Over-, Under-ground Misadventures

MTBA map

Dear Reader,

Boston’s extensive public transportation system is one of the city’s greatest assets, when it’s working…. I often travel on the subway (known as the “T”) and yesterday, I planned to use the T to get to the Samuel Adams Brewery in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. I started my commute on the Red line north of Boston and planned to take an easy trip from north to south to arrive at the brewery, which is located along the Orange line. As a frequent T rider, I took the commute for granted and was surprised when my journey ended up being an adventure in itself.

The T is under, what seems to be, a continuing state of maintenance. To accommodate construction, sometimes sections of the T are temporarily shut down and passengers are diverted to shuttles. This weekend, multiple sections of the T system were being serviced. Ordinarily, to get from the Red Line to the brewery, one need only change to the Orange line downtown and ride south until the Stony Brook station. Yesterday, my journey took me about 90 mins, when it should have taken under an hour.

Red Line

I started my commute on the north end of the Red line. Due to maintenance, I boarded a shuttle, which took me inbound to Harvard Square station. From there, I paid my fare and took the T downtown. As I am now a confident local and frequent commuter, I typically drown out the din of the train and crackly voice of the conductor with my headphones. This was a mistake, because I failed to hear that a crucial section of the Orange line was closed, and passengers headed in that direction must disembark at another stop. I made a mistake.

Park Street Station, Red/Green line junction

I got off the train too late and had to cross the station and wait for a return train. Back one stop, I was instructed that I would need to take a detour along the Green line. Meaning, instead of simply hopping from the Red line to the Orange line, I had to go from Red to Green to Orange and squandered a few minutes on the Green line heading west instead of south. I disembarked at Copley station on the Green line and was informed that I would need to leave the comfort of the underground and walk three blocks to board an Orange line train at Back Bay station. With signs to guide my path, I dashed the distance in short time through the frigid Boston winter wind.

Descending the stairs at Back Bay station, I became reinvigorated because this section on the Orange line would be the final leg of my journey. I deflated when I made it to the platform and saw that the trains to this station were only running at 13- to 18-min intervals. Fifteen minutes later, I heard screeching and saw my orange savior chug onto the tracks. The Orange line trains are not in the best shape, but I lit up all the same when I saw the familiar lights and carriage emerge from around the corner. From Back Bay station to the brewery, the trip was smooth.

Orange Line

To recap, my journey should have been an inbound T ride on the Red line, a changeover to the Orange line downtown, and a departure at Stony Brook station. Instead what happened was a shuttle ride, a leg on the Red and Green lines, a brisk walk between the Green and Orange lines, a 15-min wait at Back Bay station, and then a short journey on the Orange line to my destination. Jeez Louise!

As someone with no plans other than to visit a brewery on a Saturday afternoon, I consider myself very lucky that the epic delay was nothing more than an inconvenience. I know many others depend on T service for work and appointments. I cannot imagine the stress that I would feel if this massive delay occurred the day of a job interview. Although we were all a little disgruntled, the MTBA service staff remained friendly and helpful as they explained detours and directions to us. Also, to compensate for such inconveniences, many parts of the T system are free to ride when routes are diverted or significantly delayed.

I may be a local, but every once and a while I feel like a newbie. My trip on the T could have been a “nightmare,” however, I chose to see it as an unexpected “adventure,” and I ended up happier because of this shift in mindset. We may not always be able to control delays; however, we are in charge of our emotions and attitudes. While my trip was long, it made arriving at my destination more eagerly anticipated. To all of you riding public transport—I wish you safe and predictable journeys.

Love,

Raven

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