Who would have thought that the emergency brake — a fixture of subway cars for decades — could generate such attention? Over the last few weeks, I’ve burned quite a few pixels opining on the problems with the way Transit labels its emergency break. The dialogue started late last month when we explored how, in case of emergency, riders aren’t supposed to pull the brake and continued with a look at how the emergency instructions don’t say when to pull the brake.
In a nutshell, Transit urges its riders to avoid pulling the brake if the police or fire crews are needed. “Do not pull the emergency break,” reads the emergency brake decal. Rather, the emergency brake should be deployed only if a moving subway car has placed someone’s life in danger. That seems to be a rather straightforward instruction that is nowhere to be found in the city’s subway cars. And so in the grand spirit of the internet, a few intrepid filmmakers put forth a homemade PSA about the brake. The five-minute video — available here on Vimeo and embedded below — is quite amusing.
Meanwhile, in his new Off The Rails column at City Room, Michael Grynbaum spoke to the makers of this video who drew their inspiration from a Grynbaum article. Casey Nesitat is a 28-year-old filmmaker who hates riding the subway and spent around $25 on the film. It ends with instructions from the MTA’s website: “Use the emergency brake cord only when the motion of the subway presents an imminent danger to life and limb.” If only the signs in the subway cars were that concise.