I do plenty of business in areas of Boston located near the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Green Line subway stations (i.e., Boston Public Library at Copley Square; Kinko's stores at Government Center and Coolidge Corner, etc.). Riverside Station in Newton (Green Line "D" Branch) is the closest rapid transit station to my job. According to the transit authority's "Bikes on the T" rules, regular non-folding bicycles are entirely prohibited from being brought onboard MBTA Green Line trains. Having said that, I smartly purchased a Dahon folding bicycle back in April 2007 in an effort to deter the Green Line's strict bicycle rules. It states that folding or collapsible bikes are the only bicycles that the Green Line will allow onboard its trains ..... but it seems like not all of the MBTA's employees are aware of this rule.
After purchasing the folding bicycle, I successfully boarded Green Line trains on my first seven different occasions with the folding bike in my possession from April through mid-October. The bicycle was in complete lockdown prior to boarding the train and carried inside of a bicycle bag at all times. During this period, I ran into no conflicts whatsoever in conjunction with the Green Line's bicycle rules.
Then came the week of October 28th-November 3rd, which was by far the most challenging for me. Apparently, I happened to run into a mix of employees who either understood the bicycle rules or didn't. On Monday, October 29th, 2007 and again on October 31st, I boarded a Green Line "D" Branch train at Brookline Village Station for outbound service to Riverside Station without a problem. It was only 5:50 in the morning, and as you might expect traveling in the reverse-commuting direction, the train was not even close to being crowded. The Green Line conductor saw the folding bike and was very polite about it. Back to Monday, however, I boarded MBTA Bus Route 70 at the Central Square, Waltham stop with the folding bicycle. The bus driver was rudely inconsiderate of my decision to bring the folder onboard and said that next time I need to use the bus bicycle rack that is mounted in the front. From a personal standpoint, using the bus bike racks have its major disadvantages - such as falling off if secured improperly or the potential of theft if the bus is stopped at a bus stop or traffic light - and the transit authority is not responsible for those types of issues. This explains why I prefer folding up the bike and bringing it onboard the bus.
Then on Friday, November 2nd, I showed up again at Brookline Village Station. Once again, it was before 6 a.m. and my desired service was in the outbound direction. The train was definitely not crowded, with plenty of empty seats available. The bicycle was, of course, folded. However, it was a different train operator this time. I tapped my CharlieCard to pay my fare, and then suddenly she says to me in a very loud and angry tone of voice: "Please take that bike off of this train!"
Now the worst part of this scenario wasn't so much the fact that I am actually obeying the rules and yet I am rejected of getting train service simply because of my bike, but instead I just wasted $1.70 in exchange for no ride! Couldn't she have put her hand over the "target" before I tapped the card? I was not rushing onboard to try to sneak a fast one on her; I simply took my time prior to paying the fare, and then she spoke her mind.
One other issue came up back in June when I brought the same Dahon folding bicycle into the Red Line's Central Square Station in Cambridge at 5:48 p.m. This would fall under the category of "no bikes allowed on any subway trains during rush hour", except that folding bicycles have the distinct advantage of being brought onboard trains at this time of day. The MBTA Inspector warned me (again after I had already paid the fare!) that I wasn't supposed to ride the system at all with the bicycle in my possession. Again though, folding bicycles are the lone exception to this rule, and that's what I was going by upon entering the station.
Due to all of this, I am planning on purchasing a larger bicycle bag that will completely cover the bicycle entirely when folded down. I am looking for a bag that will have no part of the bicycle exposed when folded, an idea to make subway personnel and bus drivers think that I'm just simply carrying airport luggage. Does anyone else here have any suggestions as to what to buy? My bicycle dimensions, when folded in its most compact position, is 18" wide, 36" long, and 32" tall from the floor to the seat. Does anyone else have suggestions also as to what I should tell train operations if they deny access when a folding bicycle is supposed to be allowed onboard? The Green Line "D" Branch, in particular, is not a short-distance local ride and this is why I prefer using the MBTA to mix bicycle rides with rapid transit instead of biking the whole way from Boston to Newton and in some cases further.