In the classic tune “Charlie on the MTA,” the eponymous Charlie, a Bostonian, gets stuck on the city’s subway system forever when he can’t pay the whole fare.* “Did he ever return?” asks the song’s chorus, before answering its own question: “No, he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned.”
The Twitter user @CharlieOnMTA, however, did return from his own subway adventure. In fact, he returned as quickly as anyone ever has. On August 18th, he and a friend, @transitalex, rode every MBTA line in its entirety in 7 hours, 29 minutes, and 46 seconds, setting a new world record for “Fastest time to travel to all Boston subway stations.”
@CharlieOnMTA’s real name is Dominic DiLuzio, and @transitalex is Alex Cox. Both are transportation buffs from Beantown, and as the Boston Globe reports, they planned their record-setting ride for months before they got started, at 5:24 a.m. on the 18th, at Alewife Station at the end of the Red Line.
As per Guinness World Records’ rules, they stationed two witnesses at the route’s start and end, and brought along two timekeepers and two video cameras. As per modernity’s, they tweeted the whole thing in real time.
Reading the tweets is a pleasant experience, much better than actually commuting. By 6:57 a.m., they’d completed the whole Red Line, including both tails. Then, fueled by Dunkin Donuts bagels, they took a trolley to a bus to the Orange Line, followed by the Green, a bit more Orange, and the Blue. (Locals to the end, they skipped the Silver, which only goes to the airport.)
There were some surprises: “We actually GAINED back time on the B Line!” Cox tweeted mid-morning, referring to the section of the street-level Green Line most famous for getting stuck at red lights. Later, they picked a dud train, which was taken out of service at one of the busier stops, Government Center.
But all in all, things went smoothly. Just before 1:00 p.m., after 155 stations, they were pulling into their last stop: the fittingly named Wonderland.
This meant victory for the pair, who celebrated briefly with their fellow commuters. Officials gave them both a prize—personalized fare cards, or CharlieCards, each featuring their name and the legend “The MBTA Speed Challenge World Record.”
Then they both happily took the subway back home.
*As Jonathan Reed details in an exhaustive investigation, what is now the Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority (MBTA) was called the MTA until 1964. In 1949, when the song was written, the fee system was extremely complex and included an “exit fare,” which is what Charlie couldn’t pay.
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