Blue Line loses power; riders evacuated from dead train in downtown tunnel

Tori reports she was on a Blue Line train when it suddenly lost power shortly after 8:20 a.m. between Aquarium and State. And then she and fellow passengers were evacuated from the train.

The T is blaming an unspecified "power problem." Boston firefighters are at Maverick station.

Up the escape hatch

Erinn C. Larson watched the evacuation begin, before joining the "underground parade:"

Evacuation begins
Evacuation begins

The Blue Line had another "power problem" on Monday.



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Isnt this where this same thing happened on Monday....

Decrepit system

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It's probably going to take a decade or more before this sort of thing becomes "non routine".


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I think this had less to do with the trains but the archaic power system


Exactly why

I have 0 hope for the Orange or Red Lines running noticeably better once the new trains are in service. A disabled train will be avoided here or there, but the issues run much, much deeper.



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The emergency exits under the Blue Line are hundreds of feet below the surface because the line travels under the ocean. How are the elderly, handicapped, mothers with small children supposed to navigate the tunnels safely? This was a very dangerous situation and the public deserves answers not more propaganda from the MBTA's high paid PR department.



" How are the elderly, handicapped, mothers with small children supposed to navigate the tunnels safely?"

Strong capable men help those that are weaker. In the name of equality, strong capable women help those that are weaker.

It's the only plan I have, quite frankly, it's probably the only plan anyone has.

T-cops to the rescue

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From all the photos of this fiasco I see one tiny cop in the tunnels and a whole squad of burly cops upstairs pointing their fingers at buses.

I'm referring to civilians.

The real first responders are the ordinary people that are on the scene when the incident starts. Under duress, people usually summon the 'better angels of their nature'.

If it's an orderly evacuation, then the T employees, Fire, Police etc should have a lot of personnel in the area in a fairly short time.

You can never really tell from pictures what the hell is going on.

Okay, calm down

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It's not hundreds of feet! The lowest point of the tunnel's floor is only 90 feet below the high tide line. (Or was in 1903, so maybe 92 feet now.)


No Clue

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Yeah its called an emergency use only. Hello... I've lived here 20 years and I've NEVER heard this happening in this tunnel. EVER.

It's not like people were walking out of the cars by themselves down a tunnel with no T employees in sight. You clearly didn't look closely at the photos. MBTA personnel were helping everyone. I am 100% positive that if someone could not walk, they would have helped and/or used the stretcher/chair lift in each cab of the car. (By law, each car has to have one of these). AND I am sure the driver of the train waited for help to arrive TO the train to assist passengers.

I know people think the T is dumb sometimes, but I'm 100% certain that the T has protocol for this. Not because they want to, they have too. Between Fire Code, State, Federal, FTA, OSHA and whatever else governs safety.. they got this covered. That and I'm sure the T doesn't want to be sued so everyone gets kid gloves.

(and yes I know, I was evac'd out of a train 10 years ago at North Station into the tunnel. We got white glove service during this evac. I tripped and 5 T employees came running to help. They are serious about this crap)


Ah, the kid gloves treatment

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You'll appreciate this story.

A while back, junior and I went to check out the SL3. For some reason, I ran for a bus at Bellingham Square station, lost my footing, and fell into the concrete. I got a bit bloody and junior hit his head, which for my money was the worst of it. The driver was very concerned, as were the other riders. The driver radioed his boss (starter?) who met the bus at Silver Line Way to inquire as to our state, making sure to ask me if we wanted medical attention. I deferred, since my wounds were superficial and I could get him to a hospital myself if needed.

By the way, SL3 looks great, except for the odd street crossing at Cottage Street. And the fact that I injured myself, but that wasn't the T's fault.

The SL3 Chelsea is garbage. Would rather walk through the Blue L

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More times than not, the SL3 Chelsea goes off its regular course due to bridge lifts and car traffic. Its garbage. We wanted Everett & Chelsea Orange Line service. No. We accepted Patrick's modern diesel train service. No. We get a crap bus that makes walking to Boston look enticing.


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I don’t remember when an Orange Line extension to Chelsea was proposed, ever. Care to provide a history to this story? Or did you just make it up?

World Class City status

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How do we encourage people and companies to move into the city and have them rely on public transport when that transportation system is a mess?


yeah like everything else

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They shut down the line at 8pm and work.

Sad when you try to ride the subway before 6am... literally one line near my hotel (out of 6 or so) were in service..

They're closing the tunnel

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They're closing the tunnel altogether for fifteen months: no L service under the river or in Manhattan. (A single-track Eighth Avenue to First Avenue shuttle looks good at first glance, but would have no connection to maintenance facilities--the first time the train broke down, everyone would have to evacuate on foot and the train just sit there.)

It's anybody's guess how well the cobbled-together collection of extra service on other lines and dedicated bus lanes on Fourteenth Street will do to handle all those passengers/trips. The range of possibilities seems to be from "it'll be all right, really" to "disaster!"

I don't love the MTA, but Hurricane Sandy really wasn't their fault. (The expensive, unprotected, fancy new station at South Ferry might be, but the flooded tunnels and twisted tracks to Rockaway weren't.)

Yes and No

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Even without climate change, NYC has been hit with big enough storms in post-invasion history to have flooded those tunnels.

Stop Googling. Start Learning

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L Riders have the Will Bridge and a wealth of multi-modal options. Go down there. You'll learn a thing or two.

And Blue Line Riders have 2 tunnels

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Along with the Silver Line as a backup. My point being that the subways in Gotham have, um, issues.

Also, I've ridden the L line. Just for the sake of riding it. The complete trip was a bit disjointed as several subway lines were out of service for maintenance.

Wealth of options, but no wealth of capacity

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Hi, lurking NYer here. Your argument would be fine assuming all the other options were not at capacity. About 230K people cross under the East River everyday. The current subways over the Williamsburg bridge have very limited capacity due to an S-curve approaching the bridge, and the HOV/bus plan for the bridge may look nice on paper, but will come nowhere near meeting the capacity of the L train.

Urban and traffic planners are currently raising the alarm that the patchwork of buses and alternatives currently on the table will not come close to meeting the current L train demand. Any real viable solutions have met significant opposition, mostly from wealthy West Village residents (god forbid they lose a parking spot or two).

The L Train shutdown could've created a model for positive developments in BRT, congestion pricing, and auto restrictions, but NYC fumbled at every point. NYC is falling far behind its Asian counterparts when it comes to infrastructure investment and planning. This will be a shit show.

They'll lose their "World Class" status

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If they don't handle that well.

I do feel bad for the NYCTA (and several other agencies including our own.) Hopefully the levels of government above will provide them with the resources to get the system back to where outsiders think it is at now.

What proposal are you

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What proposal are you referring to? I don't see how taking parking spaces in the West Village could help service crossing the East River.

Why is there no plan?

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I was stuck in this fiasco, apparently on the train right behind the disabled one. After waiting over half an hour at Wood Island the train finally moved to Airport, where they made us get off. First they said shuttle buses, then they said go to the other side where the train will be running on one track. At that point I was fed up and took the Silver Line to South Station, which takes absolutely forever.

My question is this, and if I've asked it once I've asked it a million times. Why is there no plan already in place for when this happens? Especially since it happens so often. The T employees are absolutely clueless and no help. I'm not sure it's their fault (beyond their general incompetence). They get no definitive word from above as to what to do.


I asked this here about a decade ago

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I was bullied and attacked by T-splainers who offered nothing of substance when it came to rational thought being involved in any of it.

Waiting to see what bullying you get ... or maybe things have improved when it comes for making belligerent excuses for brain dead morons who fail at systems thinking.

The issue is not a plan

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The T can work out the details of shuttle buses in minutes.

The issue is implementation. And so I won't be charged with "bullying and attacking" you, I'll just note that implementation is the issue.


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If what you are saying is accurate than the issue is not implementation, but communication. If the T can indeed mobilize buses at a moment's notice and the only issue is getting them to the place they need to be, then somebody has GOT TO TELL THE EMPLOYEES THIS. The T employees stand around like dopes, as clueless as everybody else. And when they do seem to know something they all have different stories. Believe me, I was there at Airport Station this morning. One employee was saying shuttle buses would be arriving. Another was saying the train would be running on one track and everybody should locate to the other side. Another was saying that everybody should resort to taking the Silver Line because nothing was happening. This does not sound like a plan to me. I realize there are variables, but this utter chaos is jut plain ridiculous.

Just keep in mind

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that the T doesn't have a dozen buses and drivers just hanging out and waiting to be dispatched to the latest "inconvenience." The MBTA doesn't have extra buses or drivers, especially at rush hour.

What the T has to do at rush hour is pull buses/drivers from regular routes, which of course destroys service on those lines as well. Add in the issue of traffic and travel time to the "inconvenience" and usually by the time the shuttles arrive, the T has already restarted "normal"

As for the communication among employees, yes, that can certainly be improved.

According to conductor

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It was that the train blew two motors (I was on this train, unfortunately). Not sure if this is cause and effect due to the power systems, but I can tell you that when we pulled out of Maverick, I heard and felt a big thump, which caused half the lights to go out on the train. The T officials actually coordinating our evac were awesome, can't say the same for the shuttle bus mess up top at the station.


Part of the problem

Say the tracks provide 600v power. If that drops to, say, 550v, the current draw actually goes up to provide the same amount of power to the motors. This causes overheating, letting out the magic smoke and circuit breaker tripping.

Between Aquarium and State

At least it wasn't between Aquarium and Airport. Being on foot in a 114-year-old tunnel beneath the harbor would seem much more terrifying than riding through it on the subway. Plus, might be an uncomfortably long walk to any emergency exits (the East Boston tunnel is 1 mile long, with about half underwater).

It was between Maverick and

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It was between Maverick and Aquarium. Not sure if you've never been on the Blue Line before? What are you talking about, man?

You're half right

Read the article above, where it says:

suddenly lost power shortly after 8:20 a.m. between Aquarium and State

But, you are correct, I forgot that Maverick is between Airport and Aquarium.

It's convenient that the

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It's convenient that the posters who drumbeat that people should take more public transit can put up with these types of delays. Some of us need to actually be at work. And if that requires driving and sitting in traffic, so be it.


Best of both worlds

I walked into Maverick, immediately knew something was wrong based on how full the platform was, looked at Twitter, walked back to my house and grabbed my keys. 20 mins late for work when all was said and done.

I generally rely (used very loosely) on the T within the city, but wouldn't give up the flexibility of having a car unless I absolutely had to.


Thing is, you can rely on

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Thing is, you can rely on gridlock being relatively consistent in duration each day. With the T, on a good day, it might be a 45min commute; then once a week, at random, it turns into a 2-hour commute. You can't plan around that.

In Adam's defense

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This one was a very serious matter. Having to evacuate people through a subway tunnel, especially on a hot humid morning, is not something to joke about.


He made the right call

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It's like after 9/11 or when there is really bad news that day, The Globe will replace their usual weather pun with "The Weather" to say, "This is no time for levity."

Speculation on Power Problems

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Speculation here... the recent power issues seems to disable multiple trains from operating but allow for one or fewer trains to operate on one track.

The suggestion here is one of capacity or supply.

When the Red Line has lost power injection from some of its sources that convert AC to DC current, it may have to decrease the number of trains on certain sections of track. There are plenty of stories archived in new media about this. This is because there is less current available along the 3rd rail from the next-nearest injection point. There are some supplementary MBTA power injection systems that kick in during peak service hours as well because there are more trains in operation. Long distances of transmission represent electrical resistance to the flow of DC current (which is why Edison's system lost out to Tesla's) so when you get too far from an injection point there is actually less voltage and current to operate the trains properly and safely. Lower voltage can result in a train's safety systems to cause the train to fail so that motors and other systems are not damaged.

The 3rd rail carries an average of 600 VDC, however at its peak it is closer to 750 VDC. The trains that are connected use some of that power and drops the average across the system to around 600 VDC. Each station is also equipped with overhead lights that are actually operated off the 3rd rail power (look up they are there and marked) that also contribute to the circuit, and offer emergency lighting if station power from the commercial supplier is lost. If the source drops below 500 VDC then things get problematic.

Alternately, if too much voltage gets in, then that can trigger a similar safety problem and cause things to fail.

Along those same lines if one of the injection points is not sending true DC current into the system, and some stray AC is getting in, that will also trigger a system failure. Unfortunately, while stray AC is a problem, figuring which injection point is causing it may be tricky. It may not be the nearest injection point.

Having DC current supplied along each branch line is why some lines are limited to where they end, and also are a governing factor to whether some lines can be extended. The MBTA system currently has enough of these injection points to run the system it has. You need real estate for these electrical yards with fences, permits, and neighborhood approvals, as well as an electrical source of power from the local commercial supplier, usually measured in thousands of AC volts. That is not an easy thing to get. And as noted, if any of them fail the result is fewer trains or no trains as it stands.

I hadn't read your post...

...when I posted above about current draw.

You summed up nicely the overall problem, I think. It's an old system. That's just what we have here. Many cities are stuck with it, like NY and DC.

At least in DC, they're trying to keep it current...

Something you wrote seemed odd

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How does DC have such an old electrical system? Compared to Boston (most of the Orange Line aside) they are a newer system.

Of course, decades of neglect might have something to do with that.


"DC current" Pun.

But you got me reading about the DC Metro. Holy shit. It seems like every system they designed to make it more efficient has been disconnected, usually because someone got killed.

The problem on Thursday was

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The problem on Thursday was part of the third-rail shoe assembly on a car falling off and damaging/shorting out the third rail.

The Shuttle Buses weren't too bad

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Some clever bunny actually has them stopping at Haymarket now, so people can make connections. I was only ten minutes late to Copley, and I started from Maverick.

I still wish that they had the ferry from the end of Lewis Mall to Long Wharf running, though. Or arranged for the Charlestown ferry to run in a triangle when the Blue Line is down.

Does the T have a crisis management plan?

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It seems with Baker's system breaking down daily (thanks to Adam for info) does the T have a "hands on" crisis management person?

I know back in the 80's the Control Center on High Street had big screen digital info on train locations, advanced at that time but now very primitive. Even the "runaway train" from Braintree last year couldn't be stopped for miles. The driver had manipulated the controls with a towel and floored the engine. A miracle that nobody was killed.

With all the unnecessary six figure salaries, the T should hire some QUALIFIED people to handle these situations and better yet, prevent them.

I’m Blue

I’m blue da ba dee da ba daa
Da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa
Da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa
I’m blue da ba dee da ba daa
Da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa
Da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa

I learned a valuable lesson

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I learned a valuable lesson this morning. From where I live in Revere, I usually grab a bus going to one of the blue line stations (Wonderland or Beachmont). On occasion I'll take the 110 to Wellington and take the OL in. This morning before leaving the house to catch a bus to Wonderland, an email notification appeared on my phone. I ignored it thinking it wasn't important. It wasn't until I was already on the bus that I decided to check the email only to see it was an alert about the blue line delays. Lesson learned: check email for possible delays before leaving house.

A few points I want to make.
The T needs to reinstate Ferry Service between Maverick and Aquarium. This would have been helpful on a day like today. Furthermore, with all the new and upcoming development in Eastie, ferry service would help to alleviate overcrowding on the blue line by giving people another option to get into Downtown.
Up until a few years ago, bus routes ran from Lynn to Haymarket. The T decided to terminate the bus routes at Wonderland instead. This morning it would have been great to have that option to take a bus in instead of standing in a train for 25 minutes.