Today's morning commute started like any other Monday morning commute. I sluggishly descended upon the Davis Square T station with my fellow commuters in a post-Super Bowl haze. I stood at my usual spot, hoping that a T would come relatively quickly since I was not in any rush to wake up this morning causing me to be a few minutes behind schedule.
After about 5 minutes or so of waiting I hear the familiar rumble of the oncoming train. As the train slowed into place, I noticed something different. This was not your normal Braintree train, it was a Big Red.
The MBTA has recently added seat-less Red Line trains called Big Reds. Big Reds are high-capacity cars on Red Line trains, which run during the morning and evening rush hour times. According to Dan Grabauskas, the general manager of the MBTA, the Big Red cars are supposed to allow for 27 additional riders than the regular Red Line cars. This would increase capacity by 10%.
While I applaud the MBTA for recognizing the space issue during rush hour, and coming up with a cost-effective way to lessen it--I cannot help but point out a few flaws. First, there is the problem with the absence of essential poles. There is an open space right near the doors of the train where there are no seats or poles. I always find myself stuck in that exact spot during a busy commute. While it is always fun to try to balance or pretend you are surfing, it is not fun when you awkwardly have to grab on to your neighbor in order not to fall. The Big Red cars force more people to stand in that open pole-less area, therefore, increasing T-riders chances of inappropriate contact with fellow riders.
Secondly, the Big Red has no seats. As much as I pretend to be noble and generous by wanting to give up my seat to others, it generally doesn't happen. One of the perks of getting on the T at the beginning of the line is getting a seat, and that is something that I count on in my everyday commute. Nothing is more annoying than trying to read the Metro, drink my coffee, and listen to my iPod whilst standing.
Lastly, I do not believe that people utilize the empty space effectively. With a normal car, the seats are uncomfortably close together. While I don't enjoy being sandwiched between two strangers, the Red Line does manage to fit a lot of seats in one car. With the seats removed, people can now choose how close they want to stand to another person. No one will stand as close to someone as they would be sitting in a normal car--at least I would hope not.
Despite my grievances with the new Big Red cars, I do not foresee them being a big problem as long as they are only used sparingly during rush hour.