Is Usain Bolt Faster Than the T?

mbta red lineUsain Bolt is faster than this. Photo by Joseph Barillari via Wikimedia Commons.


You know who’s ridiculously fast? Usain Bolt. And you know what’s ridiculously slow? The T. That got me thinking last night while I watched Bolt blow away his competition in the 100-meter Olympic final: Is it possible that Usain Bolt is faster than the T?

I live in Central Square, Cambridge, so have always been sort of fascinated by how long it takes to get from the Central Red Line stop to the one in Harvard Square, just a single stop away. Honestly, it’s a quick drive (or walk, jog, or bike ride) between the two squares, but when you go down into the T, it takes so long it feels like you’ve entered some sort of time warp (Brian Kane of the MBTA Advisory Board tells me that it’s one of the oldest sections of track in the system).

According to Google maps, the two stations are an even mile apart. Also according to Google maps, it takes the T about three minutes to go from Central to Harvard (somehow it seems longer when you’re actually on the thing, but we’ll go with three minutes). That means the average Red Line train travels at 20 mph between the stations.

How about Usain Bolt? Well, he ran the 100 meters in a jaw-dropping 9.63 seconds. Math is not exactly my strong suit, but thankfully, when you Google, “9.63 seconds per 100 meters in miles per hour,” it spits an answer right out: 23.23 miles per hour. So yes, moving at Usain Bolt’s average speed, you could get between Central and Harvard Squares faster than the Red Line! By my calculations, it would take Bolt just 2 minutes and 36 seconds. In a fair race, he’d practically have time to down a beer at Grendel’s Den and scarf a burger at Mr. Bartley’s before the Red Line actually showed up.

I’m sure some of you will say that Bolt’s speed came over just 100 meters, a distance far shorter than the one mile between Harvard and Central. To you, I say, stop ruining my fun. Let’s just leave it at this: Usain Bolt is faster than the T.

How could you watch this and disagree?