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April 8, 2015 3:23 PM   Subscribe

How do you open the doors from the inside on the Boston MBTA commuter rail double decker cars?

I can't believe I'm using a question for this. Ok, so in the mornings we rarely have a conductor working the car I usually sit in, so we have to let ourselves out when we arrive at North Station. When the car happens to be a double decker car, no one can ever get the door to open from the inside. Like, it's been months and I have never seen a passenger able to do it. Many have tried, all have failed. I tried it once myself, and it is mystery wrapped in an enigma, because just pulling on the door in a door-opening-motion does nothing. I have never been able to see a conductor work their sorcery on it, so I have no idea what they do differently to open the doors. I don't want to ask a conductor because they are mostly mean and cranky and will just tell me that passengers aren't supposed to open the doors ever. As it is, when we're in a double decker car we all file out through the door of the regular car either before or behind us, and it makes the disembarking process so long.

How do you open these darn doors from the inside?
posted by banjo_and_the_pork to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I hate to break this to you, but you don't. They lock them. In order to force passengers to exit through a door which is monitored by a conductor. This happens a lot on the weekend trains, too --- they only open a limited number of doors because they don't have as many conductors.
posted by maggiepolitt at 5:54 PM on April 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

OP is implying, I think, that they can open the door when it's not a double decker, and there's not a conductor. So what's different about the double deckers?
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:29 PM on April 8, 2015

Response by poster: Yes, we can open the doors on the old single level cars, and we regularly do. When we're all filing out the inefficient door of the car next to us, we are still going through an un-conductored door.

Are they really locked? With a key (I don't see any kind of keyhole in the door) or by pushing one of the mystery buttons in the vestibule next to the door? Because if it's a button that unlocks the door I will totally push a button even if I'm not supposed to.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 1:53 AM on April 9, 2015

They're newer, the single cars are from the 70s and 80s, the doubles from the 90s and 2000s. I imagine being able to lock them was part of the design spec; at a lot of the stops in the suburbs you have to climb down a set of metal stairs to disembark, while at the terminal stations and for some parts of the suburban platforms there's a raised section where it's level with the floor of the train. Usually the conductor has to open up the little flap that covers the stairs in order for people to get off from those cars during rush hour; often late at night or on weekends they only open the doors that line up with the raised section of the platform.
posted by maggiepolitt at 1:54 AM on April 9, 2015

Would you consider calling the MBTA to ask? On a page about the new double-deckers there's a phone number to call: here.
posted by nat at 8:47 AM on April 9, 2015

(I would particularly mention the inefficiency and unpleasantness associated with the long disembarking procedure; it's possible the central office will blow you off too but it might be worth an ask.)
posted by nat at 8:49 AM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: Daily MBTA commuter rail rider here. I've seen two kinds of doors on double-deckers.

First, the kind you can open: It has an interior handle, with a latch underneath. To open the door, use one hand to swivel the latch, then use the other hand to pull the handle and open the door. (Is this the kind of door you're used to from single-deckers?)

Second, the kind you can't open (grrr): Newer coaches have electric doors which have no handles and, as far as I can tell, can only be opened by a conductor inserting a key into a control panel (not on the door). This may be the kind you're encountering.

Maggiepolitt, you're right that at stations without raised platforms conductors have to open the "trap" so passengers can go up or down the stairs; it makes sense at those stops for passengers to be limited to those doors. But even though the traps are left closed at unmanned doors, conductors sometimes don't open all the electric doors, even at raised-platform stations. There have been a few days recently when I and a few dozen others have had to walk back through a car to get to an open door. Annoying.
posted by underthehat at 12:37 PM on April 9, 2015

Response by poster: Ok, so I asked one of the Keolis reps at North Station today, and he said the doors are indeed locked to force us to go through a door with a conductor. I still would love to know if the conductors really have a key that they have use to unlock the doors, or if it's a button that could theoretically be pushed by anyone to unlock.

It seems totally ridiculous to me that they stuff double the number of people onto a double-decker car, lock the doors, and understaff the trains so much that there is never a conductor at those locked doors. That is totally unsafe! What if there was an emergency? I am so irked by this, I am going on a crusade to investigate train safety regulations because this has to be a violation of something.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:59 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

As far as safety goes, the electric doors do have an emergency release at the top. But I wouldn't try using it to open the door at a station...
posted by underthehat at 1:10 PM on April 10, 2015

But I wouldn't try using it to open the door at a station...

Depends how much plausible deniability there is in the situation and how willing to make a scene. I wouldn't break a glass cover or anything, but hey, people have been known to have a claustrophobia attack in a crowded train car.

Especially if it was a big pain in the ass to restore the door to its normal condition after someone did that, maybe only one case of it being "emergency opened" would get someone to reconsider letting them open normally.
posted by ctmf at 10:54 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just in case anyone else has felt the burning need for final answers on this- I finally got to see the locked door situation in action! It is an actual physical key that the conductor has to put into a thing on the wall next to the door. So if you're in one of the newest double decker cars with electric doors, you are really locked in if there is no key present.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:41 AM on May 1, 2015

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