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The MBTA celebrates 115 years of (at times) frustrating service

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  September 7, 2012 12:10 PM

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Orange Line Sept 2012.jpg

(Jeremy C. Fox for

These Orange Line passengers observed the venerable tradition of standing by at Downtown Crossing.

The MBTA celebrates 115 years of questionable service

Storified by Jeremy C. Fox · Fri, Sep 07 2012 08:53:23

The MBTA turned 115 years old last weekend, and how did it celebrate? Well, mostly by doing all the same frustrating things it does every week, judging by Twitter posts from the past seven days. 

Certainly no one tweeting with the #MBTAannoy hashtag seemed in a celebratory mood, but at least one tweeter used #MBTAbrag to show that the event did not go unnoticed:
Saturday night activities @mbtaGM #mbtabrag #mbta #boston™
@GoDLC @mbtaGM about the cake... the green in the corner reps that time the Green Line caught on fire #mbtabrag #mbtaDLC™
Other than that, it was pretty much the same old same old. From the ample frustration of being thwarted at every turn:
Just got kicked off two B line trains in a row (expressed/rerouted). #MBTAannoyArthur Liu
To the small inconvenience of beginning one's day without a coffee and a cruller:
The holiday T schedule means we have to run to make our train. With no time to stop at Dunks. #MBTAannoyWhitney
Certainly there were no fewer delays this week than any other. Just look at the evidence: 
Thanks for the early morning adrenal squeeze, #MBTA - not sure why I had to wait for the Silver Line for almost half an hour. #mbtaannoyErin Turowski
Why is it when it rains, the bus automatically becomes drastically late?! I can only imagine how this winter will be.... #mbtaannoySage Luce
Waiting underground on the Red Line Is it a disabled train or has the signal system failed again? #mbtaannoyrev8056
So glad I got out an hour and a half early just to sit on the red line for over an hour because of "switch problems" #MBTAannoyLauren
My #mbta train ride home took 1.5 hours longer than it should have! #mbtaannoyCesar Morales
Stuck on #OrangeLine train standing by at Dtn Xing. Phone's about to die so I can't even complain long. #MBTAannoyJeremy C. Fox
As this rider points out, a delay's a delay, whether the MBTA calls it that or not. 
Amazing An hour to get from Charles to Braintree and T doesn't consider it a service delay Well done Davis #mbta #mbtaannoy #mbtaGMrev8056
Sabrina the Wise Latina is a commuter who knows a thing or two about delays. Again this week, as in weeks past, she tweets a mini-narrative of her travails on a sluggish Red Line. 
@mbtaGM why is this Alewife bound Braintree train stopped? We are just before JFK... Just seating here, I mean standing. #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
@mbtaGM Come on, red line, let's go! I have to get to work! #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
@mbtaGM OMG it has stopped again! Just before South Station. What's going on? #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
@mbtaGM It's the 1st week of school & the MBTA doesn't seem to be equipped to handle the high volume of people. Get it together! #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
That sounds very frustrating. But here's what we want to know about delays: why is it the trains headed the opposite direction always seem to come far more frequently than the trains on the side you're waiting for? 
One train to Bowdoin for every three to Wonderland. Where do they all go? #intothesea #MBTAannoyGrey's Fabric
At least Arthur offered constructive criticism:
@mbtaGM I understand traffic is beyond your control, but please consider running more 86 inbound buses weekdays 4-6pm. #MBTAannoyArthur Liu
And Joshua tried to frame his frustrating ride to work as an educational experience. 
Today's 2.5 hour commute is brought to you by rain, signaling problems on the Green Line, and the letters "W," "T," and "F." #MBTAannoyJoshua Warren
For a system that's well over a century old, the MBTA does make some noteworthy efforts to keep up with the times. But some riders aren't terribly impressed with the system's recent innovations, such as the new customer service center at Downtown Crossing.
The charliecard store is just another RMV, but underground and 90 degrees in line #mbtaannoyMegan Wittenberger
Other riders like the countdown clocks the T is in the process of adding to stations, but they feel some riders are getting preferential treatment.
#mbtaannoy The countdown clock on the Red Line is very nice. Too bad Blue Line commuters don't get the same level of attention. @mbtaGMNeenah Estrella-Luna
Red Line arrival times posted at Park St? Awesome. Now if only they did it for the Green Line...#mbtabragAlyssa Biggs
Don't despair, Neenah! If the clocks are successful on the Red Line, the T plans to gradually add them to the Blue and Orange lines as well. Though not to the Green Line,"because it has only a rudimentary tracking system." Sorry, Alyssa. 

But then again, you may not be missing much. Many #MBTAannoy complaints are about failing technology and equipment, so let's not get too excited yet. 
In a broken down #mbta train that is going to be pushed by the train behind us all the way to #Framingham ... #mbtaannoy #Kindle #WarHorseCesar Morales
2 trains ahead of P527 are "hooked together". Now Both trains will be boarding this train, and the one behind us. #MBTAannoy #mbtafail #mbcrKen Carmichael
WiFi on #MBCR is horrible. Time for an upgrade perhaps. #MBTAannoyAnn McDonald
Parking at JFK Let me guess the switch is broken again #mbtaannoy #rev8056
One thing that probably has changed in the last 115 years is rider etiquette. It's hard to imagine the stiff folks in those old sepia-toned photographs acting like this:
The guy next to me is sitting with his legs at a 45 degree angle from each other. I guess 3/4 a seat is better than none. #MBTAannoyJohn Hanawalt
I spy 3 girls taking up two seats each- one for them and one for their umbrella. #MBTAannoy #notokayAshley Murphy
Hey cutie on the T. Yes, I was interested, until you started picking your teeth with your fingers. #Boston #singlegirlproblems #mbtaannoyMarissa Breton
And what is it about the elevator at the Chinatown stop? 
pretty sure mr.sketch riding Chinatown elevator is gonna smoke whatever was badly concealed in his hands after baby and I left #MBTAannoyThe Nandra
Nothing like fresh urine in a elevator on a HUMID day, I HATE YOU CHINATOWN MBTA ELEVATORS!!!! #MBTAannoy #MBTAproblemsThe Nandra
What's worse than passengers with bad manners? How about drivers with bad manners? 
So glad I skipped breakfast to run to a train that closed the doors on me. #mbtaannoyLauren B
39 bus driver just looked me and my stroller up and down before opening doors...was he considering not letting us on? #sideeye #MBTAannoyThe Nandra
Oh good. I got the green line driver who slams on the brakes at the last minute. That's not annoying at all. #mbtaannoySteph Orme
Picturing the trolleys of 115 years ago -- an era, remember, when air conditioning, deodorant, and the electronic distractions that occupy us during long rides today were decades away -- it's not hard to imagine that our ancestors had some complaints of their own. 

You know, "Who dares to bring his pig to market on this horseless trolley?!" stuff like that. 

Probably they were just as ambivalent about the MBTA as we are today, just as ambivalent as Rob is in these final two tweets. 
Imagine this - a week where I've not complained about the MBTA. @mbtagm, maybe there is hope after all with your system. #mbtabragRob Tiongson
That wasn't gonna last long, eh? Most congested and smelly train ever. Worst of all, it's with people who lack manners! #MBTAannoyRob Tiongson
It's a quintessential part of the MBTA experience -- just when you think it's not so bad, something shows you that maybe it really is. But that's why we have #MBTAannoy and #MBTAbrag to represent both parts of that common experience. Remember what the @MBTAgm says: if you see something, tweet something. 

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Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
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