Monday, May 17, 2010

Sheeple on the Metro

From Kyle:

On the Orange Line the other morning, I got on the rear of the fourth car (I think it was a 1000-series.) of a six-car train at East Falls Church after a five minute wait, and it was already packed. A great start to the day.

On the way into the Ballston tunnel, the wheels underneath my feet start making this scraping, creaking noise and vibrating enough that I broke the whole rush hour solipsism thing and looked around to see if any of my fellow passengers felt it. They did.

We got into Ballston, and the operator made the announcement that they were taking the train out of service, which was fantastic because there were already two hundred or so people on the platform who wanted to get on.

After stepping off, there was the unmistakable odor of smoke, and there were whispers that the train had caught fire. Awesome. Everyone got off.

Well, not everyone.

The 30 or so commuters squeezed into the front portion of the fifth car behind us didn't move. I figured they didn't blink the lights when they make the "out of service" announcement like they usually do, and maybe their loudspeaker was broken.

I called out to them, "hey, they're taking the train out of service."

Two people heard me and walked out, going through the center doors. The rest just stayed there with dead looks on their faces, all staring out onto the platform where there was probably a thousand people all fighting for standing room.

A minute later someone else yelled at them from the platform. Nobody moved.

The best part was that even though the third, fourth and sixth cars were completely empty, a few people actually were getting onto the fifth car now to join them in just standing there in a trance.

Three full minutes later the operator closed the doors, and right at that "stand clear doors closing" chime moment, one rider snapped out of it and stood there propping a door open, then screamed at what I guessed was the train operator all the way down the platform, "open the goddamn doors, we have to get out!"

It took another three full minutes for them to disembark, single-file.

Other items:
NextBus fail (Examiner)


Anonymous said...

I was on the same train that morning. What a nightmare. The operator non chalantly announced that there was smoke coming from the back car...and that the train was being taken out of service. As I stood on the platform seethting, I noticed that a lot of my fellow passengers that were in my car just sat back down and seemingly refused to get off. The train left with a lot of people still on it.

Anonymous said...

FYI - the smoke was probably smoking brakes. That was the squealing noise. Once a mechanic gets on and cuts the brake out, the smoking stops.
Next time you hear about delays, remember this. Too often, passengers make the situation worse by not cooperating. In the meantime trains can't get in to pick up the crowds, and more people enter the station.
Help cut delays by being proactive.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they thought it was an a-hole driver who was offloading the train because it was packed and somebody was blocking a door? From what I've heard (and seen), when the driver's having a bad day or whatever and offloads the train because of doors, they usually start the train up again at the next station. If something's ACTUALLY wrong, they usually send staff through the length of the train.

GrapesOfRough said...

Ugh. Stories like this are the only thing that makes me glad that I take the Green (ghetto-fab) line to and from work every day. It might be dangerous and gross, but it's never packed to capacity like the Orange and Red lines often are.

Anonymous said...

I hope they got to walk home from the rail yard.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they just turn off the third rail, get out of the way and make the tunnels bike lanes and footpaths?

Anonymous said...

I saw several people stay on the train. I wonder what happens. I have to admit I'm tempted to give it a try next time. It's not like I could be THAT much later.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 9:25

Operator don't make the decision to offload the train. It's done by the Control Center, based on the problem and time. Delays can be minimized by offloading a train at times, and they make the decision based on the options available. When trains are running 3 minutes apart, wasting time trying to fix a malfunction can cause a snowball effect.

Staff isn't available at every station to troubleshoot problems. Sometimes a circuit breaker can be made to override a problem till they can get a mechanic aboard.

If they are able to fix the problem, it can be put back in service. And yes, sometimes that is at the next station.

I understand the frustation, but it's not the a-hole driver (no, I'm not a driver, btw)

Anonymous said...

So wait... who are the 'sheeple' in this story? The ones who stayed on the train, only to get off at the last second, or the 'probably a thousand people all fighting for standing room' on the platform?

Anonymous said...

Anon @11:34 - you mean that when an operator threatens to offload a train because people aren't squeezing in tight enough ("please utilize all doors"), that's a decision made by Central and not the operator?

Anonymous said...

They aren't asking you to squeeze in tighter. They're asking you to stop blocking the doors with your fat asses.

Metro doors should be electrified.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but there's at least one Orange driver, excuse me, doorkeep (since the "computer" drives the train and is supposedly to blame for the constant lurching when the train comes to a stop), who is especially peevish about the door issue and whose offloadings are far more frequent than other drivers/doorkeeps. It's not the woman who offloaded old smokey. It's a guy.

Anonymous said...

By the way, can't the driver sometimes (usually?) figure out which door is not closing properly? If so, why not just take that ONE CAR out of commission, offload just that car, keep its doors shut for the remining stations, and move along?

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