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Waiting for Catastrophe
Author: TriSec    Date: 08/06/2022 11:37:10

Good Morning.

When was the last time you rode a subway?

In all my travels, I've ridden many transit systems around the country. Residents of other cities that read this space might chuckle at my rankings, based on your better knowledge of your local systems.

The Washington, DC Metro is far and away the best system I've ridden on.

I've been on the New York City subway, and that struck me as efficient as well.

San Francisco is a fascinating system with many modes of travel by rail. Of course the iconic Cable Cars, but they have an underground and surface lines, too.

Miami's "peoplemover" along the waterfront is a neat little thing, and they have a subway system too - as well as the "Tri-Rail" up the coast to West Palm Beach and beyond.

I've even been in Atlanta and rode MARTA, but long ago when it was relatively new.

And of course, the good ol' MBTA here in Boston...which is on the verge of complete collapse.

I'm pretty sure this incident made the national news.

New surveillance video released Friday shows the moment an Orange Line MBTA train caught fire while in passenger service in Somerville, Massachusetts.

The passengers forced to evacuate the subway train by walking down the tracks a few minutes later.

The fire on the Orange Line train with 200 people aboard on Thursday, July 21 was triggered by a metal sill that came loose from the lower part of the train and contacted the third rail, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak previously said.

The surveillance video from an MBTA camera, released to WCVB as part of a public records request, shows the metal sill sticking out from the left side of the Orange Line train.

As the train proceeded down the track, the metal sill eventually came into contact with the third rail, which provides power to the train, and caused a fire to break out in the front car of the train while on the Mystic River bridge.

The one foot by six foot object is supposed to be riveted to the train.

Nobody was killed in the incident, but it could have just as easily gone the other way. According to more detailed sources elsewhere, only four of the emergency exits could be opened on the six-car train. Hundreds of people were trying to get out at the same time. The Orange Line is powered by a ground-level third rail of more than 600 volts; instant death if you touch that. And the fire happened in the middle of the bridge on the Mystic River; one person actually jumped into the water to escape the flames.

Days before the fire, a train on another branch suffered a brake failure in a maintenance yard and was a runaway onto the main line. Days after the fire, an MBTA bus caught fire, fortunately with no passengers aboard.

All of this has led to an unprecedented shutdown of that Orange Line, slated to begin in a few weeks, allegedly to do a month of intensive repairs and get things back to right.

The entire MBTA Orange Line will shut down for 30 days in August and September, to be replaced by shuttle buses, as the transit system rushes to update infrastructure on the line, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday.

The shutdown will take place on the problem-plagued train line, which serves nearly 200,000 riders every day, between Aug. 19 and Sept. 18. Along with shuttle bus service — details were still being worked out — the Commuter Rail was being offered as another alternative for riders.

"None of this stuff that's happened is acceptable, and that's part of the reason why we're going the distance we're going to here," Baker said, addressing a sea of reporters and cameras near the Wellington maintenance yard. "I do believe this will be a major, positive and significant decision for the Orange Line and for the riders over time, but it's going to be a complicated exercise and we accept that."

The work coming during the shutdown will complete infrastructure upgrades that would have taken five years of night and weekend service changes, Baker said.

You know what happens in Boston at the exact time of the shutdown? We get an influx of a quarter-million new residents on the same week as all the college students move back into town.

We will find a new definition of GRIDLOCK this fall.

It's been a long time coming - the MBTA has a lengthy history of corruption, cronyism, and kowtowing to the Unions. This is literally decades of deferred maintenance, cost overruns, and utter incompetence. We have been extraordinarily lucky that nobody has been killed as a result of this largesse....but I expect that the worst transit accident in Boston may be surpassed unless something changes.

Massachusetts might get many things right, but public transportation is not one of those things.

2 comments (Latest Comment: 08/07/2022 20:15:13 by BobR)
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