Home MTA Absurdity Pondering Crespo’s crazy slowdown idea

Pondering Crespo’s crazy slowdown idea

by Benjamin Kabak

Marcos Crespo has some zany ideas for subway safety.

By and large, the subways are a rather efficient and relatively quick means of transportation around New York City. A 24-stop ride from Forest Hills to Canal St. on the R takes 47 minutes; a 19-stop trip on the Q from Coney Island to DeKalb takes around 33 minutes; and a 27-stop jaunt from Wakefield/241st St. to Times Square runs around 50 minutes.

What would happen, though, to New Yorkers, to the city’s productivity, to their patience with the subway if the MTA were forced to add another minute per station to everyone’s commute? Suddenly, it would take almost an hour and 20 minutes to go from the Bronx to Midtown, and an end-to-end run on the 2, a 61-stop trip that normally takes 90-100 minutes, would run for over two and a half hours. It would take over 70 minutes to go from Forest Hills to Chinatown, and a trip within the same borough from Downtown Brooklyn to Coney Island would last nearly 50 minutes.

That is the worst-case scenario that could come to pass if Marcos Crespo gets his way. As I reported yesterday morning, Crespo has submitted a bill to the State Assembly that would over-legislate a non-existent safety issue. Since 0.000006 percent of subway riders are struck by train cars, Crespo would like the other 1.6 billion riders to pay the price. His bill would mandate that trains stop completely outside the station so the driver can inspect the tracks to make sure no one is in them. Then, the trains would creep into the station at 5 miles per hour before coming to a complete stop.

In expressing my incredulity at this dumb idea yesterday, I wondered if Crespo even knows what he’s talking about. After all, in the memo attached to the bill, Crespo claims the conductor would be the one to inspect the tracks, but the conductor sits in the middle of the train set. The Assembly rep should be calling for the driver to perform the visual inspection, and while I may be splitting hairs, a legislative mistake could lead to a bureaucratic nightmare. It’s just sloppy work.

Meanwhile, as commenters on this site noted, Crespo’s bill would do more than just slow down commutes to unbearable speeds. One comment highlighted how taking the rapid out of transit would reduce tunnel capacity. “The signal system is designed under the assumption that trains will generally be moving at speed, except when stopped at a station,” Andrew wrote. “Violating that assumption comes at an extreme cost to capacity – my guess is on the order of 10-15 tph. So not only will the trains be slower, but they will be much, much more crowded, since they won’t be able to run as frequently.” Brilliant!

Gothamist, in their coverage of the story, touched base with the Assemblyman, and he seemed both defensive and on the backpedal. He repeated his statistically insignificant claims of injury and defended his bill. “Over the last three years there have been an average of 60 deaths and hundreds of injuries because of trains,” he said. “I’ve taken the subway, I know how they operate. They come into stations full speed and I’m concerned about that.”

That an Assembly representative from the Bronx must state that he’s taken the subway speaks volumes of Albany. Still, as criticism rolled in, he attempted to distance himself from the idea. “This is a conversation starter,” he said. “If coming to a full stop is too much, I’m willing to address the issue.”

The problem with Crespo’s approach is that he’s picking on an issue that isn’t. If a manufacturer had a safety record akin to the MTA’s train-on-person numbers, they’d get a gold star from OSHA. If cars were anywhere close to that safe, the city would not be embroiled in a debate over how better to protect pedestrians. In fact, in 2009, there were over 75,000 car accidents in the five boroughs alone, and the accident rate was 1642 per 100,000 licensed drivers. Conversely, injuries caused by subway cars reached just 6 per 100 million straphangers. That certainly puts Crespo’s misguided legislation in perspective.

Ultimately, though, this move isn’t anything we don’t expect from Albany. We have legislators who rob from transit funds and others who never deign to ride the subway. Seeing another bad idea for the city’s public transportation network emerge from Albany is neither a surprise nor unexpected, and that is a sad commentary on the state of New York politics.

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Steve February 15, 2011 - 1:23 am

This is the stupidest idea ever! Seriously, this guy must the biggest idiot around to think this idea makes any sense at all. I seriously hope there is no way this ever happens.

ferryboi February 15, 2011 - 8:41 am

100-to-1 odds this guy hasn’t seen the inside of a subway car in years, if ever. I’m sure he thought this whopper up while sitting in the back of the Lincoln Town Car that takes him to “work” every morning.

Bolwerk February 15, 2011 - 12:10 pm

This guy apparently was a henchman to Ruben Diaz. You can bet his hostility to New York and its people runs deep.

Jeremiah Clemente August 19, 2016 - 3:39 pm

Why is this guy (Marcos Crespos) still on the Assembly? This bill is B.S. If this bill were to be enacted, you can expect people filming in the subways to be upset about no longer having the opportunity to film trains coming in at normal speed and decelerating to a stop.

Phil February 15, 2011 - 1:27 am

The sheer stupidity of the bill means it’ll get passed. Isn’t that the basic legislative law? The more pointless the bill, the higher chance it’ll become law.

Marty Barfowitz February 15, 2011 - 1:59 am

Wow. What a moron. What an embarrassment. How low quality. How typical o Albany.

Hey, Crespo the Magnificent: If you are looking for a transportation safety issue to grab hold of, why don’t you focus on reducing the number of Bronx residents who are being mowed down, maimed and killed by motor vehicles. Not sure if you’ve noticed, Crespo, but the vast majority of your constituents don’t own or drive cars yet your Borough is, essentially, the Tri-State region’s muffler shop and highway bypass. Why don’t you do something to fix that, like, oh, I don’t know… work on getting congestion pricing done instead of this idiocy.

John Paul N. February 15, 2011 - 2:34 am

The drunk/careless/idiotic/track-trespasser/absent-minded person wins? Nobody should be standing on the edge of platforms anyway, and if a person is at the edge, they must expect to hold their own prior to and when the train comes. Are we abandoning personal responsibility now?

A tip: if you are worried about trains when they enter a station, always wait at the front of the platform.

Eric February 15, 2011 - 9:47 am

Waiting at the back of the platform yesterday, I saw a guy wearing headphones wiping his feet on the edge of the platform. Of course, he was looking at his feet while doing so. An E train could have come barreling into the station, taking his leg off.

What’s my point? Stupid is stupid, I guess.

Chicken Underwear February 15, 2011 - 6:50 am

I wonder why he was motivated to submit such a bill?

ferryboi February 15, 2011 - 8:42 am

Trying to get his name in the paper, which worked. Who the hell knew his name a few days ago?

Eric F. February 15, 2011 - 8:56 am

You didn’t mention his party affiliation. I wonder what it could be.

Eric F. February 15, 2011 - 8:59 am

Oops, you got it yesterday, never mind. Maybe if they call it “subway calming” it’ll pick up some support from Transportation Alternatives.

VLM February 15, 2011 - 9:33 am

Hah. Snark. That’s almost funny.

You know what’s funny? That we actually need traffic calming. Look at the numbers. Look at the destruction cars cause in a densely settled urban environment with a vibrant mass transit network and a culture of walking. Look at how, as Ben notes, there are 1642 accidents per 100,000 licensed drivers and 6 — six! — subway accidents per 100 million passengers. Don’t even equate the two. Traffic calming is a matter of public safety. This inane idea from Crespo is a matter of stupidity.

Eric F. February 15, 2011 - 10:26 am

That or a network of limited access roads that get cars and trucks away from pedestrians. The number of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities on the Long Island Expressway is pretty darn low.

BBnet3000 February 15, 2011 - 11:13 am

Thats why noone is talking about traffic calming the LIE.

Is the LIE even as safe as the subway anyway?

Bolwerk February 15, 2011 - 12:46 pm

That’s probably exactly what we have that causes much of our traffic. It would perhaps be better to get rid of limited access and let traffic distribute itself throughout the street grid – perhaps buttressed by peak hour congestion pricing, if necessary.

Alon Levy February 15, 2011 - 2:53 pm

When they built the Interstates, traffic fatalities per VMT actually increased a little, temporarily breaking a multi-decade trend of decline.

You really shouldn’t think of private and public transportation accidents the same way. Public transportation – including airplanes – is driven by trained professionals managed by companies with internal metrics for safety, which means accident rates are determined by technology. Private transportation is driven by everyone, which means accident rates are determined by psychology. Make cars safer, e.g. with seat belts, and people will just drive faster or more aggressively.

Bolwerk February 15, 2011 - 3:49 pm

I don’t know about every safety feature having that effect, but one thing that certainly seems to push driver arrogance (sociopathy?) up is driving a bigger car. I’d guess the vast majority of non-cab drivers who disregard my safety at crosswalks are SUVs/vans/trucks with perhaps a minority of those being commercial vehicles probably driven by exasperated drivers.

Especially amazing to me is the number who disregard my safety, and then become irate when I give their cars a jolly good denting with my boot. My safety < their travel < chrome on a POS SUV.

Alon Levy February 15, 2011 - 6:31 pm

I’ve only seen detailed graphs for seat belts, whose legal mandating was followed by a sharp uptick in pedestrian deaths, but the same is true for other safety features.

Broadly speaking, countries have constant trends for reduction in deaths per VMT – see explanation here (same website gives the graphs for seat belts). In the US, traffic fatalities per VMT have gone down 3.3% per year since the 1910s. There were a few short-term fluctuations, but no disruption to the trend. A short-term decrease in driving, e.g. in 1973, would lead to a short-term decrease in fatalities per VMT, and a short-term increase in driving, e.g. in the 1960s, would lead to a short-term increase in fatalities; but neither would impact the trend.

R2 February 15, 2011 - 9:00 am

Excellent label under MTA Absurdity.

Of course, if you are really worried, stand back! *sigh* Whatever happened to common sense?

John-2 February 15, 2011 - 9:34 am

Does the No. 6 train run through Crespo’s district? Since it’s a stand-alone line (no converging/diverging routes except for the Bronx express track) it would be fun if just for one day, the MTA would run the trains there using his brainstorm of an idea, in order to provide a real-time demonstration of how slow the routes would be and how many TPHs would be lost via this proposal.

Eric F. February 15, 2011 - 10:24 am

That would be awesome. The announcer could say “We’re making our Crespo Stop now” each time the train stops.

John-2 February 15, 2011 - 11:34 am

Using the same voices as on the regular R-142A trains, along with an vocal explanation of the Crespo rule while in-between stations, matched with an explanation of the proposed new law on the digital display, similar to the “If you see something, say something” announcements.

By the time the train got to Brooklyn Bridge, the representative would be the most hated man in the east Bronx and on the east side of Manhattan.

Dan February 15, 2011 - 9:54 am

Just another hare-brained liberal type trying to “look out” for the people. They always think of these laws which sound well-meaning, but are essentially stupid and unneeded. It’s such a small risk and the actual amount of incidents is so low, you have a better chance of being shot up in a gang shootout than you do of being hit by a train. We’re not all idiots, why make us suffer slower travel times because some dumbasses fell into the tracks.

VLM February 15, 2011 - 10:04 am

I take it you feel the same way about Ed Mangano’s hare-brained idea to screw over Nassau County and get LI Bus service axed, right? One party in New York does not have a monopoly on stupid transit ideas. Idiocy with regards to transportation transcends partisan bounds.

Dan February 15, 2011 - 11:55 am

I never said the other parties were immune to stupid decisions, it’s just that all these politicians always make these stupid transit rulings having almost never taken public transit. It’s easy to not care about commuters when you get to work by limo…

Bolwerk February 15, 2011 - 12:44 pm

There only is one party in New York State: the Republikrats. As typical in the USA, the Demokrats are, in fact, the more conservative (not the same thing as being more right-wing, which they’re not) of the two wings – which somehow still, even after the Gang of Four fiascos over the past four years, sets people up for surprise every time they do something reactionary. It may be partly because Bloomberg buys them off, but Republikans in New York State are often the more open-minded of the two about transportation reform. However, they tend to share their national brethren’s hyper-authoritarian tendencies in most other areas.

Al D February 15, 2011 - 10:21 am

This is a great article. Congrats to you on your research and presentation.

paulie3jobs February 15, 2011 - 10:26 am

It should be Albany Absurdity, not MTA. But I guess that would be redundant.

Kid Twist February 15, 2011 - 10:41 am

If you think this all the way through, Crespo’s idea will actually cost lives.

— Slowing trains that dramatically will require the TA to run more trains to maintain intervals. That will drive up costs, which will lead to higher fares. It will also cause riders to flee to cars, taxis or other cities, also forcing up the fare.
— Slowing the subway will cause many people to seek housing closer to employment centers, which will drive up the cost of housing, which will force many people to leave New York.
— Slowing the subway will make New York less attractive to employers, driving jobs and people out of the city.

So this idea of his will push people into cars in New York, or force them to move away from New York and to automobile-dependent places in search of jobs and housing.

We know that the traveling by subway is much safer than traveling by car. Therefore, if this idea were adopted, many people who would have traveled safely on the subway would end up dying in car accidents.

Matthias February 15, 2011 - 12:26 pm

Along the same lines, overcrowded platforms caused by reduced capacity will likely cause more people to fall onto the tracks, making this a self-fulfilling (non)issue.

Nesta February 15, 2011 - 11:33 am

Doesn’t the LIRR do womething similiar already? I have never seen a LIRR train that didn’t creep into the station at about 3-5 miles per hour and I see about 10-20 LIRR trains stop a day.

Scott E February 15, 2011 - 12:16 pm

LIRR trains are heavier and need more space to stop. They also have far fewer stops (which are farther apart) and dwell at stations for a longer period of time as the subways do. It’s a different dynamic overall.

However, I’m not so sure they always pull in slower. I’ve seen trains enter stations (that are straight runs) rather quickly (Little Neck). At others (Hicksville) the train curves just before, and crosses over an interlocking, so it slows down. But when the trains bypass stations on a straight run (paricularly on the main line, from Hollis through Merillon Ave) they go through at quite high speeds. They blow the horn, but that’s about it – even with grade-crossings in the way.

Ron February 15, 2011 - 12:59 pm

Yea, if anyone has ever seen a LIRR express train go through a local station they plow on through as if the station isn’t there. Let’s slow down those trains too!

Benjamin Kabak February 15, 2011 - 1:01 pm

The whole point of trains is to provide fast service. Why don’t people just stand back from the edge when a train is approaching? Don’t undercut service for a few foolish folks.

nycpat February 15, 2011 - 2:06 pm

They have to stand at the edge. How else will they prevent people from exiting the train?

Alon Levy February 15, 2011 - 2:54 pm

The LIRR is regulated by the FRA, which has really stupid ideas about safety.

Bolwerk February 15, 2011 - 12:08 pm

Maybe Germany should take over our subway, instead of our stock exchange….

ferryboi February 15, 2011 - 1:33 pm

Would riders then have to goosestep on and off trains?

nycpat February 15, 2011 - 2:03 pm

No, they would have to open the doors themselves.

Quinn Hue February 15, 2011 - 7:48 pm

I wouldn’t mind that, I hate it when the conductor decides to not be prompt in opening the doors. It’s valuable seconds I can use to leave.

nycpat February 15, 2011 - 10:22 pm

At terminals they have to zone up the other cab or try to decipher the dispatcher’s instructions. This can lead to a momentary delay. Other stops they probably dropped their key. You should ask them for your $2 back in that case.

Bolwerk February 16, 2011 - 1:46 pm

I don’t think modern Germans are big fans of people like this.

nycpat February 15, 2011 - 2:01 pm

The S-Bahn in Berlin recently had to cut service substantially. Deferred maintainence caught up with them.

Alon Levy February 15, 2011 - 2:58 pm

It wasn’t deferred maintenance. It was DB’s attempts to skimp on safety inspections (not the same as maintenance – the trains are maintained well and so are the tracks), until 3/4s of the rolling stock was discovered to have a brake problem and needed to be recalled on a day’s notice. It’s the same safety regime that led to the Eschede disaster, despite which the German mainline passenger rail system is still safer than the American one.

Normally, Germany has unified national standards that would allow cities with such problems to get emergency rolling stock from other cities – it doesn’t have any of the agency turf nonsense that plagues the New York area. However, Berlin uses an older electrification system, incompatible with the rest of the country, so it couldn’t take advantage of this.

Ryan February 15, 2011 - 4:47 pm

I would’ve thought it was a smart political ploy if he’d said something like “Ok, that would be a bad idea. What else can we do to improve safety? Perhaps we should all get behind the platform door proposal”.

Alex C February 15, 2011 - 10:48 pm

I know of one subway line where his idea would work…the N in Brooklyn. Possibly the most pathetic show of MTA service is the BMT 4 Ave line, where the N and D go not even ten stops from their terminal and already go minutes off schedule and spiral into a funeral march express.

Bruce M February 16, 2011 - 1:27 am

The MTA seems to have already adopted slow-downs before stations years ago in some spots: Downtown Lexington Express approaching 14th St. at 23rd St. (that derailment occurred at the hands of a crack addicted driver almost 20 years ago–enough already!), Uptown 8th Avenue Express at 23rd St. approaching 34th St., Uptown 7th Avenue Express at Christopher St. approaching 14th Street, to name a few. All inexplicable, but without fail.

Alex C February 16, 2011 - 10:04 pm

They do have slowdown areas, where grade timers force the train operator to slow down to a certain speed before the signal will turn green and allow the train to proceed. These are usually in areas where trains go too fast (Oh not that!) or before switches. The one on the 6 before 14 St isn’t that bad since the way the track curves kind of makes slowing down a necessity.

Andrew February 20, 2011 - 9:48 am

And annoying as they may seem, they typically slow trains to somewhere in the vicinity of 25-30 mph, which adds a few seconds to the trip time and doesn’t reduce capacity.

That’s a far cry from adding a minute per stop and reducing capacity (i.e., increasing crowding).

Liars And Stupidity | Sheepshead Bay News Blog February 21, 2011 - 9:49 pm

[…] Examples of stupidity – Assemblyman Marcos Crespo from the Bronx proposed a law last week requiring subway trains to first pause then travel no faster than five miles per hour when entering a subway station to prevent people from getting hit by arriving subway trains. That would increase yourcommute from Southern Brooklyn to Midtown Manhattan by 20 minutes when only 0.000006 percent of subway riders are struck by trains, as pointed out by Second Ave Sagas’ Ben Kabak. […]

J B February 28, 2011 - 11:51 pm

How about lowering the speed limit to 5 miles per hour? Think how many lives THAT would save.


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