A horrific T story reported in the Sunday Globe

Mac Daniel writes about a situation that will make anyone shudder

The following story made us cringe.

“I am reporting a traumatic incident that occurred on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 10:30 a.m.,” wrote Sharon of Melrose.

“My 7-year-old, 5-year-old, and 8-month-old daughters, 74-year-old mother, and I were preparing to board a Green Line trolley leaving Government Center heading toward North Station. Since we and many other families were traveling at this time to attend Disney on Ice, we were following other families boarding the trolley.

“My 7-year-old boarded, and I was immediately behind her bending down to lift my 8-month-old [who was in a stroller] onto the trolley. To my horror, the driver closed the door on me and my 8-month-old. [My 5-year-old daughter and my mother were immediately behind me].

“Being in a state of shock that a door was closing on me, and not wanting my 8-month-old to be hurt by the closing door, I backed up. The door then closed with my 7-year-old on the train. I panicked. I banged on the door and screamed that my daughter was on the train — but to no avail. The train proceeded on.

“Thanks to an off-duty police officer from Maine who was on the trolley with my daughter, as well as the MBTA inspector at Government Center who alerted the driver to wait at Haymarket, I was reunited with my daughter in a relatively short amount of time.

“According to the MBTA’s Customer Bill of Rights, ‘safety is [its] top priority.’ Safety was not on this employee’s mind,” Sharon wrote. “The drivers of buses and trolleys are the T’s customer service representatives. If this person was not paying attention to the people boarding the trolley, or felt that he or she was there long enough and wanted to go, then this person should not have this job. Either way, he or she was negligent. Since this is not the first incident that I’ve seen of doors closing on a person with a child, I’m starting to wonder if safety really is the T’s ‘top priority.’ “

The T responded quickly when told of this late Friday and promised to investigate. The inspector who helped reunite the family talked with Green Line managers about the incident, and they were tracking down the trolley’s operator, who will be disciplined if it is determined that rules were violated.

T policy is that drivers are to close train doors only if they are clear of anyone. “This woman’s report is very troubling,” T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. “We’re thankful that the mother and daughter were safely reunited.”

“The MBTA does not condone the operator’s actions as you described in your e-mail, and I can offer no excuse for the operator’s performance,” Alfred A. Ricko, supervisor of the Green Line, wrote to Sharon in an e-mail sent Friday afternoon. “I am also a father and can understand the anxiety you surely experienced as a result of being separated from your child.”

We called Sharon last week and asked about her daughter. “She was horrified at the time, but now she can’t wait to tell all her friends,” she said. But on the return trip home, given a choice between the Orange and Green lines, she said her daughter chose the Orange.

This is a story that has to be followed up.

I have never seen anything like this happen but I have seen drivers closing the doors at Government Center when passengers are still trying to board the train. Perhaps the T should install a closed circuit monitor so drivers can see exactly what is happening on the platform so something like this can not happen again.

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12 Comments

Filed under Green Line, MBTA

12 responses to “A horrific T story reported in the Sunday Globe

  1. Anonymous

    The drivers have procedures and common sense. The trains have mirrors. Stations have attendants. The T has its own police force. The “Authority” has tons of closed-circuit cameras. The trains have emergency stop request buttons. And finally, train crews have ears to hear frantic pounding on the doors.It was all just happenstance that all these things failed at this one moment in time, setting up the “Authority” as an institutional child-napper, extending themselves to endanger all age groups.It has “never” happened before.But just in case, the “Authority” will take steps to see that this never happens again.Now roll over and go back to sleep.

  2. SJG

    <>but I have seen drivers closing the doors at Government Center when passengers are still trying to board the train.<>I can beat that! I was on a Green Line train going to Lechmere in which the driver wanted to close the doors as people were still getting OFF. It was a few years ago after after seeing a movie at Boston Common. There had been a Red Sox game that evening, so we had to wait a few trains before being able to get on at Boylston (yeah, we should have walked to Park). At stops at up the line, the door started chiming as people were still leaving the train. People pushed through anyway, as did the people who wanted to get on.I memorized the train number and “wrote to the top” asking what the heck was the driver’s hurry? I actually got a reply that it would be investigated. Maybe it was the same driver.

  3. Chris

    A few years ago I was helping a mother lift a stroller containing her daughter into the back door of a MBTA bus (Davis Sq station, heading outbound). I was inside the bus, the mother was outside. The driver closed the door on the stroller and started to drive away. I held on to one end of the stroller and the mother held on to the other, running in a panic as the bus pulled away from the curb. Her daughter just looked up at me from the stroller with wide eyes. After a ten seconds or so the driver heard our screams asking her to stop (mine and the other passengers’) and she came back to investigate. It all happened so quickly but I can still remember the feeling of disbelief that the driver didn’t see this woman getting in the back door from her side mirror.

  4. <> anonymous saidBut just in case, the “Authority” will take steps to see that this never happens again.<>Doors closing too early happen far too often at that loasing berth at Government Center. One almost has to think there is a blind spot there.

  5. Hi:As someone who lives in the North End carless, I travel thru Gvt Center on the Green Line every single day. I know the drill with the Gvt Cntr vs. Beyond cars at the eastbound side of the station. The issue is that Gvt Cntr Eastbound is a real bottleneck, for many reasons. 1st, the Gvt Center bound trains turn here (D and B lines). The drivers are always anxious to get people off the cars quickly, because there usually is a constant flow of cars coming in here. I find the drivers of cars beyond are anxious to get moving, I assume they are behind schedule and just want to keep moving. 2nd: The location of where the cars stop, and where ‘tourists’ unfamiliar with where to get on the eastbound trains is a problem. The staircase that leads down to the platform makes for a narrow passageway on the side the eastbound cars load from. Most tourists don’t know that they should wait in FRONT of the staircase, and they stand behind. Then when the eastbound train pulls forward, they must crowd next to the staircase, fight with people coming off the train, and everyone gets on the very back door of the train, which on the Breda’s is especially narrow. I had this happen to me yesterday, I was waiting in the back of the platform ( because I like to get off the 2nd car at North Station because I walk out of the Valanti Way exit) and a pile of teenagers who obviously didnt know the drill at Gvt Cntr all started to pile on the back door of the Breda. Sure enough, the driver closed all the doors except the back one, and while people were still getting on, he closed the back door. I quickly stuck my foot on the 1st step, and jammed the door open so that it couldn’t close, and just waited there until everyone stepped on, and I stepped on, taking my foot off the door. The driver of the train cant move the car if the door cant close, and its not hard to jam the doors open. The tourists, of course, dont know this trick, and this is why said event happened here, and happens a lot. Two things need to happen :1) the T needs to make it VERY clear where eastbound passengers should wait for the trains, in the FRONT of the eastbound platform, with Signs placed around the station about where to wait; and2) 2nd car operators need to be explicitly told to WAIT for riders to get on the train, OR leave ALL doors open until all riders are on the train.

  6. Dan

    This is horrific story which fortunately had a good ending thanks to the platform inspector at government cente, however, if trhis inspector had not been one of the few t employees that actually do know whta they are doing, this situation could have been quite different. This stupid idiot of an operator was too self-focused to check his mirrors to see people still boarding. I suggest that these birdbrained people who run the T put station staff on all downtown platforms, who would tell the operator or conductor when to shut the doors.

  7. Anonymous

    It is all too common that the doors shut on people trying to get on, and off, the Green Line. Usually it just happens to commuters who know to half-expect it. We should not need to depend upon extra staff on the platforms. The drivers should exercise the proper care to ensure that people can board or disembark without getting crunched in the doors. Any driver that can not deliver this level of service should be dismissed.

  8. Welcome to Public Transit 102: Mistakes Happen. I’m jaded–when I was seven the “Doors of Doom” (<>before<> the doors were converted to folding-style doors in the early ’90’s) Boeing LRV’s roamed the Green Line–<>those<> were something to fear! Folding doors… whimpy.Don’t get me wrong–I’m not backing up the operator. All I’m saying is before you demand the neck of him/her just take a step back, as some of you have done, and fully analyze the situation. The mirrors, both in station and on the train, aren’t perfect and especially if people are boarding/exiting in the <>back<> of the trolley, it’s harder for the operator to see: “are they getting on, getting on, just standing there”?. Negligent–sure. But, again, mistakes do happen. The operator should definitely be reprimanded for being less than vigilant. However, the problem is that rather than <>fix the big picture<> (e.g. bigger mirrors, better signage/directions, elevator-style door sensors), reprimanding the operator is all that will happen. And what good is that? The T has already spent thousands of dollars on “customer service” training for bus and train operators. Apparently it hasn’t been that effective.

  9. Last year, the same thing happend on the Red Line except the father was left on the platform while his little girl was on board screaming as the train began to depart. The father screamed to stop the train, which had to back into the station to let him on. Unbelievable. During the evening rush hour last week at Downtown Crossing (Red Line), the operator tried to close the doors before all of the passengers even got off. Seriously, where have the fair increases gotten us? Absolutely nowhere. The service is still substandard and many of the employees have terrible attitudes.

  10. Mac Daniel has an update on his blog at boston.com.< HREF="http://www.boston.com/news/local/startsandstops/blog/2007/02/three_cheers.html" REL="nofollow">Three cheers<>A follow on the lead item in Sunday’s column about the mother separated from her 7-year-old daughter by an over anxious MBTA Green Line driver.First, MBTA officials have identified the driver and the investigation is continuing.Second, we received the following email from the police officer who stayed with the little girl until she was reunited with her mom. His name is Timothy J. Cashman and he’s a police officer in Portsmouth, NH.“Hey, not for nothing, the officer involved in your story was from New Hampshire. It was me. I work in New Hampshire but I live in Maine.“I was trying to keep the girl calm and I told her in our conversation that I lived in Maine. She must have remembered that and told her mother. I had her stand with my 7-year-old daughter who was with me until we found her mom and they were reunited. I thought the response of the Green Line staff was quick and coordinated. If I had been separated from my little ones, I too would have been traumatized, as she wrote.”Objectivity out the window on this one. Thanks Tim.

  11. Anonymous

    How dare any of you think that a member of the Carmen Union is there to actually transport you safely!! He or she earned his/her job through patronage and wants nothing to do with making sure you arrive at your destination safely; he/she wants his paycheck and then his/her pension.And remember, this door incident occurred on the one light rail line in North American (in the world?) that has one human monitoring the doors on each car of a train!!

  12. Oh, I saw a bus driver close the doors on a pregnant woman once – that is, her foot was on the step but she wasn’t fully on the bus when the doors started to shut and squashed her. I think in that case a couple of passengers leapt to the woman’s aid and forced the doors open.

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