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    Starts & Stops

    Subway rider sets a record

    Adham Fisher has traveled the world, including to Boston, chasing records for fastest time to ride entire subway systems.
    Nicolaus Czarnecki/METRO
    Adham Fisher has traveled the world, including to Boston, chasing records for fastest time to ride entire subway systems.

    Remember Adham Fisher, the Brit who traveled to Boston from across the pond last fall to ride the T’s entire subway and trolley system in the fastest time possible?

    At the time, Fisher had plenty of experience attempting record-breaking rides on subway systems in major cities such as Chicago, Toronto, Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Paris — and he held the unofficial records for some of those transit networks. But when he came to Boston last November to conquer the T, he hadn’t yet earned the big kahuna: a spot in the Guinness World Records.

    Fisher called the Globe last week to let Bostonians know that he’d finally achieved his goal. Earlier this summer, the Guinness folks proclaimed him (and a cohort of five other riders) the new official record-holders for the fastest time riding New York’s subway system, a feat they attempted last November. Their official time: 22 hours, 26 minutes, and 2 seconds.


    It took seven months for the Guinness to officially recognize Fisher’s success on the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority. So will Fisher’s attempt in Boston get its own official pronunciation from the revered world record book?

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    Not likely, Fisher said. The Guinness World Records only tracks fastest-subway-ride records for subway systems in New York and London. Even though Fisher (along with then-13-year-old transit enthusiast Miles Taylor) rode all five MBTA subway and trolley lines in eight hours, five minutes, and 16 seconds, their record won’t garner an official nod from Guinness.

    It’s disappointing for Boston. But at least now Fisher is able to attach “Guinness World Record holder” to his name. When I asked him how he reacted to his newfound status, he reacted in a typically understated British manner: “It was all right.”

    A bad trip for commuter rail customer

    For another commuter on the MBTA, travels on the T were a little more fraught with hiccups. Margaret Weigel of Medford wrote in about her bizarre experience with her commuter rail pass last month.

    The background: Weigel receives monthly Zone 1A passes for the commuter rail, which she also uses for the Red Line and the bus. Last month, she said, her usual pass failed to appear in the mail, so she went to North Station to pick up a replacement. It was the first of the month, so unsurprisingly the line was long; even worse, three of the four commuter rail ticket windows were closed.


    Weigel did as many cyber-connected commuters are inclined to do in moments of aggravation: She tweeted about it.

    “1st day of month, 3 of 4 commuter pass ticket windows closed,” Weigel wrote on her Twitter account, adding a cellphone photo of the closed windows. “Brilliant. #MBTAfail.”

    Over the course of the month, the numbers on the back of the card began to rub off, and the magnetic strip lost its charge — a common occurrence, Weigel said. Usually, she’s able to show her pass to drivers and ticket booth employees, who wave her through the fare gate.

    But near the end of the month, when she boarded the 94 bus at Davis Square, she received an unusual reaction from the driver.

    “Let me see that,” he said, according to Weigel’s recollection. He looked at it for a couple moments, then proclaimed: “This is a counterfeit pass. I have to take it.”


    Weigel pulled out her receipt for the pass, showing that she’d paid for July. The driver was unconvinced. Then, she looked to social media to proffer evidence.

    “I whipped out my phone to show him the pictures of the line at the ticket station window I took while waiting (and waiting and waiting) in line on July 1,” Weigel said.

    “Where are you?” the driver responded. “You’re not in the picture.”

    “No, I’m taking the picture,” she explained, exasperated.

    No dice. After several minutes of argument, the driver allowed her to ride to Medford but confiscated her pass.

    “He was quite obnoxious,” Weigel said. “He just didn’t believe me. He was definitely insinuating that I was lying, or covering up that I had bought the pass from somewhere illegal.”

    She complained to the commuter rail customer service; the representative apologized, and provided her with a replacement pass after verifying that she had indeed purchased one before. She continued her travels the rest of the month unmolested.

    But she still couldn’t quite figure it out: What happened? Why did the bus driver think her pass was a fraud? She recalled that the month’s pass was a little bit different than ones she had received in the past.

    “The ones you get in the mail have a plastic shield to it,” she described. “This one felt more like paper.”

    A slightly different lamination used for the tickets? Was this evidence, she wondered, that there was some elaborate scheme going on where counterfeit, sub-par passes were ending up in the hands of passengers?

    Unlikely, said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. Instead, he suggested a more benign culprit: thermal heating.

    Apparently, the same paper stock is used for all commuter rail monthly passes, whether they arrive in the mail or are sold at ticket stations. However, the process by which they are laminated can differ, Pesaturo said.

    Passes sent through the mail are first printed with the zone information and the date, and are then laminated through a thermal heating process. Passes distributed in-person at commuter rail stations are already laminated before an employee prints the necessary information on the back.

    “The only difference would be the sequence of events,” Pesaturo said.

    Maybe the North Station ticket window had accidentally received a set of pre-laminated tickets, rather than the set that had already undergone thermal heating?

    In any case, Pesaturo said, “it appears that she got a sub-par ticket or pass. We apologize for that and we will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

    Martine Powers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.