Was that the Smoke Monster? Diary of a Red Line evacuation

9:26 update: Geoffrey Brownell reports operator on his Alewife-bound train just announced: "Worst delays I've ever seen."

Some Red Line riders spent close to two hours on a dead train between Porter and Davis while many more found themselves stewing in other trains or on platforms - or just giving up and walking.

Take a look at Chris Spanring's photo from the Red Line near Porter tonight. Now read Spanring's evacuation tweets:

Nothing more exciting after an intense day than being stuck in a broken train in a dark subway tunnel for almost 2h...

Being evacuated through a dark subway tunnel is actually more exciting! Don't touch the third rail, he said....

Lost dynamics shaping up. who's gonna find the others?

Wondering how big rats can get in those tunnels...

Children and women first!

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I was a couple of trains

By on

I was a couple of trains behind, stuck in the tunnel. I guess we should all be grateful it wasn't 100 degrees and humid, but no doubt that's coming soon.

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transportation insanity

By on

Two months ago I was the one stuck for 90 minutes in a tunnel on a disabled train. This time I was marginally luckier.

Entered Kendall station at 7:10 to go to Alewife, and I see a train with its doors open, full of people, standing by. I get on it. Every minute, there's an automated announcement that changes randomly. First we're told "the Red Line is operating with 10 to 15 minute delays due to a disabled train at Davis", then "the Red Line is operating with 30 minute delays", then "the Red Line is operating with 5 minute delays", then it's back to "30 minute delays" again. Occasionally those messages alternate with others that cite "switching problems at JFK". We wait and wait. There are no on-train announcements, and no MBTA personnel anywhere in sight.

Finally at 7:45 (yes, 35 minutes later) we are still standing there, and I decide to leave and get supper. I walk to Central Square and have a meal.

At 9:00 I go to into the T Central Square station. My intention is to ask the MBTA person in the booth to let me in without having to swipe my fare card, since I'd already used the card to get on the stationery train at Kendall. But I can't do that -- because there's no one in the booth. And no one in the boot on the other side either. In fact, there are no MBTA personnel anywhere in the station.

Some 10 minutes later, a train rolls into the station. And sits there, and sits there, and sits there. Eventually we move, but at Harvard Square and announcement from the train operator tells us that this is as far as the train is going. It is turning around and heading back to Boston on the same track.

That's all. Nothing about shuttle busses, onward trains, or any information at all for passengers trying to get to Porter, Davis or Alewife.

And on the platform, a crowd of confused passengers, but not one person from MBTA, no announcements, no signs. Someone says there must be a shuttle bus to Alewife, and heads up the stairs, followed by some others. Then a rumor sweeps through the crowd that someone heard from some who heard from someone that the onward outbound train would arrive downstairs, on the inbound track. Is the rumor true? No one knows, but some of us go downstairs to see.

There we find another crowd of equally confused commuters (and still not a soul from the MBTA), some of whom have also heard that they are running outbound trains on the inbound track - others waiting for an inbound train.

I wait there, and yes, after about 5 minutes a train crawls into the station, and when its doors open, we are told by a seemingly angry train conductor that this is an outbound train. And so it was.

Eventually I did get to Alewife.

Now one issue is the disabled train that crippled the entire Cambridge side of the Red Line for the entire evening. How did that happen?

Another issue is the absence of MBTA employees from the stations, the absence of announcements and signs, and the raging confusion that such a regular event as a disabled train was able to cause. Two months ago, when I was on a disabled train, it was exactly the same story. Clearly there is no plan, and no will to inform customers when trouble strikes.

If you see something say something. Well, I saw something today, and now I've said something.

Thank you for listening...

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"That's all. Nothing about

By on

"That's all. Nothing about shuttle busses, onward trains, or any information at all for passengers trying to get to Porter, Davis or Alewife."

The 77 hits Porter and close enough to Alewife. It is your friend.

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Its not your friend if

By on

Its not your friend if everybody gets the same idea and the 77 becomes so packed that people going to Arlington can't squeeze on their bus because of all the Red Line refugees.

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this happens a lot

By on

There are never T employees unless you don't need them. I've been in so many situations that I needed an employee and could never find one (from having an unruly passenger to deal with to having a gate eat my monthly pass).

It's NOT okay. I think the MBTA might have the mindset that if people are still riding the T, they must not be doing such a terrible job, but really, for some folks, it's not a choice (hi.)

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Lessons learned

By on

TheSphinx was on the dead train and reports learning three important lessons for riding the T: Always bring plenty of reading material, make sure the iPhone is fully charged for playing Angry Birds and:

Use the restroom before leaving home or work.

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I was on the disabled Red

By on

I was on the disabled Red Line train - I can't speak to what happened to Chris Spanring, but they didn't evacuate the people in my car out through the tunnel. They evacuated us onto a different train which then ran back to Porter. No announcements about bus alternatives for people trying to reach Davis or Alewife.

The train announcements were low on detail, aside from repeating "We apologize for the inconvenience" and some variation of "we will be moving momentarily" or "we are working on the problem" every five minutes, but the impression I had was that they were trying to push the train into Davis from behind and only fell back to the evacuation plan when that didn't work.

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How ironic is it that my

By on

How ironic is it that my reply failed due to a server problem.

What I was saying was....

The state is remaking longfellow bridge. They will remove a lane, maybe two, and cant decide what to do with all that space.

I suggest that it would be the cheapest and easiest location in the entire red line system to add a 3rd track, to store disabled trains. The location is also fantastic as it's right in the middle. Train breaks down at park? Push it there. Train breaks down at Central? Push it there.

The T says "meh, we dont need no 3rd track"

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Mentioned when you suggested

By on

Mentioned when you suggested this before, but the grade on the Longfellow Bridge is one of the steepest on the rapid transit system. The laws of physics suggest its not a good place to plan on pushing and parking dead trains with brake problems.

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It was my turn

After years of hearing about disabled trains on the Red Line, it was finally my time to be on one yesterday. I thought things were going very well, as I read on the T Alerts of the problem on some Commuter Rail lines, but Framingham was OK -- it even arrived only 4 minutes late. On the train, I read on UHub about the mess at South Station, but when I got there, it was cleared out. Walking to the Red Line, a train was waiting, and I got on as the doors closed. I contemplated getting off at Porter, but stayed on for my usual exit at Davis. I didn't get out of the ground for another two hours.

The train slowed as we were about 3/4 of the way to Davis (I saw us pass an emergency-escape sign, presumably the one on Summer St.). We stopped. Inched forward a couple of times. Then nothing. We couldn't hear any announcements -- partly because of sound of the A/C and partly because the volume was so low. After 30-45 minutes, we heard that another train was going to push us in to Davis. Over next half hour or so, the train would lurch forward about two feet, and then slide back 5 feet. The A/C finally died (after starting to leak water out of the roof), and then I could hear some of the chatter over the operator's radio. Because of the incline into Davis, and the passenger load, pushing the train wasn't going to work. An announcer apologized for "any" inconvenience. No, at this point, it is THE inconvenience. The operator reported we were about 250 feet from Davis.

Then someone came through and said that we would be walking in the tunnel to Davis. Well, that would be cool, I thought. I gave my card to two women sitting next to me with iPhones asking to please take my picture in the tunnel and email it to me. But, there was no tunnel walk for me.

Then we were told that we would be exiting the train into a train behind us that had working A/C and be taken back to Porter. It started to get warm in the train. It took a while to "set all the handbrakes," but finally we walked back through several cars into the other train. After more time of getting everyone in, and "releasing all the handbrakes," we finally moved back in to Porter, arriving at the platform with a cheer. Sure glad the escalators were working.

Passengers were quite good-natured. Annoyance was growing, but many kept it light. I made my share of wisecracks. (After an unintelligible announcement: "What was that? Women and children first?") I'm sure it would have been different if it was a morning train, or if the A/C had died earlier. Could have be worse, I guess. After getting a burrito, I arrived home at 9:30 -- 3 hours after getting on the Commuter Rail.

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This is too funny. I was

By on

This is too funny. I was standing nearby and saw/overheard you giving your card to those two people. You were the guy who made the joke to the guy with groceries about helping to eat any melting ice cream. ;)

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not even the worst T story of the day

By Owen on

Despite being stuck on that train for close to two hours (with the temperature steadily rising the whole time), I find it humorous that yesterday's red line fiasco only got second billing to the commuter rail FUBAR in the Globe's story: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/art...

When a subway train can fail that badly and still not be the worst failure of the day, there's something wrong with your transportation infrastructure.

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I guess I chose correctly!

Normally I get home to Davis around 7. Last night I got on the Red Line at Park around 6:40, as usual, but the announcement came that we were experiencing 15-20 min delays due to a disabled train at Davis. Soon after, we would be standing by. I figured that was ok, but considered that (this being the T) it was probably a lowball estimate and I should start to think about alternatives. After this train is being taken out of service I went above ground to re-assess.

After dodging tourists following a guy in Colonial garb imploring them to dash across the street while the light was with them, I decided I could take the Commuter Rail to Porter and walk to Davis, or catch the bus from Sullivan. I'm a cheap bastard so I walked under Winter St and caught the Orange Line to Sullivan, and waited for the 89 bus. A 15-minute wait at Sullivan followed by a stomach-churning bus ride convinced me that I should have just waited for the Red Line to take me home.

Until I read this post. Wow! I guess I was right to abandon my normal route.

Or maybe I should have sucked it up and taken the CR. I'll probably do that in the future. Any word on when they'll start taking passes on Charlie Cards?

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Another report from the train

By on

Alex Martland posts a copy of his letter to the MBTA, including:

Here is where the fun part comes in. After those two initial bumps in the wrong direction, there was a two or three minute gap where nothing happened. Then, crackling over the PA to the entire train, came the breathless voice of a train operator who said "Folks, there is NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT, NO REASON TO PANIC! We are having some technical difficulties, and we will be moving shortly. We apologize for any inconvenience". I don't often offer out charity, but consider this for the next time nothing is truly wrong: don't have a woman who clearly sounds like something is seriously wrong yell over an outdated intercom that nothing is wrong and we should remain where we are. Inciting riotous panic is a bad idea, especially in a confined space.

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I was on the broken train,

By on

I was on the broken train, and I was in the last car where they hooked up the other train - first they hooked it up to push us and then they put everybody onto that train to take us back to Porter.

The funniest comment over the intercom between the operators, which got several people laughing was "Can you take a running start?"

I never heard about walking through the tunnels from an operator. They announced that they would evacuate the train but didn't give any specifics so that's what we talked about. Then they put us onto the other train.

One man suggested they should have brought a train from Alewife to the front and then have everybody walk through the trains to the Davis station. We were close to Davis so that would have made more sense. There was no shuttle or anything at Porter and the buses didn't stop.

I live 6 miles from work. Yesterday to get home I walked 5 miles (2 to MGH and 3 home from Porter) and I took the T only one mile before it broke down.

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State of the art intercoms?

By on

How do you tell if an intercom is outdated? Just because it's mushy and unintelligible...we've got an outdated Mayor if that's the case.

(Wasn't there an Airplane-esque comedy where somebody is speaking into a microphone to a loudspeaker and it's coming out all staticky and garbled and then when they take away the microphone the sound of their voice is staticky and garbled....? where was that from?)

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Harvey Keitel on Saturday

By on

Harvey Keitel on Saturday Night Live back in the mid 90s, IIRC.

5000 UHub points to anyone who can point us towards a video...

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SPACEBALLS!

By on

I've lost the beeps, the sweeps and the creeps.

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Submit complaints on mbta.com

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I hope all of you disgruntled passengers submitted complaints on the mbta website IN ADDITION to complaining here.

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Hey!

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Dear God Man! (or woman), If we all did that and they actually fixed something...what would we have to talk about??

I know, that's crazy talk. Nothing will be fixed even if we complain to them.

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redline

By on

Celtics game and MBTA staff missing not a coincidence??

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