A woman was pulled off the tracks at Andrew Station last Tuesday after taking a terrifying tumble into the pit, and like much of the activity that happens in the MBTA, it was caught on camera.
It is not uncommon for the MBTA’s You Tube account to offer surveillance videos of unusual incidents – like a man jogging shirtless on T tracks, or customers stumbling off the platforms, giving a few unfortunate riders a solid 15 minutes of shame.
MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo told Metro that transit officials started releasing surveillance videos of incidents on the T after cameras were installed throughout the subway.
When asked why, he said that local media outlets make a request for video after an incident is reported, however he said he is not aware of the transit agency getting any complaints from people caught on camera.
But when stepping into the virtual arena in which the videos are released – the internet – it is plain to see that some question whether the videos infringe on people’s privacy.
An ACLU blog slammed the T for releasing a video of a woman attempting to ride a wheelchair up an escalator at Broadway Station in July, saying in a blog post: “I don’t know about you, but if I tripped and fell down the escalator, I really wouldn’t want the state to release the footage to the press. What were you thinking, MBTA?”
But viewers seemed to eat up that incident – it had 683,086 views on You Tube as of yesterday, not to mention a barrage of comments poking fun at the 56-year-old South Boston woman.
Kade Crockford, a representative from the ACLU, told Metro yesterday that the MBTA “clearly exercised poor judgment when it publicly posted a video of someone having a possibly life threatening but unquestionably embarrassing accident.”
“I think most T riders would not want their real world traumas to be used as MBTA publicity stunts. The incident should serve as a warning to remind us all that the people who wield the power to watch us as we go about our ordinary lives are capable of exceedingly bad judgment,” Crockford said. “That is just one reason among many that we need to have serious independent oversight of all government surveillance programs, if we want to have them at all.”
When asked whether releasing videos of people falling and being pulled from tracks may help riders be more aware of their safety while in the T, Pesaturo said: “Such incidents are few and far between. Millions of people travel throughout the subway regularly without any incidents whatsoever.”
Perhaps one of the most famous T-released videos also serves as a cautionary tale for people who opt to take public transportation after a night of drinking. In November 2009, a 26-year-old Boston woman made headlines after surveillance video showed her drunkenly stumbling around and falling onto Orange Line tracks moments before a train pulled into the station.
Meera Thakrar, who in August fell onto the tracks at Kendall Station while carrying her young son, told Metro yesterday that she was not angry the T released the video of her tumble, however she said the T should work on keeping customers off the tracks since there “seems to be a trend (of falling) on the Red Line.”
“I wasn’t upset that they released the video of me falling with my son,” Thakrar said. “Personally, I was scared to watch it, but it doesn’t really bother me that its out there. I do think that overall (the MBTA) has to work on it, because I don’t know why, but I see on the news all these people falling on the tracks.”
In July transit officials told Metro that over the next two to three years, the MBTA will install a “significant” amount of surveillance cameras throughout the system to help them fight crime, and solve fire and accident investigations.