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Op Ed: Secondhand Smoke, Courtesy of the MBTA

Last winter, I spent three hours stuck outside in freezing temperatures waiting for an MBTA commuter train that never arrived. When a train finally came through the station, to our dismay it was not heading to Boston like we had hoped, but we at least thought we’d finally be able to get answers. The worker told us we had just missed the train, and yet we had already been on the platform for two hours. As it was a rough winter for all, I let it go.

A few weeks ago, I was at last compelled to lodge a complaint. On a Friday night, I got on a B line trolley with some friends, and we immediately noticed a terrible odor, like burning plastic or a molten stick of hot glue. Other passengers already aboard covered their noses with shirts and hands. We nervously half-joked about the fumes we were breathing in. After a few minutes, the conductor finally opened the doors and ordered us off the noxious train.

The passengers all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Unfortunately, smoke began to rapidly flood the train and our lungs as we made our way to the exit. The fresh air felt great, but we felt lightheaded and our lungs burned. We were looking in awe at the smoldering train when a fireball erupted on the cable overhead, sparks flying toward us. I alerted the conductor, who replied, “Yeah, I know. I did that.”

They pulled the train a short distance ahead. Another train pulled up, and we got on for a minute before realizing we weren’t going to be moving anytime soon. Still dizzy from the fumes and smoke inhalation, we changed our plans and went to the nearest restaurant to have a place to sit and drink water.

We watched the trains idle for a while and talked amongst the red flashing lights of the firetrucks. We talked about how shocked we were that they did not check up on their customers whom they had just subjected to a dangerous and uncomfortable situation.

Unnerved by how such a serious incident went unaddressed, I was prompted to express my concerns to the company that I rely on a daily basis.

“I understand things happen that are beyond anyone’s control, but it was in the control of the MBTA to provide information and assistance to their customers, and beyond that I believe it is a responsibility that was neglected.” I wrote in an email to the MBTA. “Is it standard protocol to ignore not only the disruption caused to passengers, but their health as well? Luckily we are all young and healthy, but if we were lightheaded, how would a child, elderly, or disabled passenger fare in this situation? My already wary faith in the MBTA has been shaken. Delays are a part of life, but to see a serious incident treated so lightly was disheartening.”

I got an automated e-mail back from with a reference number and a message that, “If additional actions are required, a member from that department will follow up on your issue.” Apparently no other response is warranted, because three weeks later, I have yet to hear back.

Kayla Lantos is a Staff Writer for The Hub. She can be contacted at

Posted by on March 3, 2016. Filed under Around Campus,Opinions & Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.