For a long time, New Yorkers have been waiting for the debut of communications-based train control. Long promised for the L line, the automated control of trains should speed up travel and subway efficiency while increasing the number of trains the MTA can run per hour on one of the system’s most popular lines.
While the project has faced numerous obstacles — including the objections of union leaders who don’t want to see an automated system replace their union members — the MTA had been running live overnight tests of the system along the L line since February. Recently, the agency had increased the test runs to a 12-hour period starting at 7 p.m., but all has not been wine and roses though for Transit’s test case.
As Heather Haddon reports today, a few technical glitches have led trains to miss station platforms by a few feet. When a train does that, Transit regulations require that it move on to the next station, and some straphangers have missed their stops. She reports:
Running the L line on autopilot at night is causing trains to shoot past platforms, forcing straphangers to miss their stops, motormen and union officials said.
Because of the software fluke, drivers have to travel to the next station to let passengers off, according to the officials.
One Brooklyn mailroom worker, who didn’t want to be identified, said he was late for work repeatedly for several weeks after the L train missed his stop in Bushwick.
“It’s not perfected yet. It’s not working. And it’s definitely not cost-effective,” Keith Harrington, union vice chairman for train operators, said of the $326 million system.
This isn’t the first time technical problems have popped up in regards to the CBTC program. Last month, I wrote about jerking motions and breaking problems aboard the CBTC trains. What is interesting this month, however, is Haddon’s sourcing.
In this article, the complaints about the CBTC program come from “motormen and union officials.” These are the same people who stand to lose their jobs if and when CBTC is deemed a success. As the MTA plans to start running it in Queens soon as well, train drivers may have a reason to fear for their employment future.
For Transit’s part, spokesman Charles Seaton said the problem, according to Haddon, “does not impair passenger safety” and will be solved soon. It should be. CBTC, after all, is a technology whose time has come.