage at a station, which concerns me greatly if, indeed, it did happen (and I'm trying hard to find the story on UHUB) it's a serious problem if the T really does mean what it said in the second half of that quote, which...

3. The second half of that quote is so mind-bogglingly inept that I'm grinding my teeth to a fine powder just thinking about it. It's almost a Simpsons joke. "Hey! What's up with these gates with Emergency Exit signs being chained and locked?" "Oh! Ha ha! Silly us! We made a boo-boo. We'll remove those Emergency Exit signs immediately."

I'm no Safety Expert (and neither is anybody at the T, apparently) but I do know that emergency exits not only need to provide quick egress, but they need to WORK. Gates that you open from the outside with crash bars have been proven to WORK. Charlie Card gates have not been proven to WORK, or even WORK RELIABLY. I fear that the gates were never tested properly, or tested enough, or tested with anybody with safety in mind, and for the T to solely rely on them as the means of safely getting people out of a hazardous situation while eschewing mechanical, non-electrical gates that HAVE worked is just horribly, terribly, completely WRONG.

I will mention, as others have already done in the comments below, that the gates are designed with a failsafe and are supposed to automatically open (i.e. the electricity keeps 'em closed) in the event of loss of power. But I just don't trust 'em. I can't trust 'em. Not when the systems were built as they were, with gates that don't function in the winter and payment systems that break down every month when people attempt to purchase their monthly passes.

There's one way for the MBTA to ease my mind and, I suspect, a lot of other regular commuters, and that's to provide proof that the gates will work "as designed" to open themselves up in an emergency, or even just in the event of a loss of power. Where are the testing results? Where is any of this? Far away from us, since the MBTA enjoys its monolithic status and policies of keeping commuters in the dark. Now I'm worried that nothing short of another Cocoanut Grove disaster (which wasn't transit-related, of course, but did involve emergency exits or the lack thereof) will get the MBTA to rethink its safety procedures.

Man! What is going wrong with my beloved city?!
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