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Thread: Public transportation horror stories

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Public transportation horror stories

    What has been your most disturbing experience on public transportation?

    This morning at about 5 AM on the New York City Subway I was sitting there and a guy walked on with his arms covered with cuts and blood. His wrists were slit. He for some godawful reason decided to sit directly across from me and stare at me. Since it was 5 AM the train was sparsely populated and most of the people were asleep. Unfortunately he got on at Court street when the train goes under the river from Brooklyn to Manhattan for a few minutes because I would have liked to get off immediately. I sat there for a few minutes with him staring at me and saying things (I can't remember much since the stress of the situation was inhibiting my ability to make sense of words, although "you piece of ****" stands out). I know now I should've gotten up and moved immediately but at the time given his proximity to me and distance from anyone else, the fact that he was probably in possession of a knife, I was afraid of giving him any provocation.

    A couple minutes later he got up and walked over to someone else, stood right over them and talked for a bit, pointing at me and informing this person that I was a "piece of ****", getting blood all over the hand rails. Then he walked on to the next car.

    I don't know if he later ended up passing out or dying from blood loss but he sure left a puddle of blood across from me on the floor of the train.

    I have been a car free, tireless public transportation advocate for seven years but it is hard for me to imagine telling anyone who has had the experience I just had that they should get out of their car.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Wow and I thought that waiting for busses on snow days was bad!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    Mine is not a horror story to match this, but a horror story of a different magnitude.
    I rode the bus for a number of years. It saved us from getting a car. My wife would take our small child in a little wagon to go grocery shopping, there were pedestrian overpasses that she could use so that she did not cross busy streets.
    One evening a group of us were waiting at the bus stop during a blizzard. The bus never came, after about two hours of waiting, I made a phone call and got some one to come pick me up in their car. The Transit Company suspended bus service because of the blizzard and left every one stranded. After the third time this happened (that winter) we purchased a car. When some of us complained, it was like well the people who use mass transit are at the bottom of the food chain. It is my understanding that the transit system in that area has improved since then. While I support mass transit in its many forms, I also think that the administrators of the system should be held responsible for their actions. They should also use their own systems otherwise they do not understand what goes on.

  4. #4
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    On a subway in NYC I had the pleasure of listening to a woman taunting a man over the size of something he had and his inability to use it satisfactorily and his threats to her, while being restrained by friends, "I will kill you. I will track you down and I will kill you. I know where you live and I will kill you."

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Don't know about you Cat, but I'll take our crappy bus system over NYC's subway system full of crazy people anyday!

    Welcome from your neighbor to the north! BTW
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Wow. I've come across some creepy characters on the NYC subway, but nothing like that.
    For my 10th birthday, my wish was to go into Manhattan and the observation deck of the World Trade Center. I was fascinated with tall buildings then, and I was really excited to be in the city. We boarded the subway at the Port Authority. Back then, the cars were all covered with graffitti. Colorful, but a bit intimidating to a suburban kid. The train gets to the WTC station, and I jump off as soon as the doors open. I look behind me to see the doors closing in front of my parents and friend that I was allowed to bring. In a moment, I saw myself wandering on the streets, trying to figure out how to get to the next station to find my parents again. Fortunately, a conductor noticed, the doors opened again, and all was well. But it was a moment of sheer terror! Years later I watched a bunch of kids smashing bottles on the platform and a stairwell, acting like drunken idiots basically. This lady was afraid to leave the station knowing they were there, so my friend and I offered to walk with her to her building.

    Probably one of the most jarring images I've ever seen was in Newark airport. I went into the restroom to see a disheveled little man washing his face in a urinal and drinking from it. I was wondering if it was for some hidden camera TV show to see what people's reactions would be, but it wasn't. As I was leaving, a Port Authority police officer came in and directed him to a sink.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    How to Top this one?

    I think you've topped the list of transit horror stories. Nothing I've got even comes close.

  8. #8
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    Although the stories outlined here are crazy, they aren't unique to public transportation voiding public transport does nothing to protect people from this kind of thing. Harrassing passing motorists in this manner is a common place thing in many places. These events that can happen on the streets and other public places of towns and cities of the United States. We do a poor job of dealing with the mentally ill in our country and that the real issue that we need to address.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    My inattentive bus driver made a left turn on a red light and almost forced an oncoming car (which was also stretching a red) into a head-on collision with the stopped traffic to the right of us.

    I ride with this driver 1-2 times a week... every time is a risky proposition.

    I remember the first time I ever rode the bus in the Twin Cities (fall of my freshman year of college) I saw a lady smack a child so hard I swore his face came off. Coming from the Milwaukee suburbs, where most of my previous bus riding had been freeway flyers and festival shuttles, it was quite an awakening.
    What luck! A random assemblage of words never sounded less intelligent.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DoctorK16 View post
    Although the stories outlined here are crazy, they aren't unique to public transportation voiding public transport does nothing to protect people from this kind of thing. Harrassing passing motorists in this manner is a common place thing in many places. These events that can happen on the streets and other public places of towns and cities of the United States. We do a poor job of dealing with the mentally ill in our country and that the real issue that we need to address.
    Its true, and public transit horror stories involve death much less than auto horror stories.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    That's what happens when you actually come into contact with your fellow citizens. This story is not related to public transit so much as it is to mental illness. These people are out there and when one walks and rides public transportation one tends to see more of the world and the people in it. I have had several similar experiences walking and riding transit in Philadelphia and Boston.

  12. #12
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    Wow. Can't top that bloody story... creepy!

    I almost got mugged on a bus once....coming from a sheltered family, that was kinda scary. I wish I knew kung fu so i could've busted a move.

  13. #13
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    I just found this thread and I just unknowingly wrote a long post on this subject a few minutes ago in the "living car-free" thread.

    I've waited at bus stops for hours because of bad weather, irregular service, or reasons unknown. I've seen fights, vandalism, masturbation, and every other bodily function except bleeding to death (that takes the cake).

    A couple people in this thread have mentioned mental illness, and I addressed that in my post in the other thread. If mental illness can't be used an excuse to violate workplace dress codes, school dress codes, neighborhood homeowner's association restrictions, standards for appearance in restaurants and other public places, or any of the other cosmetic social regulations in our society, then why should it be allowed on public buses and subways?

    Ideally, if they're too mentally ill to do the most basic things like dress themselves properly or take a bath, ideally they shouldn't be running around the city unaccompanied, because it's definitely a safety issue for them. What prevents hoodlums from robbing or beating them? Or them accidentally stumbling in front of a moving bus or falling down a stairwell? Ideally, they should be in a mental institution, or at home with someone looking after them, and out in public only when they're cleaned up or when someone is accompanying them. Ideally, if special provisions could be arranged, mentally ill people could be denied access to public buses if they didn't adhere to basic standards of appearance, like they are denied to many other places in society.

    The problem isn't that there are mentally ill people. There have always been mentally ill people. The problem is that there are more mentally ill people than our society is willing to take care of, unfortunately, either publicly or privately. Our streetcorners, public parks, bus stations, and buses have sadly become the "dumping grounds" for them.

    In theory, a good mass transit system in every city would be a wonderful help to our transportation problems. But today mass transit is for a disproportionate number of the "underclass", and there rarely any social standards for appearance or behavior enforced. And that just turns away potential middle-class riders and allows the sad social stigma to continue.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by woodlands View post
    In theory, a good mass transit system in every city would be a wonderful help to our transportation problems. But today mass transit is for a disproportionate number of the "underclass", and there rarely any social standards for appearance or behavior enforced. And that just turns away potential middle-class riders and allows the sad social stigma to continue.
    My understanding is that mass transit is used by a very large percentage of the population in Japan and that their mass transit is pretty clean. I am also reminded of a piece from the book "The Tipping Point" where it notes that a lower class neighborhood with anywhere from (I think) 6% to 40% middle class residents does just fine in terms of stability, low crime, young people having hope of going to college and making more of themselves, etc. but a drop from, say, 6% to 4% causes a precipitious climb in crime rates and so forth. I am also reminded of other stories in the same book about the powerful effect on crime of dealing effectively with things like vandalism and graffiti.

    I don't know how to encourage enough middle class people to use public transit to reach that tipping point but I would suggest that your criticisms go hand in hand: the lack of a mix of social classes and the "digusting" environment you cite in the car-less thread are inextricably linked, but not necessarily in a clear cause-and-effect way.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    My understanding is that mass transit is used by a very large percentage of the population in Japan and that their mass transit is pretty clean. I am also reminded of a piece from the book "The Tipping Point" where it notes that a lower class neighborhood with anywhere from (I think) 6% to 40% middle class residents does just fine in terms of stability, low crime, young people having hope of going to college and making more of themselves, etc. but a drop from, say, 6% to 4% causes a precipitious climb in crime rates and so forth. I am also reminded of other stories in the same book about the powerful effect on crime of dealing effectively with things like vandalism and graffiti.

    I don't know how to encourage enough middle class people to use public transit to reach that tipping point but I would suggest that your criticisms go hand in hand: the lack of a mix of social classes and the "digusting" environment you cite in the car-less thread are inextricably linked, but not necessarily in a clear cause-and-effect way.
    Excellent post, thanks.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally posted by woodlands View post
    I just found this thread and I just unknowingly wrote a long post on this subject a few minutes ago in the "living car-free" thread.

    I've waited at bus stops for hours because of bad weather, irregular service, or reasons unknown. I've seen fights, vandalism, masturbation, and every other bodily function except bleeding to death (that takes the cake).

    A couple people in this thread have mentioned mental illness, and I addressed that in my post in the other thread. If mental illness can't be used an excuse to violate workplace dress codes, school dress codes, neighborhood homeowner's association restrictions, standards for appearance in restaurants and other public places, or any of the other cosmetic social regulations in our society, then why should it be allowed on public buses and subways?

    Ideally, if they're too mentally ill to do the most basic things like dress themselves properly or take a bath, ideally they shouldn't be running around the city unaccompanied, because it's definitely a safety issue for them. What prevents hoodlums from robbing or beating them? Or them accidentally stumbling in front of a moving bus or falling down a stairwell? Ideally, they should be in a mental institution, or at home with someone looking after them, and out in public only when they're cleaned up or when someone is accompanying them. Ideally, if special provisions could be arranged, mentally ill people could be denied access to public buses if they didn't adhere to basic standards of appearance, like they are denied to many other places in society.

    The problem isn't that there are mentally ill people. There have always been mentally ill people. The problem is that there are more mentally ill people than our society is willing to take care of, unfortunately, either publicly or privately. Our streetcorners, public parks, bus stations, and buses have sadly become the "dumping grounds" for them.

    In theory, a good mass transit system in every city would be a wonderful help to our transportation problems. But today mass transit is for a disproportionate number of the "underclass", and there rarely any social standards for appearance or behavior enforced. And that just turns away potential middle-class riders and allows the sad social stigma to continue.
    The mentally ill that we are talking about here, don't live in places that have homeowner associations, they generally don't work and go to resturants. They live on the fringes of our society, and they congregrate in cities generally because cities can't set up barriers to keep them out and the little social services we do have to help them are located there.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally posted by DoctorK16 View post
    The mentally ill that we are talking about here, don't live in places that have homeowner associations, they generally don't work and go to resturants. They live on the fringes of our society, and they congregrate in cities generally because cities can't set up barriers to keep them out and the little social services we do have to help them are located there.
    Good points. A hypothetical question for you: what if disallowing inappropriately-dressed persons on a revamped/expanded mass transit system was expected to improve middle-class ridership in a region with transportation problems - would you be in favor of it?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally posted by woodlands View post
    Good points. A hypothetical question for you: what if disallowing inappropriately-dressed persons on a revamped/expanded mass transit system was expected to improve middle-class ridership in a region with transportation problems - would you be in favor of it?
    I think you're question is purely hypothetical, because what you describe is likely unconsitutional. Who determines what is appropriate dress? Is that teenage girl with the skirt that is a bit short, that could be offensive to people, as can the person with a politcal t-shirt slogan. I think the answer to this problem is dealing with issues of the mentally ill in serious way, keeping them off the streets through treatment programs, and having a proper security/police presence on mass transit. I am a regular rider of the Staten Island Ferry, every morning there is a guy who sits in the Staten Island terminal making strange flatulence noises, because it is government building, his freedom of "speech" is protected by the 1st amendment. However, I don't feel unsafe, and neither do the mostly middle class riders of the ferry, because of the police substation that the terminal has.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by woodlands View post
    Good points. A hypothetical question for you: what if disallowing inappropriately-dressed persons on a revamped/expanded mass transit system was expected to improve middle-class ridership in a region with transportation problems - would you be in favor of it?
    You know, this is kind of off topic for this thread and I am a bit hesitant to address it at all, which is part of why I did not remark on it earlier. You have a long list of "in an ideal world, we would do x, y, and z for mentally ill people", so it seems you really are not trying to be heartless and all that. However, I have taken a class on homelessness and public policy, did volunteer work for a long time for a homeless shelter, I have two special needs teens, and I am medically handicapped and was unable to pursue paid work for many years in part because of that. (Fortunately, I got married young to a man who made a career of the army, so being a homemaker means I never ended up homeless and had kind of a "good excuse" for my history of lack of paid employment.) There are some good threads already on Cyburbia which address the topic of homelessness and/or mental illenss and I would personally prefer you begin there rather than trying to start this conversation with no background for what has already been discussed on Cyburbia:

    One discussion about Mental illness
    Conveniently, a thread about Affordable Housing has a post by me with a couple of links to other relevant threads.

    I know this may not go over well. I just honestly don't know a better way to address some of what you are saying.

    And thank you for your kind words earlier in this thread.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I'm going to rent a bus and move a whole bunch of Houston's Lupen-Proletariat to the Woodlands!!!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    There are some good threads already on Cyburbia which address the topic of homelessness and/or mental illenss and I would personally prefer you begin there rather than trying to start this conversation with no background for what has already been discussed on Cyburbia:
    I know this may not go over well. I just honestly don't know a better way to address some of what you are saying.
    And thank you for your kind words earlier in this thread.
    No problem at all. I apologize for "reinventing the wheel" on some of these topics. There's a lot of backlog for me to read. If I post further on this, I'll do it in of those existing threads.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by woodlands View post
    There's a lot of backlog for me to read.
    Have fun.

  23. #23
    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    My worst experiences, maybe not worthy to be a 'horror story', has largely been on MARTA in Atlanta, where I typically rode regularly. Most of the notable cases have been due to the homeless or mentally ill. One example was at the Inman Park station, a station serving a largely middle class intown neighborhood: WARNING - this is a bit vulgar - a few feet away from me, a woman leaned forward with her back to the tracks, lifted up her skirt & urinated into the tracks. Otherwise, I've seen males urinate along a wall or even a popular Atlanta bum method, sitting on a garbage can & deficate.

    Otherwise, my most violent experience was in Chicago when an otherwise educated looking person found offense that I was standing with my back to him. So - he promptly made a civil rights event out of it.
    Pudding will not fill the emptiness inside me... but it will help.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    Well most people have heard me rant about my escapades on the train inparticularly with reference to hot train guys- but i have had my fair share of horror stories- maybe not horror, but unpleasant ones.

    Ok i have had the pleasure of someone peeing on the station platform right next to me- who had cuts and was bleeding everywhere.

    I have been waiting for a train on a platform with a guy standing near me getting high from smelling spray paint fumes from a can in a plastic bag. He managed to get the paint on his face which was bright red and not flattering.

    There used to be a homeless guy on my train who would get on halfway into the journey and sit next to the female with the biggest boobs and spend the trip looking at her chest- or he would sit near the stairs and look up the girls skirts as they walked past- there were plenty of men on the train that wanted to bash that guy.

    I have had the pleasure of listening to some guy talking to his regular prostitute on the train. Then he started talking to a male friend of his telling him he should hire a prostitute. That was a pleasant conversation.

    The worst thing i have seen is a father trying to get onto the train with two children- one in a pram, one holding his hand. As he got onto the train with the pram, the guards were not looking properly and they shut the doors before he could get the other child on. What made it real bad was that the train just sat on the platform with the doors shut- the guy was bashing the doors down trying to get help but no one could help him. The horror look on the guys face was a killer as the train pulled away. A lady took the stranded child to the stationmasters office and the guy caught the train back and picked the child up. I hope the guy learnt how to put the children on the train properly- still not a nice thing to witness.
    "Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?" Zoolander

  25. #25
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by natski View post
    Ok i have had the pleasure of someone peeing on the station platform right next to me- who had cuts and was bleeding everywhere.

    I have been waiting for a train on a platform with a guy standing near me getting high from smelling spray paint fumes from a can in a plastic bag. He managed to get the paint on his face which was bright red and not flattering.

    There used to be a homeless guy on my train who would get on halfway into the journey and sit next to the female with the biggest boobs and spend the trip looking at her chest- or he would sit near the stairs and look up the girls skirts as they walked past- there were plenty of men on the train that wanted to bash that guy.
    I'm confused which one of these three winners was HTG?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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