A Boston transit rider was frustrated by a late train. She asked the city to give them googly eyes | CBC Radio (2024)

As It Happens

No, this isn’t a Thomas the Tank Engine reboot. The trains in Boston now have googly eyes. But why? For fun, of course. In April, Arielle Lok and about 30 other googly eye enthusiasts asked the city's transit authority to add google eyes to their trains — and they obliged.

Boston’s transit authority agreed to add the decals to some of its vehicles after a local campaign

A Boston transit rider was frustrated by a late train. She asked the city to give them googly eyes | CBC Radio (1)

Philip Drost · CBC Radio

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A Boston transit rider was frustrated by a late train. She asked the city to give them googly eyes | CBC Radio (2)

No, this isn't a Thomas the Tank Engine reboot. The trains in Boston now have googly eyes.

Why? For fun, of course.

"We're not really trying to fix the trains. We're trying to add joy and whimsy into your daily commute," said googly eye advocate Arielle Lokin an interview withAs It Happens host Nil Köksal.

In April, Lok and about 30 other googly eye enthusiasts made colourful signs and marched through Boston Common and to the doorstep of Boston's transit authority, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority(MBTA), known locally as the T.

Their goal was to convince the MBTA to accept its very simple demand:put googly eyes on its trains.

"I think that the eyes are the window to the soul, and the soul of a city is in its transit system," said Lok.

"So I think that these eyes are trying to connect these dots and give all the riders of the MBTA a new, fun way to connect emotionally with such a cornerstone part of the city,' said Lok.

To the pleasure of Lok, and every other fan of whimsy, the MBTA accepted their demand. At the end of June, the MBTA started applying googly eye-inspired decals to some of its trains.

"We embraced a fun opportunity to make people laugh after we heard from some public transit enthusiasts who suggested adding googly eyes to our trains," said MBTA general manager and CEO Phillip Eng in an emailed statement.

"We loved the idea and decided to make it happen in a safe and fun way."

Vancouver transit offeredinspiration

Lok was inspired to begin her googly eye advocacy one rainy day in Boston. She was standing on the platform, waiting for a train to come. But the trainwas late, and Lok was becoming frustrated.

"When it pulled up, I was just like, 'Man, you know, I would not be as mad if this train had feelings orif the train had eyes —that would be so silly," said Lok.

Her first thought was to take action into her own hands. While discussing the ideawith a coworker, she considered just slapping the googly eyes onto trains herself.

"We both decided that that was such, like, a Band-Aid solution to something bigger than all of us. And we wanted systematic change," said Lok.

Lok gives some of the credit for the idea to TransLink, the transit service in Vancouver. She used to live there and remembered the transit authority equipping its busses with holiday cheer.

A Boston transit rider was frustrated by a late train. She asked the city to give them googly eyes | CBC Radio (5)

Around the holidays, the transit system installs big, red Rudolph noses andreindeer antlerson its buses.

"That was a huge part of things that I missed about Canada a lot when I moved to the States," said Lok.

"Especially when I came out to Boston, we didn't have anything fun like that at all in the trains, and you'd hear a lot of complaints about it … so I think the eyes were really, really a reflection of my time there in Vancouver."

What's next?

It's not the first time Lok has brought something wacky and new to the world. During her time as a student at McGill University in Montreal, Lok started a lettuce-eating competition.

Hundreds of students ate entire heads of lettuce at the competition, just for a bit of fun.

"What is life without a little bit of silliness?" said Lok.

A Boston transit rider was frustrated by a late train. She asked the city to give them googly eyes | CBC Radio (6)

And she is far from done adding her brand of silliness to the world. Lok is organizing a Beyblade league, which is a toy fromthe animated TV seriesof the same name where players customize tops usedto battle each other. The goal is to keep their top spinning the longest.

"I don't think that there's any life where I don't do these silly things or take [things] a bit too far, because I really don't think that you can take something silly so far," said Lok.

"If anything, it has these lasting ripple effects where people are on the T, and there's eyes on the T and it's just like, how did this happen? And I think that is so wonderful."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A Boston transit rider was frustrated by a late train. She asked the city to give them googly eyes | CBC Radio (7)

Philip Drost

Philip Drost is a journalist with the CBC. You can reach him by email at philip.drost@cbc.ca.

    Interview with Arielle Lok produced by Leslie Amminson

    A Boston transit rider was frustrated by a late train. She asked the city to give them googly eyes | CBC Radio (2024)
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