I fumbled with the clasp on my worn, leather wallet and scanned its contents for the appropriate piece of plastic. It was cold, and the light raincoat that I had thought would keep me warm on a crisp November evening was far from ideal. Standing in the wind tunnel created by the open doors of the Green Line train I was holding up, I could feel an impatient line grumbling behind me. The impatient commuters were judging me either on my apparent lack of public transportation etiquette or the floral pants I was trying to get away with in late fall. I heard the steps of my friend’s riding boots click farther away into the car, quickly losing hope that she might fund my trip out of pity or embarrassment.
But then, tucked behind a Target Red Card—with my mom’s name on, but don’t tell her that—was the little sliver of white and green that I had been looking for. As I grasped my Charlie Card and, finally, had the courage to look the MBTA driver in the eyes, I was greeted with a small chuckle and passing hand gesture. Just like that, my anxiety was replaced with an apologetic, yet grateful sense of relief, and I shuffled through the car to find my friends.
The T and I have a love-hate relationship.
Every Bostonian has their own views on the T, good or bad, and it’s that shared experience of our archaic but beloved public transportation system that justifies these opinions. We all really have some stake in the T—whether we like it or not, whether we ride it daily or just dodge its chaotic course in our Ubers. In late October, the MBTA saluted the Bostonian’s compulsion to offer opinions on the T by having the public select new exterior designs of the Red, Orange, and Green line rail cars through an online poll.
Was it a good idea? A nice gesture to all of those who have gone gloveless in January to swipe their Charlie Cards? Definitely. But this is the MBTA, so you know it’s never that simple.
On Tuesday, instead of celebrating the rail car designs that were announced that afternoon, the public transportation authority was hit with a negative slew of opinions, questioning the integrity of their public poll.
The latest MBTA scandal surrounds irregularity in voting patterns, specifically for the polls on the Red and Green line designs. Where the Orange line polls showed a wider spread of votes over a more timely period, the Red and Green line polls were heavily skewed. Further, a majority of those votes can be traced back to the same computer.
MBTA spokesman, Joe Pesaturo, told The Boston Globe that the results would be held until the concerns were resolved—exhausting the transportation authority’s attempt at an innocent and festive experiment.
The T really can’t win.
Despite the unnecessary uproar over this computer science controversy—which seems so strange and poorly executed that it most likely was done at the hand of some “code-blooded” MIT freshman—the T really doesn’t get the credit that it deserves.
Yes, it may seem inconvenient and antiquated, but it has its hidden gems. Riding the T is a fraction of the cost of riding the Metro in D.C., and its remarkably cleaner than New York’s Subway. Most of the T conductors will look the other way when you sneak into the side doors without paying, and frequently offer rides on the house just because. Yes, the T is a little rickety, but it is really a feat that someone designed a public transportation system that accommodates a city whose map looks like it was designed by a drunk.
I, like most, have had my fair share of missed trains and close calls while crossing the street. I am all too familiar with the awkwardness of, literally, breathing in a stranger’s face as you both silently pray that the crowds of rush hour will disperse by the Brookline Village Station. I know that seeing the back lights of a Green Line car dim as it races away is plenty justification for a certain set of words—which should also probably be kept from my mom.
Everyone who has even approached the MBTA in some capacity knows that it isn’t always on-time, nor does it give adequate amounts of personal space. But despite all of that, some days I get smiling conductors, free train rides, and have even been known to, happily, accept to the chivalrous seat exchange on occasion. The MBTA does the best it can, and this poll gone wrong is just the latest example of the T falling victim to the angry Boston public.
It is an easy target that the city loves to hate, but in situations like this the public needs to remember the free rides instead of the missed trains and give the T a break.
Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor