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Chaos at Back Bay as smoke fills Orange Line train

Passengers on an outbound Orange Line train busted out windows when the train filled with smoke and the doors wouldn't open shortly before 5 p.m.

WBZ reports three people were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

The train driver reported a "pop" and some sparks as his train entered the station; possibly due to a motor sparking and setting trash on the tracks on fire.

Commuter-rail and Amtrak service through Back Bay was also halted. Buses that normally stop at Back Bay are being diverted to Copley Square.

The T set up shuttle-bus service between Jackson Square and Copley Square.

Uber pricing went into overdrive. And then some.

The Orange Line halt came just as the Red Line was having its own meltdown.

On Sunday, Red Line service was halted when a trash fire sent smoke into South Station.

This coming Saturday, the T is planning a drill at Alewife station involving smoke filling a subway tunnel and station.

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Comments

A ton of people waiting outside right now.

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Thousands of people, myself included, can't get home now because of this. Another fire caused in part by trash on the track. And Charlie Baker is cutting janitorial services for the MBTA, which will cause more fires and more of a mess.

When there is snow on the roads of this state they get plowed, no matter what. Doesn't matter if it goes tens of millions over budget like it did a couple years ago. Car drivers must not be inconvenienced or asked to pay for services given to them. But subway riders? They get piles of trash, smoke filled stations and constant fare increases. You suck, Governor Baker.

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According to the police and fire scanner, it was an engine fire in one of the cars.

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The motor blew and that ignited trash on the tracks.

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That was under Patrick. Ain't no way job-cut-Charlie is going to plow if we're over budget again.

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You cannot just pin this on Patrick - that is just absurd. The system has been ignored for many years before him and this is what happens when you don't invest in infrastructure.

You can blame the pols, the shit management of the MBTA as well as the people who don't want their taxes used for train/bus infrastructure and expansion because they can't seem to get it through their heads that mass transit infrastructure is a good thing for the state. They want their roads leading to the burbs perfect but screw those that that take mass transit.

No privatization won't fix it. What will fix it is a huge overhaul and politicians that get involved, voters that make it an issue & management that actually can think about what is best for the future of this city/state. We all need to work together to do something about it. I am willing to pay more if I saw actual improvements. All I have seen is my cost double in the last decade or so and the service get worse.

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service that is allowed to go over budget. This provision allows the government to habitually underfund it every year and then demand "emergency" funds to make up the shortfall if we have an actual winter.

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No janitors have been laid off yet. It is obvious they won't be missed because obviously they aren't doing their jobs.

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The janitors aren't cleaning trash that is on the tracks. That's the problem. For a train system that doesn't run for 6 hours out of the day, why aren't they cleaning the tracks?

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Station janitors do not clear trash off the tracks. They are not allowed to because fo the danger fo the 3rd rail.

This is not a system that can shut the power off like a light switch. The DC current system runs 24-7-365. Power is only shut off in select segments when there is construction going on that demands that to happen but the power remains on elsewhere in the system.

Why... Because it would take too long to ramp it up again for the next day's service. It has to be brought up slowly and shut off slowly.

Next time you are in a station look up at some fo the lights. Many will have a warning sign on them that they carry 600 volts. These lights are connected to the 3rd rail and serve as dropping resistors for the system. This helps assure that there is a constant flow of current in that area of the track and serves to assure that the current fo reach train is evened out over the length of the system.

In a home circuit an old fashioned light bulb would draw 120 volts. Put 5 of them in a series circuit and they would work on 600 volts. This is how it works, though newer lights that are not incandescent do the same thing.

Trains are also not shut off at the end of the day and continue to draw current in the storage yards overnight.

So who cleans the tracks? no one. It is too dangerous.

Maybe of some of the morons that drop newspapers and other crap onto the tracks this would not happen. We tend to blame the MBTA when the root of the problem are the riders that use it on a daily basis. Use the trash bins.

And... get used to this. New trains are already on order but we have to wait for the manufacturing facility to be built first. Trains are not like a can of corn that you can buy off the shelf. Each subway system in this nation has different size tunnels and other stuff that requires them to be customized from the frame up. New trains are due in 2018 or 2019. In the meantime they are trying to keep an Edsel working without parts. Why? No one makes them anymore.

As to the mass hysteria on the trains... Learn how to use the emergency exits at the end of each car. Look up and read the how-to rather than playing Candy Crush on the cell phones. All they had to do was pull the level, open the end door, and pass into the next car, then step onto the platform the same way the operator does.

Please watch below for the responses loaded with senses of self-entitlement. This problem exists because of a lack of investment in infrastructure that no one wanted to pay for. Tonight Marty Walsh and Michelle Wu are calling for a fix.

Hello? Read above. Trains are on order. And anything that will make it happen faster or make the tunnels, stations, and tracks safer will mean money. Are you ready for a tax increase? Oh yeah... Charlie Baker and his special MBTA finance board. Sorry, my error.

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And yes, many of us are ready for a tax increase if it means bringing the MBTA up to the 21st Century.

We can't keep passing the buck onto the next political cycle. Action needs to be taken NOW so that in 10 years we won't all be sitting in gridlocked traffic 18 hours a day -- that is what is going to happen unless we inject massive funding into the system NOW to modernize the aging signal system, speed delivery of new buses and trains, and complete smart and necessary expansion and capacity-increasing projects.

With all of the massive development under construction in Boston and surrounding communities, the forgotten impact is how people will commute to and from all of these jobs and residences. Hint: road capacity is not increasing, either.

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Great post, but you're missing a few key things...

Sure, while no one cleans the track pit like they're supposed to clean the platforms and concourses, but that doesn't mean it can't ever be cleaned. Most competent subway systems employ a large vacuum that runs on each line periodically, sucking up any trash and debris down there. That's why systems like New York, for example, rarely if ever have trash fires, while we have them once or twice a week! This is a problem that was solved decades ago. We just need to get with the times.

And it's true that you can't just go buy a subway train off the shelf, but you're ignoring the fact that there are manufacturers in the US currently building subway cars that we could have ordered from. There was absolutely no need to require that they be built in Mass at a new facility. If we had bought them from an established manufacturer with an existing US presence, we'd be receiving the first of our new trains right about now. Instead we won't have them all until 2022, and that's optimistically assuming no delays.

Finally, as for using the proper emergency exits - you're proposing the entire train use the end doors. The problems with that are threefold:
1) The end doors wouldn't put you on the platform, they'd require jumping or climbing down into the track pit, then climbing up onto the platform. Good idea if a train needs to be evacuated between stations, bad idea at a station, especially with a track fire. And high potential of someone getting hurt. You say exit onto the platform just like the operator does, but the operator doesn't have his own door to the platform - he exists the cab into the car, then uses the regular door, or climbs out the end door.
2) That would take a LONG time to evacuate everyone.
3) People in the middle of the train are nowhere near an end door, and unlikely to sit there, twiddling their thumbs until they succumb to smoke inhalation. They're going to go out the nearest window. The DC Metro demonstrated last January what happens when people patiently sit there waiting for instructions and a proper evacuation from someone with authority - 84 people were hospitalized and one died. The windows are meant to be used to evacuate in an emergency, because you could not safely evacuate everyone through the end doors in a timely manner. Every bus, train, etc. has windows intended as a secondary evacuation route.

You also seem to be missing the fact that this was a crowded, rush hour train. You can't expect people to just calmly file into the next car, when the next car is just as crowded as the first.

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And that's a good thing. I'm guessing that they were designed that way. Are they designed to push out easily on the red, blue and green lines too?

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Sort of a radical proposal, but I suppose we, the people of Massachusetts, could also stop leaving trash around so no one would have to clean up the tracks.

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Stops roughly 1AM, starts around 5AM.

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Are the janitors doing their job or are they engaging in some sort of protest by not cleaning the trash?

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its possible they arent being told to clean the tracks too. not everything that happens is always the fault of the person you dont personally have any respect for.

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...would anybody think that janitors would clean the train tracks? They're not paid to risk their lives.

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They don't clean the tracks, but they are expected to clean the platform. And guess where most of the trash on the tracks comes from? People on the platform.

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Hard for the janitors to clean when they aren't on duty and massholes believe that once something leaves their hand it no longer exists.

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Bravo.

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..that our local politicians remember to look appropriately outraged and horrified when one of these leads to fatalities. Don't bother about it until then though.

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Sounds like the start of the bread and loves biblical miracle.

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Drive a car.

Public transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians are all secondary to car drivers.

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Yes.

HEAR THAT EVERYONE - WE ALL NEED TO DRIVE CARS INTO THE CITY EVERY DAY!

Or, maybe, just a couple of pre-announced days.

Good luck with your privileged commute, car worshippers. Good luck with Charlie's commute, too! You can be world class and special in super duper gridlock!

And it won't even be a "strike" ... just a "critical mass drive". Hmmm. This has possibilities for getting some attention to properly funding efficient transportation modes.

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...

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Not even close.

I was continuing the snark. Read it again.

Unless what whoosh applies to you ...

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I like this idea a lot. Everyone who would typically find another way to get to work via public transit, walking, biking, scooting, just drive if you have the option. And drive at your normal commuting time of day.

You would think that the winter of 14/15 would have been a big enough wakeup call, but clearly it wasn't.

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How often does this have to happen before @MBTA makes real plan & investments to fix infrastructure, expand service??

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Give time for Baker's reforms to kick in. Why are you so focused on the short term?

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I wouldn't call what Baker is doing on behalf of the Koch Brothers "reform" any more than I would call the end results of such "reform" in Kansas "solvent" or "successful".

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are all funding decreases, yes? And that there's no conceivable way, ever, in any universe, where this will help the MBTA's service?

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In the long term we'll all be as dead as the Orange Line.

Baker has been mostly concerned with "cutting costs", claiming that improvements can't happen until they figure out how to save money.

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unfortunately.

And sooner or later it will probably happen.

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Sure we can complain about the obvious mismanagement, but it's years and years of shortsightedness and limited investment from our government that has led to this. Public transportation benefits us all as people who work and/or live in the city - we should all be interested in paying for this vital infrastructure. I don't understand how they expect to support all of the new development here when the roads are bad already and stuff like this is happening regularly. I just really hope I'm not on the T the day someone is killed.

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You are elected to do something about things like this, or at least make lots of noise and trouble for the idiots who are trying to drown the MBTA in a bathtub.

Squeaky wheel. Oil. etc.

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The Boston City Council has very little, next to no, oversight of the MBTA. What can she do? Call a hearing? Where no one from MassDOT can be compelled to attend? Yeah, that will do wonders.

You, on the other hand, can contact your state rep and senator to see what kind of noice they can make, being the body that funds the T.

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I don't think this was about oversight.

This is about having a soap box.

City councilors go off script all the time - why not start bugging the Mayor and the MBTA? You don't need to have any formal authority - JUST START MAKING NOISE!

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Is tweeting not making noise, getting the public involved? I'm pretty sure this isn't all Michelle Wu is doing on the subject.

Or are you just looking for something to complain about here...

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Especially when it is complaining instead of a clear call to action.

This gives no information on who to bug or how or at what address. She needs to be more specific about directing action, with information on how to bug reps and the governor.

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At least it appears there were MBTA personnel in the station this time. That was not the case when this happened to my train at State Street back in February.
And then later the passengers were scolded for not sitting quietly on a smoke-filled train, in a potentially dangerous situation, and wait for someone to show up and tell us what to do.

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1) Minor delays at Back Bay
2) The passengers panicked needlessly
3) No windows were kicked out
4) There was no fire
5) There was smoke caused by cigarettes

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How does the mass transit system in a major American city get to this point? It's embarrassing that we can't rely on the T at all for our daily commute.

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Or San Francisco. Or Philly. The former 2 systems are a lot newer than Boston's (and yes, I know Back Bay Station opened in 1987. I was there) yet all have had problems worse than Boston has had at its (non weather related) worst.

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Then it's a sorry state of affairs for those cities too. I can't imagine how this should be acceptable just because it could be worse.

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This is the attitude that continues to carry forward the inadequacies and incompetence of our public transit. "Wahh, move elsewhere", "wahh, look at the other cities"

Why not actually try and properly fix something for a change, even if it costs money?

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I don't think that's at all what they were saying. They're saying Boston has it rough, but at least we're not like the ass clowns in DC who have to cut full days of service on a much newer system because of poor planning. And don't even mention the word "streetcar" in DC. Yikes.

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I'm not saying that fires becoming a regular occurrence is a good thing, just that other parts of the country are having transit troubles of their own. Then, you can go to Europe and hear people gripe about the shortcomings of their transit systems (London, for example.) In short, the T can do better, but can't we all?

I learned a while back to take internet gripers with a grain of salt. So many boston.com articles (back when they reported on things) would have comments from people saying they were going to move to Arizona. Then, I read an article about Phoenix on the Republic's website. Most of the commenters there were talking about moving to Idaho. I have never read the comments on an article in a Boise newspaper, so I don't know what the next step is.

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We made the national news, CBS and ABC, at least. ABC apparently said something about how the incident didn't appear to be an act of terrorism.

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I said to someone that mentioned terrorism yesterday that "terrorists realize our system is too shitty to bomb. It will collapse on itself soon enough." lol.

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our government turning into a literal trashfire wrt public transit is terrorism in my book

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The crux of ABC's lead story was how this was not an act of terrorism, how close Back Bay Station is to the Marathon bombing locations, etc. Got to keep stoking fear of terrorism to the national audience! Only at the end of the report did David Muir mention that perhaps the bigger picture is maintenance and funding. That's the entire picture, David!

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Listen to the fear-mongering at http://cdn48.castfire.com/audio/311/2609/9379/3174307/3174307_2016-10-26...

I can assure you that exactly zero of the passengers thought it was terrorism and exactly 100% thought it was yet another symptom of decrepit infrastructure.

But, but, the "iconic" (to whom?) Back Bay station is 1,200 feet — a few hundred yards, I tell you! — from the finish line. I wonder what distance a subway fire has to be from the finish line to have a terror angle: 2,000 feet? a mile? 2 miles?

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Locally, we didn't even think terrorism, or try to link the two. The assumption was that a train broke down (I was in the station less than 10 minutes before this, and that was my thought) or that it was yet another trash fire.

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metro system (2nd largest subway system in the U.S. after NYC) for something like 6months to a year because of dire maintenance issues, and they only started construction on the metro in the late 60s-70s. Maybe the T will need to do the same.

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for these repairs and upgrades only after several major crashes and other events that resulted in multiple fatalities and injures, and because the FTA finally got fed up with WMATA management continually snubbing their noses at NTSB safety recommendations.

Want to effect a similar change at the MBTA? Then contact your congressmen and senators and have them request the NTSB do a special safety audit of the MBTA. With the 'runaway train' on the Red Line, the continual derailments on the Green Line, and a track fire every couple of days, IMO there is certainly justification for the NTSB to get involved.

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This is precisely what I said on twitter this morning. If Beacon Hill won't address the issue, let's get Capitol Hill on it (loosely speaking, since neither FTA nor NTSB live there, but I hope all understand the point).

Also, it's probably time to go to the courts, too, since we have nothing but Milquetoast state- level elected reps. If we were able to get a federal judge to order the clean up Boston Harbor (with fabulous results!), let's get one to order the clean up of the MBTA. Same thing goes for the SJC and the resulting '93 education reform (not perfect, but massively improved public education in the Commonwealth).

Unless something is done soon (and as I have said umpteen times before) we are going to have a Cocoanut Grove underground and loose hundreds of people. Hell, one day soon, the stampede resulting from these now commonplace "minor" trash fires is going to get tens of people.

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We need another governor who actually uses the transit system.

Quite frankly, the place has been going downhill since Dukakis and Weld left office. They were both regular riders and it showed.

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I never heard of weld using the subway

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Until the security people told him not to, and he fumed about that.

Before he was the Governor, he rode the red line all the time and sometimes when he was governor if it was faster.

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Must not have lived here for very long.

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It's very unlikely that the people who clean stations, platforms, and the interior of rail cars are the same people who would do maintenance-of-way work along the right-of-way.

I suspect it would be two different unions. Maybe something under SEIU for the former and I have no idea for the latter.

The maintenance-of-way people probably spend a lot of available time in the right-of-way involved in rail, switch or signal work (or cleaning in areas shut down for that type of work)

The T doesn't have anything like NYCTA vak trak, does it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv-aL4AMDMY

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While I appreciate Adam's diligence in reporting on the daily failures of the MBTA, I think many of these failures should be expected, especially when mechanical equipment is involved. There are new Mercedes and BMWs that catch fire or suffer mechanical problems every day. If people leave trash on the side of the road (or in the tracks) that may catch fire too. Billion dollar Samsung has even put out a flammable phone.

I only use the T a few times a year, partly because I know it's not as reliable as my own car or a ride service, but I know what I'm getting with the T. I will never understand the T's delayed plan and special factory requirements for the new trains. We all know when we need a new car (or bicycle) so if there is any blame I'd place it on the prior administrations who delayed ordering new trains. Regardless, expect the daily breakdowns and I'm no fan of Baker, can't wait to vote against him after his cowardice in the presidential race.

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Paying all this money to ride the mbta and can't get a safe ride.... Smh

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People on that train paid $2.75 to travel what could be 11 miles. Is that really "all this money"?

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$217.75. Yep, I'd say that's a fair piece of my monthly budget - especially when I can't get where I need to go in a timely manner because they randomly cancel trains for no apparent reason.

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We were talking about a subway fire, not a commuter rail fire.

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The CR was shut down b/c of yesterday as well as Amtrak. So yes my $200plus monthly fare (to go 6 miles to Rozzie but that is another story) was affected as were many others.

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They are not.

I suppose you keep a car at North Station so you can drive someplace without using the subway?

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"All this money" you pay doesn't even begin to cover the annual T budget. You're commute is being subsidized by your fellow taxpayers. The 2015 MBTA budget was almost $2 billion. "all that money" you pay made up about 30% of that. The majority of the money that paid for your ride to/from (40%) was from a dedicated sales tax. Do I want the T to run properly? Of course, but it's not as easy as saying "I pay a lot of money, I want my train to be there on time".

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about the provenance of the funding for the state's road network.

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I, and many others, are also subsidizing my fellow taxpayers who drive on the roads for their commute and I don't drive. Your point?

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but perhaps not daily failures, either

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Try hourly failures. Alerts I've received (and still active) since I got into the office at 9 am:

Orange Line track failure near Wellington

Green Line signal problems at Reservoir

Shuttle buses on Green Line C branch between Coolidge Corner and Cleveland Circle

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No new vehicles for decades.

Retirement of people or huge layoffs

Destruction of the union or else.

I'm sure you would be up for that sort of "reform", Fishy.

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Adam posted a link to this video in the first sentence of his story.

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I saw the video before I came to uhub and saw the article

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I knew it was pretty bad if it made the UK's Daily Mail site:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3876914/Riders-break-windows...

I can understand how people freaked with all that smoke. Would have been the same way. The conductors should have given instructions on how to evacuate.

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You had one operator that had to deal with a sudden failure, reporting that sudden failure, and requesting assistance b/c the smoke - to dispatch, then having to go through the train and try to manually open the doors that were on the station platform. Given all that, I'd forgive them for not dropping all that in order to immediately make announcements to the passengers.

Several people have commented about "this is what happens when you lose the janitors." I'd say "this is what happens when you lose the second person on trains".

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Why didn't they open the doors to the platform?

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therefore, they could not automatically open the doors. As I noted in another post, the sole operator of the train had to go from car to car to manually open those doors that were aligned with the platform.

Note that automatically opening the doors would have risked people falling, or climbing down, on to the track bed. Not a good idea, especially with a 600 volt third rail present.

">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAwbrOJMKEc[/youtube]

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The third rail is on the opposite side of the tracks from the platform, right? It is at every station I've cared to look at, probably as a safety measure. So if they opened the platform side, there's no reason for anyone to go around to the third rail side. The danger is trivial, and the potential for saving lives is huge (since they had no way of knowing how serious the fire would be at that time).

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