Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Disabled Trains and Signal Problems

Dear MBTA,

Terrible Red Line service this morning. My normally 15 minute commute took me over an hour. First I was on the disabled train at Harvard which took nearly 15 minutes trying to move itself out of the station and which was later decommissioned at Central, and then to top it all off, there was a signal problem at Park Street that kept me on the new train moving between Central and Park Street for over a half hour.

For today, I got to Porter at 7am and arrived at my destination at Ruggles at 8:15. I was fifteen minutes late to work, a job that doesn't enable me to just make up the work later, as I'm a teacher. My students were left waiting for me.

I am writing for a fee reimbursement for this horrendous commute. While $2 is certainly nominal, I buy a monthly pass and with all of the service problems I've experienced, I feel I am entitled to a free yearly monthly pass. But I'll settle for $2 for this morning's commute.

I'm 26 and in my years taking the T for work from high school to present, I've had more harrowing experiences than I can recount. But let me try: I once had to disembark a blue line train in a tunnel and walk with fellow passengers in a single-file line to Airport, had a door on a blue line train swing open in between a stop, been in a car where the doors didn't open for my stop but the train proceeded to the next station, of which I had to use the emergency call button to tell the driver for the other passengers, a green line train where the top bulkhead of the door fell on my head, subway AND commuter rail trains where the heat was blasting in the dead of summer, and have been on more disabled (or should I say, soon to-go disabled) trains than I can remember; not to mention the countless waiting times at stations while service was clogged with disabled trains (of which, the system desperately needs a third rail to move disabled trains onto to wait out peak hours).

I know the system is over a hundred years old. As a student of history, I appreciate the historical nature of the MBTA and for the most part, I believe the service provided is strong. Of course the negative is always going to outweigh the positive in the minds of patrons, but in the MBTA's case, it feels as though things are going poorly without any signs of improvement. I also understand that the system is a "bit" strapped for cash at the moment, which is why I advocate for more federal and state funding to assist our nation's ailing transportation systems. Sadly our nation is too dependent on cars and those who have their pockets lined with oil are too busy disabling, dismantling, or out-voicing public transit needs.

As for the MBTA's poor service, in my opinion I think it would be a show of good faith for the GM or someone of similar position to write an editorial apologizing to the thousands of Boston-area workers who have been late to work due to poor service within the system. While some workers can show up late with little or no repercussion, many lose wages for showing up late. And others, such as myself, leave eager students waiting for a teacher stuck underground.

I'm a loyal rider and proud to rely on the MBTA for my transportation needs. However more needs to be done to improve service during peak hours, and if that isn't a possibility, then the MBTA needs more people on the ground to be the face of the organization to appease unhappy riders such as myself.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Art of Protesting

If you're going to protest something, you better do it right.

What I'm tired of seeing in the news are protests which aim to speak out against a specific nation, government, or group but end up only hurting those who the movement is made to represent. For example, last September in China anti-Japanese protests broke out in urban areas denouncing the Japanese for nationalizing the Diaoyu Islands, a small island chain that the Chinese government claimed was within China's territorial boundaries. As a result of the protests, groups of Chinese took to the streets and smashed Japanese-brand cars and shops selling Japanese food and products. But these actions ultimately only hurt their own compatriots - Chinese were the owners of the Japanese-made cars, Chinese were the owners and proprietors of the Japanese restaurants and shops that fell under attack. No Japanese were directly affected.

Today bombs erupted in the city of Baghdad killing over sixty people. The attacks were to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by American forces. But why blow up your own people? What does that aim to prove? Am I, as an America, directly affected by the attacks? No. Do I remotely even care about the attacks? No. Does it affect my day-to-day actions? No.

What does it affect? It affects the way I view certain Iraqi extremists. Now more than ever I see that my nation wasted countless billions of dollars in a war which only catapulted your barbaric display of violence into the national spotlight.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Have Humans Conquered Weather?

It's a question I've been asking myself lately, ever since the big snow storm that hit the northeast a few weeks ago. What prompted this question was my shock that a day after the storm hit and dropped over two feet of snow, leaving people without power, business was to return as usual on Monday morning.

Thinking back through history, humanity has never had the hubris to assume that they could control the weather. Up until ancient times, civilizations believed that bad weather was a result of punishment from scorned gods. The weather dictated humanity; a poor flood along the Nile often meant starvation for Ancient Egypt. Weather determined which diseases and sicknesses spread throughout various regions and often resulted in epidemics. Now, humanity has found ways to cure the sickness, but have we been able to cure the weather?

The storm in the Northeast left two feet of snow and a lot of mess. Thousands were left without power, the public transit system shut down and parts of the line in Boston remained inoperable until three days after the storm passed. The governor of Massachusetts instituted a driving ban. Schools were out for most of the following week. Cars were buried nearly completely in snow. Yet, businesses expected employees to return to work on Monday morning.

I find it ridiculous that our lives have been so dictated by work that even against major snow storms, business cannot shut down to grant humans any downtime. Instead of enjoying being snowed in, spending time with family and children at home from closed schools, parents instead must grumpily head outside and shovel out their cars because they are needed at work the following day. People were out driving on dangerous roads the day after the storm when the roads themselves were not properly cleared.

It really makes me angry that our society has come to such a fast-paced style that humanity cannot even take a minute to catch up to the weather. Instead, we need to live our lives alongside epic storms and continue business as usual. Don't even get me started on the fact that such storms are growing in strength BECAUSE of our destructive society and lifestyle on the ecosystem...

That's a blog post for another day!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

NBC's Olympic Coverage terrible!

Whenever the Olympics roll around, I always love watching the various events and praise NBC for having numerous channels and therefore a variety of events to watch. However, the people they get to do the commentary is just terrible. As I was watching the Lochte / Phelps race last night, I hated how the commentators and follow-up reporters who interviewed the two were creating such drama and rivalry between the two. While I am not a big Phelps fan, I did enjoy how he brushed off the reporter and didn't feed into her attempt to spark rivalry between his teammate.

And Ryan Seacrest / Meredith Vieira? Why are they there? Ryan Seacrest's pompous attitude ruins the coverage whenever he makes an appearance, not to mention the fact that he's trying to turn the athletes into celebreality. It's always nice to hear the athletes' stories, but I don't need a little bio film with him Q-and-Aing the family. I think I'll be flipping the channel whenever he makes an appearance... Meredith is another story - why is she even there? And how much work has that woman had done on her face?

Regardless, I'll continue to watch!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Expectations vs. Entitlement

Earlier this week I was browsing Reddit and found a post on r/Boston by a young radio producer who works with a Boston-area station that produces NPR-like content. His post was title "Youth unemployment is double the national average and median net worth for young households is down 68% in the last 25 years. In short, the “American Dream” isn't what it used to be. I want to tell this story" and basically he was looking for subjects willing to discuss their stories relating to not being where they want to be in life. Feeling very passionate about the subject, I volunteered myself and we met up yesterday afternoon.

After telling my story about college, my views on the difficulties faced by liberal arts grads, my take on Teach for America, and my short stint on unemployment, we got to summing up the argument as coming down to expectations vs. entitlement.

Throughout my story, we both realized that I didn't feel like I was entitled to anything, whether that be a better job, a higher salary, or better benefits from the government. However, I came to realize that my expectations had really changed over the past decade.

Upon entering high school, the American dream teaches us that college is the path that we need to take. College, it is told, will open up paths and jobs that are not available otherwise. If this is true, why are so many degree-holders currently working at coffee shops and reception/admin jobs? Why am I working at a job right now that I could have done without a college degree?

Therefore, college grads should have expectations. We should expect to get a well-paying job upon graduating that we couldn't normally find without a degree. We should expect to make above minimum wage after graduating from college. Otherwise, why did we go so far into debt for something that isn't aiding us? 

Expectations have changed drastically. The US higher education system has opened the floodgates and allowed too many students to attend college, thus making Bachelor Degrees only a step up in value over high school diplomas. Yet, what really gets me is that while this devaluation of our education is occurring, the cost of college education continues to rise!

And while I don't believe I feel entitled, I think college grads like myself SHOULD feel entitled. We spent tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands) on a college degree that isn't taking us (all) where we should be going. We're consumers - we purchased our college experience, some went for high-end private schools, more frugal others like myself chose state schools, so we should be entitled to a society or system that values our commitment to education and the purchase we made. Yet we graduate and find that this is not the case.

Disclaimer: I know a bunch of people who have done wonderfully with their Bachelor's Degrees and commend them. It is my personal opinion, however, that the struggle is new-found for grads in the humanities and liberal arts.