I Don't Know Why I'm Writing An Article About A One Minute Train Delay
Yesterday my MBTA Green Line train1 experienced a one minute delay for which many reasonable people will blame someone on the train. At a surface stop, a rider entered through the rear door with the appearance of not paying their fare. The driver spent a minute announcing at the rider to come to the front and pay, and announcing at the other people standing in the train to stand to the side so the driver could see the rider. Eventually a person — the rider, I guess — walked to the front of the train and spoke with the driver. I wasn't able to tell whether the rider showed the driver a T pass2 and/or made an excuse. Then the rider returned to their seat and after a little while the driver proceeded.
Arguments whether this delay is someone's fault, +/− :
- + they could have easily ignored the alleged fare evasion
- + they should have ignored it because doing so has substantial benefits to the majority of fare-abiding customers. It gets them where they're going to quicker, and it makes it easier for people who have difficulty with stairs who board the Green Line above ground. (Because of the fucked design of the Type 8 “accessible” Green Line cars, you can't pay your fare at most above-ground stops without climbing two steps, so drivers let in people with a visible disability in a rear door without asking them to pay.)
- − it's quite possible the driver would get in trouble with their boss if they didn't bug some people who looked like they weren't paying fare
- − Massholes enjoy seeing someone punished or publicly shamed more than they mind a one-minute delay
- + they could have boarded at the front door
- + they could have come to the front the first time they were asked
- − it might have been physically difficult for them to come to the front and as such the driver did harm to some part of their legs by coercing them to do so
- − they might have had a weekly/monthly pass
- −(?) they might not have had $2.65 but were trying to get to their job
- − when people with power over a situation make the rules and then assign 100% responsibility to the powerless for breaking the rules made by the powerful, that is a truly fucked situation
The “−” points are important to keep in mind for empathy reasons. They are mostly speculative though. I am sceptical of the idea that blame is a good way to analyze this situation. A similar one-minute delay could occur by the driver helping someone board who is having physical difficulty doing so. I can see how you could blame either or both people in that physical accessibility situation. But I would not be inclined to look for blame because a valuable service is occurring that cannot efficiently occur elseways. However, I do not see addressing MBTA fare evasion as a valuable service because there isn't very much fare evasion, and most of the people I see evading fares are doing so because they can't easily afford it anyway. Because I don't see it as a valuable service, I was more inclined to think about blame, which is probably a bad habit of mine. I think I feel better about thinking about causation than thinking about blame.
(I don't know if the following affects your view of what the driver and the rider did yesterday — it's a hypothetical that neither of them could have brought about — but there exist ways to welcome rear door boarding while having consequences for fare evasion, and the MBTA has even used some of them in the past.)
Details: The MBTA Green Line is a light rail line. Trains usually consist of two trolleys, each with one front right-side door and two rear doors on each side (and a far-rear left-side door because they have 180-degree rotational symmetry in order to be reversible). Half the trolleys are more-modern ones with level boarding on the four rear doors for accessibility purposes. The front door of all trolleys, and all doors of the older trolleys, have two steps up into the train. The trolley in this article is one of the more-modern ones.
Subterranean stops have fare control outside the trains. Most surface stops collect fares at the front of each trolley. Fares are collected on boarding but not departure. Monthly pass holders usually must “pay” with their pass even though they're not paying anything.↩
A day, week or month pass printed on a paper CharlieTicket would work.↩