Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Orange Line vs. Acela

A regular conclave has met during recent weekday mornings at the Butterfly Cafe at Roxbury Crossing Station. It consists of Seventh Day Adventist missionaries, off-duty Mass Art baristas, LaRouchie pamphleteers, and the guy who hands out the Metro. A recurring topic of conversation is this thought experiment: Which would win a race, the Orange Line or the Acela?

The Metro guy puts his money on the MBTA, but the T and its customers are his bread-and-butter.

Events conspired to set up a perfect coincidence. As the Orange Line was heading inbound out of the station, the Acela sidled alongside on a parallel track. The Acela is as sleek and streamlined as a jackrabbit. The Orange Line trains are as boxy and ponderous as turtles. As the two progressed, the Acela steamed easily ahead, withholding its full power but still slipping ahead likes its rails were greased. The Orange Line train lurched along, losing ground but not entirely giving up the ghost of a chance to get ahead.

As the Orange Line cars pulled into Ruggles with the third rail sparking, the Acela was swept along on its own schedule, unaware of the bets that had been settled during this encounter. Of course, the Orange Line had to make its designated stop to serve its passengers. On an open, transcontinental track without obligations, who knows what would happen if the engineer could open up the throttle?

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