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, +/− :



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.)

  1. 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.

  2. A day, week or month pass printed on a paper CharlieTicket would work.