Monday, February 18, 2013

Moral Crises on the Red Line, Part II

Anyone who knows me knows of my tendency to look at life and its various situations with a “worst case scenario” eye. While waiting for the train, I’ve occasionally wondered what I would do if someone pushed me onto the tracks. I stand well back, even when its not too crowded.

For someone like me, though, there’s a similar question, a moral dilemma: What would I do if someone fell or jumped from the platform while I was standing there? Would I be the kind of person to help? Or the kind who watches while others help? Would I offer a hand? As my friend Michelle says, “Not bloody likely.” And that makes me feel like a worthless human being.

Certainly, it seems as though people are tumbling into the pit and onto the tracks with some regularity. For its part, the MBTA says it is not more common than it ever was, but our endless news cycle makes it seem as such.

In a recent editorial, the Boston Globe applauded the MBTA for releasing videos of people falling onto the tracks.
“Other cities shy away from releasing surveillance footage that has the potential to embarrass, unless there’s a compelling reason like needing assistance in solving a crime. But with all the recent attention given to people who fell or were pushed in front of oncoming trains in New York, the T’s policy is important for public safety.”
The editorial went on to say that the MBTA should go further, by instructing riders as to how they should respond when someone wanders off the platform. “Jump in after them” is the wrong answer. The right answer is: Alert a T official (good luck finding one when you need one), but more important, the Globe said, “onlookers should encourage those who have fallen to rush to the end of the platform — away from the direction of any approaching trains — to climb up ladders.”

Now this is great advice, and I feel so much better after reading it. Because lives can be saved. And it solves one of the many moral dilemmas we face each day as we ride the Red Line.

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