Attention Riders: You Are Not Allowed to Breakdance on the MBTA
Although it’s not exactly something out of the film “Footloose,” MBTA officials say that performers looking to pocket some change from passengers traveling underground on the transit system have to stick to designated areas after securing the proper permits, and should not be putting on an act while on a moving train.
On Friday, a video surfaced on YouTube which shows two street performers enter a Red Line train and clear the aisle before doing handstands and backflips in front of seated riders. Known as “busking” on transit systems throughout the country, the act of performing on train cars is something that is fairly common in New York City, however, in Boston, it’s against the rules set by the MBTA.
According to officials, it is illegal to busk on an MBTA train. But it’s not the act of dancing that will get a person in trouble with the law, it’s putting people in harms way while a vehicle is traveling at a fast speed along the tracks. “They can be arrested for being disorderly in a public conveyance because they are in a confined space [and] people can’t walk away,” says Kelly Smith, a spokesperson for the MBTA.
Smith says Transit Police officers have encountered street performers breaking the law by dancing and doing flips on the trains, and they will usually just ask them to stop. But if they don”t comply, they could get arrested. “We don’t give out permits to perform on trains. Police will ask them to stop, because this is one of those things where it can escalate,” she says. The T hasn’t had a steady flow of complaints from customers about the solicitations on the trains, though. “We just want people to be safe, and as good a dancer as you are, you can fall over on a moving train.”
The MBTA doesn’t allow breakdancing on their vehicles, but they do promote busking on the platforms, usually in the form of musical instruments. Boomboxes playing tunes don’t fall under this category, however. Buskers must also meet a lengthy list of T standards before they are allowed to bring the joys of their performance to passengers—just ask the two former Berklee students that play Taylor Swift covers on the platforms each morning.