Crowded Platform


South Station Red Line, Evening Rush Hour

What does a crowded platform mean?  Is it a sign of success or a sign of failure?  When the MBTA compiles its ridership statistics, do they record the situation in the picture to the right as a roaring success?  Do they simply say “there were like a thousand people who boarded that train at South Station during the evening rush hour; hooray?”

There isn’t really any question in my mind how the patrons standing on the platform would have answered the question.  When you get down to it, there really isn’t much difference between sucking tailpipe emissions on Storrow Drive and becoming better-acquainted than you’d like with strangers on the subway.  Probably the main difference is scenery; there’s no advertising on Storrow Drive.

The T doesn’t usually give live feedback, but on the day of the picture the train driver gave passengers who boarded from the very crowded platform an unusually syrupy-sweet send off.  She knew the crowded platform was trouble.  But when the transit scribes meticulously record the events of the day, how will they see it?  I wonder.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Feb. 12, Red Line a.m. rush hour

Can you spot three things that are wrong with this picture?

Some days, riding on the T is such an adventure. February 12 was just such a day. I took a picture. Can you see what’s wrong with that picture?

First, the train is in the station and the doors are open. When that happens everyone is supposed to board for a quick ride into the city, right? Not this morning. The train is full and the platform is full too.

Second — this one is more subtle — no one is getting on and no one is trying to get off. An experienced rider knows that T patrons will crowd around the doors for endless minutes after a full train arrives, hoping that persistence will be rewarded with a two-foot square spot on the floor of the train. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not, but a big group of people always try. In the picture, no one is trying. Why, you might ask? Because by the time the picture was taken the train had been sitting at the platform with the doors open for at least ten minutes. After a time the conductor announced that there was a “disabled train” ahead.

Third … the train isn’t actually full. Okay, so it’s not clear from the picture but the rail car to the left is sealed and dark. The doors never opened and no one was allowed to ride in it. This also happens from time-to-time without explanation. In good circumstances everyone crowds into adjoining cars. In bad … they pack the platform shoulder-to-shoulder waiting for the next train.

The train in the picture left the station after a wait of perhaps ten minutes more, and the crowd at the station pictured (Porter Square) mostly was able to catch the second train after this one (meaning some caught the next train and the rest caught the second one after).  Riders waiting at stations closer to Boston, i.e., Central, probably had to watch three or four full trans go by before they were able to board.

It’s enough almost to make you want to sit in traffic!

Forgotten Tunnels

Tunnel into Broadway Station

Broadway Trolley Tunnel

Boston has been scrubbed clean over the years of its miscellaneous unused transit infrastructure.  In particular, the elevated railroads nearly all are gone.  Most recently, the sun shined on Causeway Street.  In the summer I stumbled onto one of the pieces of unused transit infrastructure that hasn’t been removed.


This tunnel entrance is located just southeast of the Fort Point Channel, facing the Red Line railyards.  It could be a lot of things.  I have a hunch that it is a trolley access for a disused upper level in Broadway Station.  Apparently several of the Red Line stations were built with trolley mezzenines that since have been abandoned.  If that was the tunnel’s use, then it wouldn’t ever have had a direct link into the Red Line tracks.