Dear public transit systems,
We love you. We defend you. We argue day and night that you’re a superior option to cars in so many ways. We expect a lot of you, it’s true. Which makes it so much harder when you let us down, like D.C.’s WMATA did when it left hundreds of passengers stranded underground for hours after a track fire stopped service. This account, published in the Atlantic Cities, makes it sound like a nightmare:
[We] were in the dark somewhere under the Anacostia River. Inside the temperature was close to 90 degrees. Most people managed to get their coats off, and in some cases, even shirts came off, I was dripping with sweat, but tried to keep breathing and conserve my energy and keep calm. I did not talk much, and kept my eyes closed while standing face to face and body to body with the other sweaty passengers.
About two and a half hours, someone threw up in our car. The car also smelt of urine. I’m certain more than one person had pissed themselves. The car smelt rank, and the situation was getting out of control. Multiple emergency doors were forced open, and now passengers were wondering around in the train tunnels in the dark.
It’s worth reading the rest, but, uh, maybe not until you’re done with your evening commute.
Yes, cars come with their own hazards: A driver can get stranded by the side of the road, or run into a deer, or get hit by another, more reckless driver. But humans aren’t rational, and since cars are the dominant mode of transport in this country, they overlook those hazards, while — for whatever reason — people will use any excuse not to take the subway. And honestly, “you can get trapped there for hours with your face in your neighbor’s armpit while someone else pees himself” actually sounds like a pretty good excuse.
It’s not fair that you’re held to a higher standard, public transit, but there it is. So please, if you’re having a problem, communicate clearly with customers. Don’t tell them to get on a train at the same time you’re telling them to get off. Don’t leave them stuck squashed in tiny, claustrophobic boxes for hours on end. Because now, when we look at you, all we can see is a motionless overheated vomit-box on wheels, and that’s not cool.