Why the MBTA are A Pack of Gormless Fuckwits

Well, if that didn’t get you to click on this article, then nothing will.

In my defense, while this may seem like a rather harsh headline, I sometimes often always post mild-mannered bitchy complaints about the things that are unpleasant stupid in the state where I pay mostly ill-spent tax I call home. In this instance, I am referring mostly to the higher-ups in the hierachy of the MBTA/MCA that would have left ol’ Chazza occupying the MBTA rather than being doomed to be stuck on it like some horribly unfunny version of an U.N.K.L.E video.

Below are a list of eight of the various complaints rants that have popped into my head and never left during my journeys torturous wretchedness perpetuated by ineffectual jobsworths on the Newburyport/Rockport line:

1. Same as It Ever Was

Look at this old photograph of Salem Station:

Salem Station, c.1900 (salemfocus.com)

Look how cool those old-timey carriages are! You can see the old tunnel with the tracks there.

Now look at a photo of Salem Station as it currently looks: It still looks the fucking same!

A road with two lines carved out to make room for some scanty tracks that wouldn’t be out of place in a Barbie playset.

At least the old Salem station had trains that went underground instead of right by people’s faces! And this is even more inconvenient by having to traverse a mutant Escher set of staircases to get to the fucking thing (that’s if you don’t fall through the many holes in the damn steps).

2. They are Never on Time

The concept of time exists in an entirely separate and foreign state when it comes to MBTA timetables. Good luck ever getting info on the subway, but at least, for the commuter rail, you can use the official schedules to get a general idea of when the lumbering bucket of bolts will eventually decide to show up. If you’re at North Station, expect to be surrounded by all your fellow future passengers and not have your train announced until 3 minutes before departure, turning the entirety of the station into a giant travelling moshpit.

But if  it’s raining/snowing/too hot/too cold/there’s a Bruins/Red Sox/Patriots game on, then you had better have your e-reader/phone/tablet/crossword book ready to last, because those game-changers make it impossible to guesstimate when this tin shell Goldilocks will steam-fart its way into railroading your schedule.

3. Everything is Old

On the subject of weather, don’t expect much in the way of help from the station’s waiting area. Looking like a homeless taxi driver designed and built it, it has benches that, while situated away from the sun, often smell of tramp piss and are decorated with varieties of old chewing gum, outmoded graffiti and bird shit. As for the tin foil shack roof, even the slightest drizzle of rain will pool up in certain areas and then suddenly drench you like the biggest jerk at a frat party wet t-shirt contest.

The trains themselves are like reject simpletons from Back to the Future Part III. How these trains still exist I don’t know, because they are constantly having signal problems (“every Friday it always gets stuck at Beverly”, according to an MBCR conductor I heard at North Station). Also, MBTA ticket machines: stop charging me twice when you said you only read my CharlieCard once.

4. Everything is Malfunctioning

Earlier this week, I was treated to (one of many occasions) an entire train car without power, which caused an alarm to go off. It sounded like someone’s stupid retro ring tone, only incessant and loud. A couple of people exchanged looks, then just sat there in silence. Great job, morons! If this had been a horror movie, all of you would have been nameless fodder killed off before the opening titles.

There was no conductor in sight, and since this was the 5.30pm express from North Station to Salem and tickets had just been taken, no-one would be around to open doors/hear it for a good 25 minutes.

Upon reaching a conductor (who was shocked that the other conductor was not back there with us), he said it was “just an alarm to tell us that the lights are off”. Because the fact that the lights are off is not enough to tell us that the lights are off? It wasn’t just the lights. WiFi was also disabled and there was no ventilation. 25 minutes of CO2 buildup, sweating, dizziness and many people looking understandably panicked, because the windows do not open on these trains.

5. Everything is Dangerous

Let’s also witness the speed of a train coming in from Boston going towards Rockport:

Much slower than the train coming in from Rockport to Boston:

Be careful if you want to be one of those plucky souls standing at the head of the crowd to claim your seat by being in front of one of the two sets of open doors on the entire damn train. And don’t even bother with an umbrella or a skirt; you’ll just lose the functionality of both in the most embarrassingly public fashion.

6. They Don’t Care About Their Conductors

An MBCR conductor who’s on one of the rush hour trains advised me that no conductors are allowed to carry cellphones. So when there’s a delay and we’re stuck on the tracks for 20 fucking minutes, she can’t just look up service alerts on her phone or call someone.

Another employee, Tom, was retiring and it was left to his regular passengers to congratulate him when we disembarked at North Station. Perspective: A seeing-eye dog at my work retired and got two cakes. TWO!!

But at least their execs get nicely spoiled after being able to “retire”…

7. The Conductors Don’t Care About Us

Many times a conductor has not bothered to collect tickets if the train is too full (i.e. people are standing in the aisles because their usual train was late/a no-show). First of all, an issue is that the conductor lets the train get that full. Fire hazard, anyone??

If you’re taking the bus (God help you), once you put your money into that box/swipe your CharlieCard, the driver stops giving a crap about your physical and mental well-being, and will shoot off down the roads as if he were an escaped mental patient trying to pose as an MBTA driver who was mad that he failed his driving test. Doesn’t matter if you’re an old lady on crutches or a small child with brittle bones – he will zoom off unless you actually request that he waits.

Let’s also not forget the day I saw a woman violently throw up all over the front half of the bus, and instead of driving back at the end of the route (my stop was the last stop) or asking if she was OK, he just switched over and let dozens of new passengers soak their flip-flops in her still-warm, chunky piles of fresh vomit.

8. They’re Penny-pinchers Who are Really Bad at PhotoShop

MBTA reps gave a talk at a few town meetings around the North Shore proposing two options for saving money (for them, not for us):

  • They increase all fares and eliminate almost all of the bus services
  • They increase all fares even more and keep almost all of the bus services.

For option 2, I’d be paying almost $8 for a one-way into Boston. Right now I’m paying $5.50 for a sparse schedule across antiquated trains that as dangerous as they are slow. How about a blue-line expansion from Wonderland?

Apparently a Salem resident suggested skimming some MBTA exec salaries to cover up the shortfalls. But no, the logic was to cut services (even buses – the last resort for many [and the only resort for some]) and raise prices. But not improve a single fucking one of those services.

Instead, we are promised an expansion of Salem Station. In September 2014 (yeah, right), we are going to be treated to a 9-storey car park, “upgrades to seating” (no more tramp piss?) and a lobby with two elevators so they can finally comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (22 years after the rest of the country).

Their PhotoShop skills on their conceptualized approach from Washington Street (great job not numbering your slides, either) leave a lot to be desired. On second thought, it just looks like someone put the top photo into MS Paint and just coloured in a bunch of purple smudges. It looks like a giant, melting bruise with cheese in the middle.

So thank you, MBTA, for being woefully out of touch with your customers and making me miss the relative simplicity, comfort and cost-value of English public transportation.

The Charlie on the MTA song was originally used as a campaign song for a political party who favored an end to racial segregation, full voting rights for black people, and a universal health care system. The fact that the MBTA appropriated this character into a minstrelling mascot that looks like someone dressed up for a court date just shows how much they continue to take the piss.


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