Mind the gap there, cobber! Crowd works together to rescue fellow commuter

Does the public transit system in Perth, Australia, warn commuters to “Mind the Gap” the way the Tube does in London?

If so, this man failed to heed the warning, and might have lost his leg and even his life if not for the quick reaction and concerted effort of his fellow riders.

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

“Transperth spokesman David Hynes said the man was boarding at the tail end of peak hour, but the train was still fairly busy.

” ‘He stood in the doorway and as he was sort of taking up his position there, one leg slipped outside the door, slipped outside the gap, and he was stuck,’ he said.

” ‘We alerted the driver, made sure the train didn’t move.

” ‘Then our staff who were there at the time got the passengers, and there were lots of them, off the train, and organised them to sort of rock, tilt the train backwards away from the platform so they were able to get him out and rescue him.’ “

The man was fine, by the way, thanks to all those strangers.

Brigid Schulte of The Washington Post once teased me after I had said for the umpteenth time that I loved public transportation, saying something like, “I know you do, you communitarian, you.”

But this public transit incident is communitarianism squared…


40 thoughts on “Mind the gap there, cobber! Crowd works together to rescue fellow commuter

  1. Doug Ross

    That has never happened to me in my car. I also have not had to sit next to people with body odor, people pressing up against me. And I travel when I want to travel, not on a schedule.

    I wouldn’t want to live or work anywhere that required me to use public transportation or sit in traffic for more than 10 minutes. Luckily, I’ve been able to pick where I reside during my consulting projects over the past 20+ years and I almost always choose a hotel within 5 minutes of work.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Here’s hoping they don’t get to London. Seats on the NYC system are hard plastic, so there’s not much of an environment for nurturing bedbugs. But the seats on the Tube are very comfortably upholstered…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And I am exactly the opposite from Doug, which may not come as a surprise. As soon as I get to a city with a subway system, I immediately park my car (if I drove there) and get on the train. I go places I have no need to go, just to experience the ride.

      It feels like magic to me. Not only am I freed from the onerous task of driving, but it’s the closest thing we have to teleportation. You walk down a few steps, get on a train that comes every few minutes (so no waiting worth mentioning, in cities like New York and London — your objection about schedules doesn’t apply there), then get off and walk up some steps a very few minutes later… and wow! You’re across town! And in the more cosmoplitan cities, likely in a place that’s like a different world compared to where you got on.

      Buses I don’t love so much. Yes, they free you from driving, but other than that, the experience isn’t much better. As a publisher I used to work for said, “They stop and they start; they stop and they start…” And you’re completely at the mercy of the traffic and the red lights.

      Whereas with a subway, again, it’s like magic. In five minutes, you can be somewhere that would take half an hour in a car. And since you don’t see the terrain in between the places, it really does feel like Scotty beamed you there…

      1. Doug Ross

        I had to take BART in San Francisco last month from downtown to the airport to pick up a rental car. I missed the first train by one minute and had to wait another ten for the next one. Then it took 45 minutes to reach the airport due to all the stops. I had to stand part of the way as I won’t take a seat if a woman or senior citizen is standing. I think it cost me $6 or $8 for that experience.

        A few times when I worked in Chicago, I had to stay outside the city and ride the train. Never enjoyed it. You never know who is going sit next to you, there’s stops every minute or so. When I worked in D.C., that was about the only decent experience and that’s because the METRO stop was at the bottom of my hotel in Crystal City and my work was in L’Enfant Plaza which also was a metro stop. However, on 9/11 when I needed to get out of town, the Metro was a terrible option. Every train that came through was jam packed and unable to take on any passengers.

        We’ll be in London for Thanksgiving without a car… so I’ll see how that goes.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Nevertheless, you should openly celebrate it while you’re there just to annoy the Brits. I’m thinking something like this will do nicely.

            When they look at you in confusion, you can just explain to them that we Americans have a special holiday set aside for the sole purpose of commemorating how thankful the first colonists were to get away from the British.

        1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

          Sounds like you rode the El, not the train. Trains are way nicer and don’t stop so often.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          D.C.’s Metro is nicer than NYC’s, just not as vast and extensive and therefore impressive.

          London has it all. I really hope you enjoy it.

      2. Mark Stewart

        Any place that has the density to have a rail system is a good place not to be driving. Personally, I hate my commute; there is nothing worse than 20+ miles at a slow crawl along the interstate.

        If trains were an option, I would generally take them.

            1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

              No, the Metra is the commuter train system, runs on a schedule, mostly from the suburbs, but also stops in Hyde Park, for ex. The CTA trains are called the El, even when they are underground.

  2. Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Let’s hope Doug never becomes unable to drive himself. Clearly he will always be able to afford gasoline.

    1. Doug Ross

      Seriously? People will be driving gas powered automobiles for the next couple decades at least.

      Is public transportation a good option for people who can’t drive themselves?

      1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

        Uh, yeah. Even in Cola., blind and elderly people rely on the busses.
        A not insignificant number of seniors are moving (back) to urban centers with transit so they can get around on their own.

    1. Doug Ross

      Do the statistics include assaults, murders, exposure to sick people, slips and falls in urine? Those don’t happen too often in my car either.

      1. Doug Ross

        And you are limited to those areas where you can easily get to the transportation and get to your destination. If I have to drive a car to take a train and then walk several blocks in all kinds of weather to get to my office, am I REALLY going to enjoy that process over hopping in my car, driving ten minutes to work, and getting out?

        The people I worked with in Chicago had to build their schedules around the train schedule.

        Brad – have you ever done more than a short period of time as a train commuter? Were you on your own schedule or did you have to be at certain places at certain times?

        1. Bryan Caskey

          I lived in Chicago for a summer. Not a long time, I’ll admit, but it was more than a holiday. I lived in an apartment on N. Lakeshore drive, just north of the main shopping drag. I worked at the CBOE, so my hours were basically 7:30 – 4:30. It was the only time in my life that I have been completely car-free.

          It was great. I would take the Red Line to and from work, or I would walk (about 25 minutes) if it was a nice day. Everything I needed was in Chicago, so the CTA took me everywhere I needed to go. I could get to Cubs games, the airport, downtown, etc. In fact, having a car would have been a burden.

          Now, that was back when I was younger and single. I’m not sure I would want to raise a family in downtown Chicago and have to navigate the public transportation with small children.

          Now, I’m older, have a family, live in Columbia, and drive a Honda.

          1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

            My brother’s kids could get around Philly on their own much before they could drive.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Unlike Bryan, I’ve not spent as much as a summer in a place with good transit. But I’ve spent a week or two in both New York and London.

          And in those places, I didn’t have to adjust my schedule at all. I went where I wanted to when I wanted to — on a whim, any time — and I was able to get there faster than I could have driving.

          I enjoyed every single second that I didn’t have to drive, and it was a letdown to return to the world of driving.

          In fact, I just remembered — the night I arrived home from England, when I had been up for about 20 hours and was just exhausted, I had to run a quick errand before I could go to bed. Immediately, I backed into my son-in-law’s Volkswagen and dented the fender (my daughter had picked us up from the airport in it, and I had forgotten she was parked behind me in the dark driveway).

          So at that point, I REALLY wished I was back on the Tube…

  3. Kathryn Braun Fenner

    I did not have a car the first three years I lived in Chicago, and then got one so I could go hiking easier on weekends. Renting a car on weekends was a hassle because I didn’t have a parking space. Now I’d just use Zipcars.

  4. bud

    Traveling by car is far less safe than public transportation. It is also awful for the environment with all the pollutants spewing out into the atmosphere. Plus it’s very expensive given the depreciation, taxes, maintenance and insurance.

    But it could be worse. We heavily subsidize the fossil fuel industry to pump filthy sludge out of the ground then refine it. And let’s not forget our military that basically exists to keep the price of gasoline low. At least gasoline prices are stable for the moment. It won’t last forever and I suspect within 5 years we’ll see a return to rising prices.

    What I don’t understand is this near religious fervor people have about travelling by auto with all the traffic annoyances and hassels with parking. Wouldn’t it be so much simpler just to hop on an electric trolley and go wherever you need to be? Pedestrians would be a big beneficiary of a reduced-car society. And we’d have fewer greenhouse gases and far fewer traffic deaths. A win-win for all.

    1. Doug Ross

      How much of South Carolina could you adequately serve with any type of public transportation? I think some people have this Utopian fantasy that everyone wants to live in densely packed cities. And many of those who yearn for public transportation live in places (like Columbia) where it will never exist. Baffling.

      If you want to live in a big city with public rail transportation, move to Atlanta. It’s not far.

      1. Doug Ross

        How many of you public transportation supporters are active users of Columbia’s bus system? I don’t know about you, but when I drive past the bus stations downtown, they sure don’t look like places I’d want to spend any time and certainly not with any kids.

        Let’s have a Brad’s blog outing where we all take a one hour spin around town on the bus system. Who’s up for it? I’ll bring the facemasks and Purel.

    2. Bryan Caskey

      “What I don’t understand is this near religious fervor people have about traveling by auto with all the traffic annoyances and hassels with parking. Wouldn’t it be so much simpler just to hop on an electric trolley and go wherever you need to be?”

      Well, could it get me to places like Camden, York, Florence, and Newberry for my court hearings? Can I have it wait for me while I’m in court for an indefinite period of time, so I can leave immediately after I’m done? Can the trolley travel on my schedule? Can I divert to a cool BBQ place over in Kingstree after my hearing if I don’t feel like immediately heading back to the office? If so, sign me up.

      Oh. Yeah, that’s called a car.

      As for the “near religious” quality of it, maybe that has to do with the individualism and freedom that comes with having a car. Having a car means you can go anywhere, anytime. You’re not beholden to anyone else’s schedule or timetable. You’re not stuck on a predetermined path. There’s something very American about the car and the open road. It’s Route 66, it’s the roadside diner, it’s being able to take a road-trip with your friends on a spontaneous moment, it’s being able to carry a whole stack of lumber in your pickup truck, it’s the drive-in movie, it’s about tinkering on a hot rod, it’s more than just a way to get somewhere – it’s part of who you are.

      I absolutely love cars.

      1. Doug Ross

        Liberals/communitarians like public transportation because it distributes the actual cost of going somewhere to people who don’t use it. It’s like Obamacare subsidies for people who put other non-essential expenses ahead of their healthcare costs.

  5. Silence

    Just for a minute, let’s talk about the downside of relying on public transit, and not having a car. You have put yourself at the mercy of the system, you are fully reliant on a government entity, or on the kindness of strangers.
    Exhibit A is the people stranded in New Orleans after Katrina. There were busses available, but they weren’t utilized or made available to evacuate people. So, people who had a car were sleeping in Baton Rouge, Houston or Little Rock, safe and dry in a hotel. People who didn’t were eating hot dogs and trying to find a toilet that would flush in the Superdome. http://youtu.be/3zXZ-R0mcN0

    So, if you want to be a victim, just count on using public transit.

    1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

      Yeah, Katrina was a significant outlier. Better planning would have ensured folks could board busses and far more could be evacuated that individual vehicles. Remember the Floyd parking lot. Jim Hodges does.

      1. Silence

        The point is, you can’t count on the public transit provider to be available in the case of an emergency. With a POV you can at least go sit in traffic.

    1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

      Except that we aren’t rural India or Pakistan. We don’t have their toxic misogynistic culture.
      How about all the carjackings, women grabbed from parking lots and the like?

    2. Doug Ross

      Same applies in Japan – where it appears that women who ride the trains must accept that they will be groped.

      1. Doug Ross

        Please read this, Kathryn, and explain why ANYONE would want to be put in this situation just to save a few bucks on commuting?


        This is in NYC, last year.. an excerpt:

        “The other officer, a man wearing camouflage cargo shorts and a ripped T-shirt, told me they were watching for pickpockets, but that groping was “the real epidemic.”

        “I saw your face first,” he said. “I have daughters and a wife, so I knew right away what that look meant. Makes me sick.” He assured me there was little I could have done, that my groper had picked the busiest train at the peak of rush hour for that very reason. I clung onto his words, grateful for his empathy.

        He asked if I rode the train often and if it had happened before. It had, but I had never reported the incidents and had only defended myself once, calling the guy disgusting and moving to the other side of the car.”

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