British man attempts to set record for riding subway system
To most Bostonians, it sounds like a day in transit hell: eight hours riding the subway system, dashing for closing train doors, racked with anxiety at each Red Line delay and missed connection.
But for Adham Fisher, a 29-year-old resident of Leicester, England, a day spent braving the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is not a tribulation, but an opportunity to make transit history: On Monday, he hopes to set the record for the swiftest time to ride through every subway station on the T system.
He has attempted the feat before, in London, Chicago, Toronto, Madrid, New York, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Paris — though he has not broken all those city’s records. He has heard reports of the MBTA’s notoriously finnicky system, and he said he’s hopeful that a broken-down train won’t hamper his plans to ride the entirety of the Red, Orange, Green, and Blue lines in one day.
“If these legendary delays occur at all hours of the day like Bostonians attest that they do, then it won’t be a very fruitful exercise,” Fisher said. But, he continued, “it isn’t as large as the London Underground, so there’s less that could go wrong.”
For Fisher, attempting to demolish transit records is simply a hobby he started a few years ago; back in England, he works at an event-planning company. He doesn’t even use public transportation that often: His primary mode of getting around is a bicycle.
With a daylong layover in Boston on Monday during a trip back to England from Los Angeles, he thought it was the perfect opportunity to get another record attempt under his belt.
Fisher, who has shaved the T’s symbol in the side of his head in anticipation of his attempt, said he likes the logical problem-solving skills the subway challenges require, and he’s always been one of those people for whom map-reading is intuitive. Besides, he insists, it’s far less dangerous than many other quirky weekend warrior vocations, like rock climbing or skydiving.
“My pursuit has a far less risk of danger,” he said.
His interest began with the Tube Challenge — the Guinness World Record feat of riding the entire London Underground in the fastest time — but he soon branched out to other cities and systems. He has attempted the Tube Challenge eight times but has come up short.
Breaking the record in Boston will not be too hard: Fisher knows of only one other recent documentation of anyone riding the whole T subway system in a day, completed in June by four Massachusetts Institute of Technology students who stopped for lunches and breaks. Their journey took about 12 hours; Fisher believes he can do it in eight.
He has spent the last several weeks strategizing the quickest way to navigate the system. According to Guinness World Records rules, the international standard for such attempts, he may use non-subway forms of public transportation and footpower to travel between stations. On Monday, he will probably take buses and sprint between stations when there is no connection.
And though he believes he will break the record handily, he has extra pressure to be speedy: He must catch a flight Monday evening (he will be taking the Silver Line to Logan). Moreover, he knows that other people will probably copy his lead, trying to best the record. And that, Fisher said, is kind of the point.
Steven Beaucher , co-owner of WardMaps, a Cambridge-based MBTA merchandise shop, is assisting Fisher with his attempt. Beaucher said he’s hopeful Fisher’s marathon subway session will make station-racing a cool new thing to do.
“I can see this being an inspiration to others,” Beaucher said. “He’s encouraging excitement about riding public transit and making it something special.”
In recent weeks, Fisher has been tapping Beaucher and other transit aficionados to get their advice on the best route order to take, and hints and tips that only a local would know.
Which stations have cross-platform transfers? Where are the station doors located, and which end of the train is closest to the exit?
It’s particularly difficult with Boston’s asterisk-shaped hub-and-spoke system: Because there is no ring-shaped transit line connecting the outer stops on each line, he must come up with creative ways to avoid back-tracking to the center of the system to switch between lines.
Fisher has kept his strategy close to the vest, lest anyone try to sabotage his attempt.
But Raphael Dumas, who was on the team of MIT students who completed the system in June, hypothesized that Fisher may choose to take the 66 bus from Harvard Square on the Red Line to Heath station on the Green Line, or sprint between the Community College station on the Orange Line to the Green Line’s Lechmere Station.
Dumas had one piece of advice for Fisher: Research bathroom locations ahead of time.
“If you’re really trying to gun it, that could throw a wrench into your plans,” Dumas said.
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the transit agency will not provide Fisher with any additional assistance, but will give him a certificate of appreciation after his attempt.
“We’re helping Mr. Fisher by providing him with one of the finest rapid transit systems in North America,” Pesaturo said.