Mark Frauenfelder at 12:00 pm Tue, Nov 10, 2009
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A woman who appears to have been inebriated fell onto the tracks in a Boston subway as a train was rushing towards her. People on the platform frantically waved at the train, which stopped in the nick of time.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His latest book is Made by Hand: My Adventures in the World of DIY
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I’ve lived lots of places, but Boston is where I met the greatest number of pathetic, denial-ridden drunks. If they make it to the train they puke in the car, and upon exiting they nearly break their necks on the stairs. Finally they stumble to their cars and drive off.
At the end of the red line I saw a thirty-something inebriate CRAWL TO HIS CAR ON HIS HANDS AND KNEES. I called 911 with license plate numbers many times.
We all know if we have a problem. If you’ve wake up most mornings saying, “Never again!” GET HELP. If you’re in the habit of curing your hangover with a double shot of JD, GET HELP. Or if you know someone who’s in trouble, INTERVENE.
Apologies for the caps. Got all excited there.
“…but Boston is where I met the greatest number of pathetic, denial-ridden drunks.”
Taj1f, you need to see some more of the world! I’m born and raised in Boston and we certainly do have our share of drunks, but I’ve seen cities with much much worse public drunkeness issues. Doncaster(UK) and Hamburg come to mind. When I told friends in Doncaster what I’d seen on my way to the pub they said “That’s nothing, you should see Glasgow!”. And it was around 19:00 but I guess it was normal back then when the pubs shut at 23:00.
In all honesty, I didn’t mean to imply that Boston has more than its fair share of irresponsible inebriates: I was only recalling my experiences there. Apologies to any Bostonians who may have taken offense.
“the woman is a friend of mine and we are trying to not have this spread viral.”
i just saw it on conan o’brien i don’t think keeping it from spreading is going to work sorry
If they can set up cameras to track movement why don’t any of those cameras set off some sort of alarm when there’s movement on the tracks?
Good thing she’s ok.
Why do subways have unprotected platforms?
It’s an ancient system. When I lived there, Park Street Station was basically a big flat area with tracks, and very little to mark the difference between boarding areas and rails.
This article would appear to suggest saving her wasn’t the work of her fellow passengers, but of Jacqueline Osorio, a railway worker who radioed the driver.
I’d be surprised if the train could have stopped in time if the driver was only alerted once she saw the waving passengers…
Charlie’s wife goes down to the Sculley Square Station every day at quarter past two,
And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich as the train comes rumblin’ through.
I’ve lived lots of places, but Boston is where I met the greatest number of pathetic, denial-ridden drunks.
To which I reply: college students. Boston has a lot of them, and they are amongst the worst drunks (*ahem* I know I was in college)– can’t hold their liquor, don’t know when to stop, have no qualms about puking anywhere they want, etc. Yes, Boston has a lot of college students (go figure), but I’m not sure it’s fair to call them Bostonians, especially since a lot of them are from NY and NJ and other countries. Pretty much every year some kid falls out a window or gets hit by a car while he/she is wasted. So it goes.
Where in the comment is it written that the drunks who were witnessed were born and bred Bostonians?
coldspell – #28: Subway platforms in Japan and Taiwan often do have enclosed platforms. Besides the safety issues it also lets you air-condition the platforms. I’m wondering if the Boston system has emergency boxes to kill the power on the third rail as the Toronto system does at the end of the platforms. (They had to change all of the instructions on these at one point after someone was fried when someone didn’t push all of the required buttons inside one during an incident.)
As to all of you people diss’ing the drunken Boston Beans – I think you all need to travel more. Glasgow springs to mind right away and let’s not even get into what happens in Vodka-land.
RE Bostonions not being caring:
Hey, this lady might have been falling down drunk but she still cared enough about the people around her to ask if it was ok to smoke a cigarette and then do so as far away from them as possible.
Even when their legs stop working and they any sense of self preservation, Bostonians DO care about others!
One of the stations on the Boston subway is called Alewife… wonder if that was where she was headed.
#37: Scollay Square is the old name for today’s Government Center station.
#57: Alewife is a fish. Why there’s an inland bus station named for a fish is another question…
Coldspell@28: open platforms. Well, you may have more than one model of car/train running on a given line. I suppose it’s less likely in Boston, where each line is pretty isolated from the others, but in NYC, for instance, you have 2-3 routes running on the same track, using different equipment, with doors placed differently. So a fence is less than practical.
The same route may be using both old and new cars at the same time. E.g. the Q, which I take to work, is slowly transitioning from R68′s (8 75′ cars per train) to R160′s (10 60′ cars per treain), each with 4 doors per side. So you see that doors can be differently positioned on the same platform/route.
+1 Train operator!!!
I was once on a bus that an inebriated man fell in front of. It did not end so well.
which is why we’re not all watching THAT video
Close shave, and all that, of course.
But… What are the boxes that appear constantly during the cctv footage? Are they running some face recognition software? If so, that’s scarier than a drunk about to be marmaladed.
It’s motion detection, not facial recognition.
Really great point, AndyBooth. What ARE those red boxes??!
I still cannot get over how fortunate that woman is.
Andybooth, it’s probably the motion recognition software. Our cameras have similar things but we don’t have them recorded – I don’t know why the transit authority would record them. They allow the software to flag periods of motion in certain areas so when you go to review footage you don’t have to watch all of it, just the times when something was going on. (Unfortunately in our case, that includes when the lighting changes, when the lights are too low, when something happens in a neighboring county, etc.)
It’s too bad this woman likely won’t remember what could have been a much needed wake up call. I’m sure she’ll have plenty of time to discuss it with the police later.
Those people ain’t got shit on Wesley Autrey.
yes, that is facial recognition software. or possibly threat recognition software, or both. notice that it highliggsth the hands frequently.
That man nearest to the car looked like he was going to make a good effort to stop it with his hands.
“When I lived there, Park Street Station was basically a big flat area with tracks, and very little to mark the difference between boarding areas and rails.”
When I was a kid in the 80′s we used to go down to Park St. station and stack pennies up on the tracks and wait for the train to come squish them. 4 was the most I ever got to squish into a little blob, after that the pennies would scatter out and hit the ankles of the people waiting to get on board and we’d have to head for the hills before someone grabbed us. I was a free range kid.
She’s very lucky that the front man started waving his arms – he’s the hero. When something like this happens, crowds often suffer from “bystander effect,” or everyone just standing around looking at each other, thinking someone should do something. Once one person starts to act, others follow, and that’s what that man caused.
I find it puzzling that out of all those people, nobody noticed her swaying and stumbling her way over to the tracks in the first place and tried to direct her away. They obviously cared about her and didn’t want her to die, as evidenced by the way they joined together to alert the train operator.
Actually, people do, in fact, rush over when they see her starting to stagger. She was at the end of the platform, illegally smoking a cigarette (which was probably the reason why no on else was nearby) and leaning against the wall. She straightens up, presumably to get ready to board the train when it pulls in, and starts to stagger and falls, just before the closest guy can grab her (he was a good 15-20 feet away).
My experience has been that people tend to assume it’s none of their business until it is absolutely obvious that the other person is going to die without help.
I saw a man in Berlin do almost the same thing. He was talking to himself and I had put my “ignore crazy men” bliders thinking more of my safety than his. But then he stumbled his drunken way to the train, except it was the express train and it wasn’t going to stop there. He apparently thought it would and kept walking… literally into the train and off the platfor. Luckily for him the train had already reached that point and the force from the passing train through spun him back so that he fell onto the platform. At that point some of my friends who had been paying more attention to him went to check on him and he cursed them and wandered back to the seat. I told some of the subway management about him and what happened. Perhaps they arrested him for the night or something. I have no idea.
Anyway, I’m amazed that this lady survived. In general whenever I see a woman stumbling around like that it makes me particularly worried, but I’m not surprised nobody did anything until she fell into the tracks.
Typically when waiting for the train in Boston you don’t stand directly next to the edge or close to the wall where she fell. The trains come into a fairly long station (all you can see of this orange line train is a small section). The cars pull up and stop at the opposite end of the platform. Rarely there is a car to board at the end of the platform where she fell.
Seeing drunk idiots is fairly common in Boston (like any other city). The fact that no one reacted is probably because there weren’t many people down at that end until she fell.
Park Street Station was basically a big flat area with tracks, and very little to mark the difference between boarding areas and rails.
The Green Line is just an underground streetcar at Park Street. Therefore no third rail. The business end is on top of the cars.
If they’re running facial recognition software, put it to a good use by detecting movement down in the rail bed and alerting the train operator to slow down or stop.
Not only is she fortunate she didn’t get squished she’s also damn lucky she didn’t use touch the third rail.
dcluberson is right, it’s motion recognition software. I’ve seen some systems that assign an id to the “boxes” and track them but most of the time it’s just a trigger that tells the system to start recording. More complicated systems will know where that id leaves the field of one camera and try to have another cam track it if their fields overlap. I’ve never seen one good enough to handle more than a few moving objects and in a busy subway I’d be surprised if it took more than five people to totally confuse the system.
Thanks guys & gals. I’ll put away my aluminum foil hat for the moment.
As mentioned earlier, the red boxes are artifacts from motion tracking software. You can see another example of what this looks like at about 0:20 in the following video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybaPJ51u1sI
“I find it puzzling that out of all those people, nobody noticed her swaying and stumbling her way over to the tracks in the first place and tried to direct her away. They obviously cared about her and didn’t want her to die, as evidenced by the way they joined together to alert the train operator.”
When I first moved to Boston one of my old college roommates explained it to me like this, “The difference is that in public, New Yorkers will be rude, but Bostonians don’t give a shit about anybody.”
I haven’t spent any time in NYC, but I must say that after two years in Boston I was not surprised to see that. If anything it’s surprising, in a good way, to see so many people make a fuss once she does fall.
Though this looks like one of the downtown stops, so those might have been out-of-towners. (yes, I’m bitter and looking forward to getting out of here soon)
I do love how an entire station full of commuters managed to help save this woman from her own stupidity.
toolbag has it right: the scary thing here is the third rail. If she stayed between the rails, the whole train would likely just pass over her without causing her any harm. However, looking at the video, it looks like she came within an inch of touching the 600V third rail wile lying on one of the the “ground” rails.
@jessemoya: It’s North Station a little before 11pm, so the crowd is most likely the last stragglers leaving the Celtics game.
Yeah, at 0:13 I was more concerned about that third-rail (thats it on the right, correct?), I have no idea how she didn’t touch it. Also, it looked like the train conductor stopped for the guy in the green jacket and didn’t notice the girl at all until he pointed her out. Crazy.
I would be so scared if I were there. I would probably have put my hands over my eyes waiting for the inevitable.
It was at North Station, those are probably people getting out of a Celtics game. Also she DID briefly touch the 3rd rail, believe it or not (according to the MBTA) but luckily wasn’t touching anything else metal for that brief moment.
As for people not caring prior to her fall– the idea that she would fall into the pit is not something you would necessarily consider until it’s too late (and we don’t see her for long before the fall, so we don’t know how long she was wobbling before she got near the edge.)
The world is full of saints and jerks, and no one city has a monopoly on either.
Yes, I saw her touch the third rail; obviously she’s not grounded. I’ve taken photographs of birds sitting on the third rail of the Orange line.
That’s one train driver that will need a fresh set of undies.
Remember, kids: If you’re going to off yourself, don’t jump in front of a train. Train drivers don’t need the nightmares.
I gotta say I get the warm fuzzies from stories like this: That start out horribly and end with people not getting hurt or suffering relatively minor injuries.
It reminds me of Mo Rocca on Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me! expressing his disappointment that Balloon Boy wasn’t actually in the balloon: It wasn’t that he wanted him to be hurt, but he was hoping he would be in the balloon and safe because let’s face it, that’s an awesome story.
Jeez… The coupler literally comes to a stop above her head. Wither the operator saw them waving in early enough or was just going slow normally- In NYC this woman would have been toast.
Anonymous’ friend is lucky to be alive. If she worries about looking like a fool, her good fortune obviously hasn’t sunk in yet.
In Eastern and Central Europe, these things happen all too often. One drunk man stepped in front of a train crossing not far from the school I worked at in Poland one morning when students were coming to class. It was a mess. Needless to say, the students weren’t in a state of mind to study that day.
Jessemoya, I’ve lived in Boston three months, and have already met many friendly and helpful strangers on public trans and elsewhere. I’m surprised that you’re surprised these onlookers tried to save someone’s life when it was within their power to do so. You have 21 months’ more experience than I have, but I doubt your battle-hardened Weltschmerz would permit a kinder view of New Yorkers. You are, by the way, also a Bostonian. (Horrors!) Would you have just watched? I’m glad these people didn’t.
I dunno, looks like the old guy in the green jacket was on top of it pretty quickly. And let’s be fair–people that drunk are like little kids: Turn your head for one second, and they can get themselves into all kinds of trouble.
is there any way this video could be taken down? the woman is a friend of mine and we are trying to not have this spread viral. the incident itself was embarrassing enough.
“…is there any way this video could be taken down? the woman is a friend of mine…”
I’m in India and I saw it on the evening news here last night, so…good luck with that!
As you’ve no doubt figured out, once AP has it, there’s not much that anyone can do. It’s not like you could recognize her from the film. She’s just a blur.
the woman is a friend of mine and we are trying to not have this spread viral.
I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that it’s an Associated Press video, so it started way past viral.
The good news is it’s an AP video so given their moronic IP stance, there’s a chance they might send themselves a takedown notice.
Why do subways have unprotected platforms? Did the architects want to save money on bricks? The trains (usually) stop at the same position, so they could easily build walls or at least a guard rail.
“Why do subways have unprotected platforms?”
In Toronto they were looking at setting up gates at the platform level at some stations. The problem is on older subways the trains aren’t controlled by computers, so they don’t pull into the station at the exact same spot every time. I’ve seen trains accidentally overshoot the platform by a car or two and reverse (sheepishly) back to the station. Apparently it would cost millions just to upgrade a single station platform with the gates and the computer systems needed to get the timing right. It might be more effective to invest in a security guard or something.
Are there benches on the platforms? When I’m that drunk in London I usually stagger to a bench and sit down. (Actually, I’ve usually missed the last train.)
I expect the driver had trouble seeing her because of the difference in light levels — she was driving in a dark tunnel towards a brightly lit station. Someone waving would be move obvious as they were blocking the light.
What I want to know is: how many people chipped their teeth, bit their tongues, hit their heads, or fell on their asses when the driver hit the brakes.
The Cambridge woman drank 4 22 ounce beers before this, but “doesn’t have a drinking problem.”
You know…looking at this, it seems to me that she did have some awareness of her danger. She got between the tracks and stayed there until the train had stopped, then she immediately got up. Maybe she knew she was too drunk to climb out or run ahead, but lying still, she could do.
None of which is to say that she didn’t bloody well deserve the Darwin Award she almost won…
holy shit O_O
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