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What's the worst part of the MBTA?

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  February 22, 2013 03:16 PM

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42 Bus Feb 2013.jpg

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Could this 42 bus be the most annoying part of the MBTA?

What's the worst part of the MBTA?

Storified by Jeremy C. Fox· Fri, Feb 22 2013 12:37:42

Each week, dozens of MBTA riders express their frustrations about the transit system on Twitter using the #MBTAannoy hashtag, and each week many of the same themes hold true. People are frustrated by late buses, by overcrowded trains, by bad smells, bad manners, bad drivers. 

But which portion of the system is the worst? Which is responsible for the most fervent and frequent frustration? This week, let's take a look. 

Anyone who has ever taken a city bus, whether in Boston or anywhere else, might immediately assume that segment of the transit system would spawn the most angry tweets. Buses are more affected by street traffic than any other form of mass transit; bus stops are usually outdoors, with little or no protection from the elements; and buses seem to bring out the worst in everyone. 

Pedestrians leap in front of them to cross the street, heedless of the danger; drivers lurch about the city with little apparent concern for anyone's comfort or safety; passengers squawk into cell phones and enjoy four-course meals from overflowing Styrofoam containers. 

It's not exactly Downton Abbey. 

But this week's #MBTAannoy tweets included only two about the bus system, both about drivers behaving badly:
And my bus driver just threatened to leave all of us on the street. Interesting... #mbtaannoyShannon
Guess who didn't stop for me while in a crosswalk. Thanks T #mbtaannoy
Well, maybe it was actually three, if you count this Silver Line tweet, since it's really a bus, too:
@mbtaGM Does the SL2 ever want to come orrrr...? #mbta #mbtaannoyPermanently Annoyed
Still, three complaints in seven days is a pretty good record. Certainly it won't classify the buses as the worst part of the system, so what is? 

Well, if you've ever been a college student, or lived in Brookline or Newton, the Green Line might immediately leap to mind. And true to form, it spawned more than a couple of complaints this week: 
@BostonDotCom umm WHAT is going on w the green line lately #mbtaannoyMarcelene
C line: half as many trains that are also half the size of the other lines. #crowded #MBTAannoy #itsstillaworkdayAshley Murphy
My express to n station is now a late-running local & short 1 car. Really? Wanted to be @ work ON TIME! #MBTAannoyLesetchka
B-line at park street will have me deaf by age 40 #mbtaannoyNiko Kotsatos
when every train coming into kenmore is to Cleveland circle and not Boston college<<<<<< #MBTAannoyKyla McCabe-Corrow
The green line is so fast and reliable...said no one ever. #mbtaannoyJoey Iacona
So that's six for the Green Line. Certainly not setting any records. Maybe the Red Line will surpass it? 
. @mbtaGM The red line northbound is running late. There are no alerts, nothing! Were you hoping we wouldn't notice it? #MBTAannoy #mbtaSabrinaTheWiseLatina
. @mbtaGM They made every1 get off of the red line at Park St. ... waiting for the next train.Thanks #mbta I'll be late for work. #MBTAannoySabrinaTheWiseLatina
i think it would be more helpful if the red line announced when they WEREN'T experiencing delays. #MBTAannoysarah pease
lovely ride in on the red line this morning #mbtaannoy @mbtaGMMike Tremblay
Delays on the redline in both directions today. I hate you, T. #MBTA. #mbtaannoyAnne
I really think the arrival time displays on the redline suck. It's always 10+ minutes. #mbtaannoyD. Matt Brothers
How is there a #redline train ahead of us at #Ashmont? I had to wait 10 minutes for a train at downtownxing. #mbtaannoyMelinda jayenkz
Hmph. Only seven complaints for the Red Line, and two were from Sabrina, so that's barely worse than the Green Line. Not exactly an avalanche. 

Perhaps more surprisingly, there was only a single Orange Line complaint this year, but it was a pretty emotional one:
The #OrangeLine is making me cry. #MBTAannoyMelinda
So the Orange Line didn't do too terrible a job this week, but the Blue Line still beat it -- it didn't rate a single #MBTAannoy tweet. 

So where were all the disgruntled commuters? 

Were they on the Commuter Rail? Or were they just waiting to get on the Commuter Rail? 

It looks like Charlene returned from a trip over the long weekend to find an unpleasant surprise: 
Oh noes! Commuter rail on weekend schedule. I have the joy of sitting at north station for nearly 2 hours. #275forwhat #mbtaannoycharlene mcbride
For the sake of full disclosure my flight did arrive 45 mins late, but still for the $275 per month I pay it is #mbtaannoy ingcharlene mcbride
She wasn't having a great commute home on Thursday either:
And with that 500 anxious commuters who were waiting in front of track 9 in the first place are moved from track 2 to track 9 #mbtaannoycharlene mcbride
Michelle rounds out the Commuter Rail complaints with this chilly report from Tuesday: 
Wow @mbtagm, Newburyport train 158 has no heat or lights when it is 20 degrees out? Kind of unsafe don't you think? #mbtaannoyMichelle
So that's four for the Commuter Rail, and three were from Charlene, so it's far from winning the dubious prize for being the worst part of the MBTA. 

Of course, some tweets are mysterious, and don't contribute to the totals. This next one, for example, could be almost any line:
schedule adjustment. why? To ensure all trains are 15-20 minutes apart. #MBTAannoyMBTA Rider
But that's also true of this rare #MBTAbrag tweet: 
Thank you, driver of 3676B, for holding the train 5 secs so I could catch it #mbtabragArthur Liu
With so many (mostly) unpleasant things to say about the various lines, is it any wonder riders like Daniel and Jules get a little sarcastic? 
I love when it takes longer on the t than it does to walk #mbtaannoyDaniel E. Pritchard
I love a good delay. #mbtaannoyJules Wang
The real winner of the week, though, wasn't any one form of transportation. 

It was the horrible people around you, who stand, sit, sleep, vomit, and prop up their giant purses and backpacks in the seats on all of them: 
Wonderful way start commute home POS Big Red cattle car packed next to some guy who reeks of ETOH #mbtaannoyrev8056
This car is packed & next is empty guess everyone tried for seat @mbtaGM when are you going put seats back in cattle cars? #mbta #mbtaannoyrev8056
Must be idiot day on the Red Line. Amazes me how many people still don't know appropriate T etiquette. #MBTA #mbtaannoyKristen
High school kids throwing snowballs on a Red Line train. That is ridiculous what they're doing. #MBTAannoyBenjamin Chan
When the train is packed, do you really need to cross your legs? You already have a seat #mbtaannoyArthur Liu
"Do you think it's below 33 degrees right now?" Please stfu! #MBTAannoyRed Line Commuter
#mbta Etiquette Pro Tip: Turn the incessant beeping off on your tablet if you're gonna play solitare. #mbtaannoyBurple Yak
If you wear a backpack on the T during rush hour, I think you're a fundamentally bad person. #mbtaannoyMarissa Breton
Aaaaand someone just vomited on the bus. #mbtaannoy #fml #whyKrista Marie
Seriously what about me with my earphones in makes you think I want to talk to you! #FML #MBTAannoyRed Line Commuter
Guy on the bus tried pushing past me while we were still moving to get to the exit. Let's just say he had to wait for us to stop. #MBTAannoyKyle W. Kerr
But at the same time, those fellow passengers, and a couple of subway-platform performers, provided some of this week's best entertainment: 
The B line experienced a 90's time warp Saturday with this dude's Air Jordan IV's & Charlotte Hornets' hat #MBTAbrag
The @Berklee Boys pickin', fiddlin', strummin' for the #MBTAbrag South Station crowd.
Across from me on the #OrangeLine, a man has these letters tattooed one on each finger: F-A-B-U—L-O-U-S. #MBTAbragJeremy C. Fox
Apparently unsatisfied with the passengers surrounding him, Niko provided his own amusement:
I'm eating Chinese food on the subway. #mbtabragNiko Kotsatos
And tweeting from underground #doublebrag RT @okin15 I'm eating Chinese food on the subway. #mbtabragNiko Kotsatos
While Robert honed his standup act: 
It's called the MBTA. RT @mattthomas: Idea: Twitter, but for smells. #MBTAbragRobert D Sullivan
When you see something funny, say something funny. More specifically, tweet it using #MBTAbrag. And when you get frustrated with the bus, or the Green Line, or whichever part of the T is ruining your day, don't forget to use #MBTAannoy to cast your vote for the most annoying bus, train, or person in Greater Boston. 

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at
Follow him on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @YTDowntown.

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