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A bang, a flash, smoke at State Street on the Orange Line

Riders evacuating Orange Line train at State Street

Rider jumps out of Orange Line train. Photo by Florian Penzkofer.

Heather Parker reports she was on an Orange Line train to Forest Hills, when there was a bang and what looked like flames as the train entered State Street shortly before 9 p.m.

Passengers evacuated the train, the station filled with smoke and firefighters arrived and asked the T to shut power in both directions, from Community College to Tufts.

The cause turned out to be some damaged third rail, which the "shoe" that connected one car to the system pulled up, causing sparks, a flash, a bang and smoke - although riders said the third rail was already smoking when the train entered the station.

Nathan Pyritz, who was also on the train, reports:

Man on platform said previous train also kicked up sparks.

Another rider adds:

There was already significant smoke in the station before a train had arrived ( I'm unsure if the was a train beforehand) - several people attempted to put the fire (electrical?) out to tamp the acrid smoke filling the station. When a train came, it originally stopped over the fire in the video and then proceeded another 40 feet - at which point it stopped and 30 seconds later there was a large arc and boom.

The rider provided this brief video of the smoking third rail before the train pulled into the station:

Photos by Parker:

Smoke at State Street
Smoke at State Street
Smoke at State Street
Smoke at State Street

The scene outside State Street station (Photo by Scoots):

Outside State Street
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Comments

I got on the train at State at around 5:00 pm and the station was a little smoky even then.

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I went down via the City Hall entrance to State and noticed it smelled slightly like smoke on the northbound platform. It was pretty much gone by the time I got to the southbound platform. I figured it was residual smoke from an earlier track fire.

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How nice that commuters get to breathe in toxic smoke (lead, chlorides, etc.) for days now because the ventilation system is substandard to the point any other workplace would be shut down by OSHA.

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You're one of those people who freak out at the mere smell of cigarettes, aren't you?

Please go look up terms like ppm, ppb, and toxicity levels before posting ignorant alarmist crap like this. Just because you can smell something doesn't mean it's at poisonous levels, or anything approaching it.

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Glad this wasn't worse, and hoping everyone is okay.

Bad things can happen anywhere at any time, but I hope - foolishly, maybe - that we'll see fewer bad things on the MBTA somewhat soon.

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Look at the face of the 'T' worker he looks like he doesn't know whether to run or hide and I don't blame him

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isn't like any old firecracker; it's a BANG.

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The MBTA might as well just start replacing all these windows people have to break during fires with sliding ones that they can open casually to exit through.

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a bunch of drunks going home on a subway car with sliding windows.

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And did it cause a shit storm for the many decades they existed?

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When did you last notice MBTA subway cars having sliding windows, grandpa?

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What a rude comment.
smacks of ageism.

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I may not be remembering correctly, but some of the 1963 pullman cars on the Red Line still had small sliding windows above a solid window - although some had been retrofit with full-size solid windows. These cars were not air conditioned.

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The 1963 built Red Line cars, retired in 1994, had sealed windows, although you are correct that they had ceiling fans and no A/C.

The last Orange Line cars with windows that could open ran in 1962, the last Red Line cars with windows that could open, ran in 1963. The Blue Line had cars with windows that could open until 1980. Some of the PCC cars (but not all) on the Green Line had windows that could open, and ran until 1984.

None of these cars had windows that could open wide enough that a person except perhaps a small child, could actually exit through them

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some existed well into the 1970s, even into the 80s. I remember as child in the early 80s riding in blueline trains that were 1920s vintage. I shit you not.

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I remember riding them in the 1980s as well.

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All the buses have very obviously marked emergency-exit windows with levers and bars to force them open. But somehow on the subway this would entice people to mess with them?

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Print the Emergency Exit signs in bigger type, as both the orange and red line passengers seem to be missing them...

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Just look at any commuter rail coach.

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- Proceed to the end of the car.
- Pull the emergency brake level - the train is already stopped of course.
- This unlocks the passage door.
- Slide door to the left and proceed into the operator's cab or if between cars to the next car.
- The door you approach is unlocked from the outside.
- Keep going until you are a safe distance from perceived danger.

Worse case scenario... at the end of the train or between cars hang on to the safety gate (the spring loaded bumper at the end of the car that is between the cars, push them back, and edge along the cat walk and step onto the platform. At the end of each car there is a small 2-rung ladder to the track level.

If people would educate themselves to this there would be no need for panic and braking windows out.

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"If people would educate themselves to this there would be no need for panic and braking windows out."

90% of people are like cattle stampeding in situations like this. Even moreso nowadays when people are taught to be afraid or outright terrified of damn near everything.

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I arrived at Downtown Crossing at about 8:30. There was a previous train at State Street, which you can see from DTX. It sat for at least 10 minutes, then proceeded towards Forest Hills without passengers and without stopping. The second train pulled into State a few minutes later. From my view it looked like he was not pulled all the way into the station, and Twitter reports from people in the last car confirm this. This would be why the doors didn't open, and you can see how passengers in the first cars would become agitated. That train sat in State Street for at least a half hour.

The robovoice took a long time to announce anything to passengers on our platform, then finally said there were minor delays. After 5-10 minutes that became "moderate delays due to a stalled train at State Street." I could hear fire alarms coming from State, and saw the Twitter pictures on my phone of people climbing out of the window.

Not much communication from the T, and no help regarding what to do. The robovoice switched to "severe delays" and added Fire Department activity. At 9:15 I walked to the Green Line and took the E train and the 39 bus to Forest Hills. Interesting: at Park Street which was not affected by this, there was a T employee telling people about the fire and major delays, but at Downtown Crossing I saw nobody helping the 100+ passengers who were still waiting.

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The lack of communication you describe here on the part of the MBTA lies in sharp contrast with the dreadful, droning OVERcommunication which Orange Line passengers endure daily: the conductors' incessant rapping.

It begins about 10 seconds before the train stops at the station, and often continues well after the train pulls out of that station, leaving about 5 seconds of silence inbetween. Pathetic--who could stand to listen to all that?

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When does one hear this rapping? I could use to hear something other than other passengers playing their music way too loud.

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Overly repetitive announcements, too loud, drivers yelling at passengers like they are small children. Or no announcements at all. Makes me crazy. I ride subways in other cities and they have figured out how to be professional, why can't the MBTA figure this out?

It has gotten worse, and service is slower, since they eliminated the door guard position. A T employee in the 4th car could definitely have been a help for passengers in that train last night.

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For anyone trying to get into the TD Garden at 8:30 AM for some reason, his instructions of how to get in the arena were quite detailed.

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Announcements are required by ADA. You may have noticed that he station announcements are automated on the newer Bombardier Red Line Trains and the Siemens Blue Line Trains. The older trains that have a PA system, when it is working, have the operator make the announcements.

In reality, bus drivers are also supposed to be announcing the stops as well if the automated robo voice is not working.

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They don't require the operator to shout at the passengers in a demeaning tone because management refuses to provide adequate capacity.

And I'll bet that overriding the destination announcement with a brash "LET THE PASSENGERS OFF FIRST" (which always happens on the Green Line) is an ADA violation.

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So we've pretty much accepted now that regular accidents - typically fires - followed by people forcing their way out of the train, with no coordination or announcements from the MBTA, is the "new normal" with this transit agency.

How soon until this all turns into a disaster where people actually get killed?

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kindly put this into the search engine Adam has handily provided to get a feeling for how long I have been saying exactly this.

And I will repeat this part: The blood will be on the hands of the elected officials who have allowed this to become the "normal" condition of the T. We will name names, too, so as to make a ready oppo file for their challengers (at least for those who remain in office and are not yet living out long and comfortable defined benefit retirements).

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The T was given a $10 million DHS grant three years ago to build an emergency training center in an abandoned tunnel in South Boston.

https://www.massdot.state.ma.us/transit/newsarchives/newsupdates/tabid/1...

It's not too comforting to know that the T can apparently respond to a hypothetical bombing but not to the sorts of emergencies that actually do happen with a fleet of aging vehicles.

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I'm not sure that there's a significant difference between the response to a bombing and to a fire in a tunnel (at least in the early stages of a response). So I suppose that I am even less comforted that the T cannot (apparently) respond effectively (e.g., by letting people know, in a timely way, what is going on and what to do) to either event.

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That's my point.

If you think about it, spending money to prepare for the unlikely and hypothetical bomb in the subway but not being able to respond to the far-more-likely track fire is the same mentality that has everyone removing their shoes at the airport or tossing their bottled water in the trash at the checkpoint.

A few weeks ago there was another Orange Line track fire a few stops away and look how "well" T employees handled it.

http://www.universalhub.com/2016/track-fire-hullabaloo-north-station

But are we surprised that there's a bottomless pit for dubious "homeland security" initiatives and little for everyday maintenance?

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Security theater is a moneymaker in the "post-9/11" political environment. The feds are (or at least were for a while) showering state/local government entities in money in the form of "DHS grants" for terrorism preparedness. Not so for more banal disasters like accidental fires.

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When it is virtually impossible to get fired, do you really think anyone will ever be accountable?

Even when MBTA officials are fired or forced to resign they find a similar job being incompetent at another transit agency.

The bureaucratic class is above the consequences of law and knows it.

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I also was at DTX around that time and I had to look up what was happening on MBTA.com because nothing was being announced. I was leaving by the time I heard the familiar robo voice announce State St was the issue.

I ended up taking the Silver line back to the Bury.

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Heather Parker here confirming that the above comment is accurate. I noticed pretty much all the same thing going on.

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Windows fixed. Let's roll!

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have SUVs and suburbans, and transit police have really nice, new SUVs with tinted windows. But, 'rolling-stock', trains, streetcars, are 25,35,40 years old. Some greenline streetcars are in such bad shape, they're rusting all over and the paint is peeling off, and if they go faster than 8-10 miles per hour, it appears they'll derail.

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Could it be that a new subway car cost several million and a SUV is $50k?

I do agree it's pathetic that the T (AKA the Commonwealth) isn't budging and assuming a 20 year MAX lifespan on rolling stock.

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Point is, they use the "every dollar counts" excuse when they cancel late-night services ($14M) and the T art programs (1.5M IIRC), but then you see a fleet of new SUVs like this. It just proves they lie about everything.

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A few years ago when they were removing stops on the green line (which they claimed would subtract a whopping minute and forty seconds from transit times), there was a meeting in a facility right next to one of the stops in question — and all the T representatives showed up each in individual SUVs. Classy.

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the T (AKA the Commonwealth)

See, here is a significant part of the problem - the quoted statement is totally inaccurate.

It is worth noting, however, that the quoted statement is correct for MassDOT, and in particular, for its Highway Division.

Priorities?

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has nothing to do with how the trains perform.

The Green Line cars with peeling paint (the Japanese made cars) have a much better performance record than the ones with the nice new paint (the Italian made cars.) And they're a significantly more comfortable ride, too: better seats, no bottleneck on the stairs for standing passengers that makes it impossible for people to get on and off the train, overhead bars that can be reached by a person of average height without standing on one's tiptoes.

On top of that, the "old peeling" cars don't have the glitchy computer operating system that the new, shiny ones do. Ever notice that a lot of Green Line trains take elongated station stops in which the entire train is turned off and then back on? They're rebooting the computer in the "new" cars, because it sometimes decides that it won't communicate with the "old" cars and needs to be reset.

They've been sending out the old cars for refurbishment for years, so the peeling paint issue should be addressed shortly on the few cars that are still rusty and old. I do agree that they give the T the air of disrepair, but the aesthetics and the mechanical fortitude of the trains are completely independent of each other.

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I do agree that they give the T the air of disrepair, but the aesthetics and the mechanical fortitude of the trains are completely independent of each other.

They are, except where they're not. The peeling paint is a proxy for how old the trains are combined with how little maintenance they've received, and as a general rule, older means less reliable. Paint is also more than aesthetics; peeling paint lets rust form which ultimately causes structural integrity issues. Some of the OL trains are so rusty that they rain indoors, and these rust holes wouldn't be forming if first the paint didn't peel off the roofs.

The rusty, peeling older Red Line trainsets are the least reliable of the RL, the rusty fleet of BL trains I remember was terrible before they were all replaced a few years back, and these OL are all rusty and terribly unreliable now. A metal piece literally fell off of this one onto the tracks.

The fact that the reliability of the GL trains is reversed - the rusty ones are better - is just a statement to the T's bungling inability to procure working equipment nowadays. (The same is true with the CR; all the latest new CR trains were so buggy as to be unusable upon arrival.)

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the conductor didn't just open the doors instead of having people bust out the window?

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I'm surprised people didn't use the emergency release on the doors.

You just have to open the small door under the seats near the door. There's a lever and the air will release and the door will open.

I'm sure most riders don't even know they are there...

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...the T has always declined to make the door releases highly visible. I once read that their concern is passengers opening the side doors and jumping down onto the third rail.

There's also the outside door releases - I think actually connects to the same level under the seats. They're the small black circles near floor level on the outside.

Also good to know - in an emergency, you can always get out the end doors (by pulling the emergency brake/door release handle - they are locked if you just try to open the door handle). Not everyone can evacuate that way between cars onto the platform, but if a couple people get out they can use the outside door releases to open the doors.* I understand the original logic of not heavily publicizing the door releases, but if there's any more incidents like this, that might need to change.

*Of course that also make the assumption that all those releases work properly on this ancient abused equipment.

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If the train was not fully in the station it could have been dangerous to open the doors. Passengers in the rear cars might fall onto the tracks.

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this morning, it's because the train wasn't "fully berthed" in the station. Classic BS response from the T.

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I suppose I'm old enough to remember when news organizations might have had the money, personnel and desire to actually report on something like the chronic problems and mismanagement of the T, instead of paying some staffer to scour Twitter to ask to use people's pictures for free.

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99% chance those Twitter-raiders are unpaid college interns, learning on the ground journalism from the pros!

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Which I know because I know some of the folks active on social media at local stations. Maybe in smaller burgs, but around here we're talking actual producers and reporters.

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On those rare occasions when I talk in public about covering a big city, I get into the whole idea of journalism as a conversation, how breaking news is no longer one-to-many. I won't bore you with that, but I am very grateful to people who tag me on social media when they see news breaking - and then tag photos with "universalhub." That's how I found out about this incident, in fact - I didn't have my scanner on, but Heather Parker just started reporting from the scene and tagging me with her photos.

No, it's not perfect, yes, there are issues (again, I won't bore you with the particulars), but it does make it possible for me to cover the city in a way I never could have imagined when I first start posting things on a blog.

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I did not mean UH.

I'm referring to the new trend where if someone is on the scene and tweets a picture of breaking news with fire and smoke, they seem to get instantly inundated with "Hi, I'm from WXYZ, can we use your picture for free and if you're actually in a hostage situation can you DM us and set up a live phone interview?" from well-financed news organizations that would rather show helicopter footage of a car chase in LA than spend a minute dealing with news that doesn't have exciting visuals.

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I'm actually a professional photographer and have both sold my photos freelance as well as given them out. I was the one who tagged Adam and I never mind if he uses my photos because I know he credits people. In the instance where I was tweeting live from the transit interruption, I was aware that I was going to be hounded by news orgs not because of the quality of the crappy mobile phone photos I was posting, but because it was the first and more in-depth coverage/commentary on what was going on. There are already news agencies that have used my photo without credit and I'm well-versed in my rights as a photographer pertaining to copyright law. The person I was with (Florian Penzkofer) had nabbed a much better photo than I had taken so we uploaded it and tagged Adam. I thought that while it isn't a flawless photo, it most accurately depicted what it was like being there in the moment.

I have a friend who is a news anchor for a local station that I grew up with and was also happy to share the photo with her. I got a bunch of DM's on Twitter looking for on camera interviews and phone interviews. If I was still there by the time news crews arrived, I would've considered it only because right now I have been wearing a big button that says "BERNIE: Because F*ck this Sh*t" and would've loved to see that slip by human sensors for live television. When I offered to do a brief phone interview, I was being prompted with questions where I was being asked to describe the scene and further questions trying to prompt sensational answers. I purposely gave a non-exciting and direct account of what happened, without injecting emotion or speculation into it. This kept the interview quick and probably not that exciting for whoever was reporting it, but I can't stand walking past an accident or crime scene and seeing ultra-sensationalized, borderline inaccurate coverage in the name of maintaining viewership/clicks.

Because of how UHub operates, I am always happy to share info at no cost. I use and benefit from the site so I'm happy to give back. As for photography as my main source of info, I charge accordingly and do a variety of documentary stuff to pay the bills.

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I doubt you would have found out about this incident. Several months back, the MBTA changed the frequencies they use for subway and bus operations. Shortly thereafter, they stopped simulcasting the broadcasts on the prior frequencies as well.

Their excuse for this waste of money and reducing 'transparency' - Security (as if there's ever been a documented case of a terroist attack occurring impulsively based on information they heard over a radio).

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Transit PD and BFD are usually good enough for things like this (last night was an exception - regular riders were tweeting before BFD showed up and BFD was broadcasting before TPD showed up).

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The MBTA ought to start providing evacuation instructions, barf bags, oxygen masks etc

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Among all the other signage on the train car walls scolding people I believe there are signs about the emergency levers and exits.

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Also tell you to follow the instructions of the train crew or police, neither of which were much present that night or telling riders what to do, apparently.

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