Home Transit LaborTWU Amidst private negotiations, a public statement on OPTO

Amidst private negotiations, a public statement on OPTO

by Benjamin Kabak

For months now, the MTA and TWU Local 100 — its largest union — have been coexisting in a steady state of unease. TWU members have been working without a contract since mid-January, and MTA CEO and Chairman Joseph J. Lhota has been working with TWU President John Samuelsen, in private, to hammer out a deal. After vowing to keep negotiations out of the press, though, Samuelsen broke that vow in a big way yesterday while bringing the issue of one-person train operations back into the open.

The details are sketchy, but apparently, the MTA recently broached the topic of OPTO with the TWU. In response, Samuelsen and, for some reason, two reverends from Brooklyn took to Huffington Post to voice their objections. While also speaking out against part-time bus drivers, Samuelsen voiced his objections to OPTO on the same old grounds we’ve been hearing for years:

While the MTA currently uses OPTO on shuttles and on the G train during nights and weekends, these trains only use four cars when in operation. Expanding OPTO to full length trains increases the risks to passengers while they are entering or exiting the trains, greatly raises the difficulties and hazards involved if a train has to be evacuated, and makes it harder for a passenger who needs assistance to get it. This is especially important at a time when crime on the subways is rising. We believe that the presence of uniformed conductors on our trains is vital for the safety and assistance of passengers, especially in our full-length trains.

In response, the MTA had nothing to say. Lhota offered up a statement while taking a shot at the union: “Unlike John, I’m going to honor my promise not to negotiate in the press.” I don’t blame him; penning an open letter and publishing it to the Huffington Post isn’t only a trite cliche but a rather public statement. But at least it gives us a glimpse into the negotiations, and it appears as though the MTA is at least trying to exact work-rule changes that most sensible transit agencies adopted years ago.

And what of Samuelsen’s arguments? First, let’s do away with his appeal to rising crime rates. The numbers are going up because people’s gadgets are getting lifted at a higher rate. With a strong sense of safety, straphangers are more willing to play it faster and looser with high-priced electronics than they should, and petty thieves can snatch and grap. No amount of on-train personnel will change that.

His other arguments are an appeal to personal fear. If a train has to be evacuated, having one person on board makes it that much harder. Of course, that’s true, but how often do trains have to be evacuated? The last time a train ran into such an emergency was during the blizzard of December 2010, and even then, having a train conductor and a train operator did little to get customers out of the system any faster. It’s a spurious argument at best and one that can be dismissed with a simple cost-benefit analysis. The cost of employing two people on every single train the MTA runs far outweighs the minor benefits of one extra person during an extremely rare evacuation.

And so we are left at an impasse. The MTA wants to enact a net-zero wage increase when this TWU contract is eventually renewed, and the TWU wants more jobs and more money for its employed union members. OPTO has been a sticking point for the better part of a decade, but it’s also a future that New York needs. A mess of public negotiating though doesn’t help anyone.

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nycpat August 31, 2012 - 12:41 am

Let’s not quibble about what you think constitutes an evacuation but off the top of my head I can think of 3 instances in the last 30 days where thousands of people were escorted off trains in places other than a full station stop; stalled 7 train in the tube, Dekalb fire, switch falure north of GC.

Benjamin Kabak August 31, 2012 - 12:52 am

Was it truly thousands? A packed train will hold around 2000. And honest question: could such an unloading be accomplished with one onboard employee? Does a second person make that much of a difference and how much are we willing to pay for that difference?

Al August 31, 2012 - 2:57 am

Not for nothing, but arent tunnel evacuations usually accompanied with the help of law enforcement and EMS?

Spazztastic August 31, 2012 - 10:19 am

They are indeed. My understanding is that unless the danger is imminent, e.g. the train is on fire, training is to remain on board and wait for assistance. Two crewmen on a train is no more use evacuating 2000 passengers than one is.

nycpat August 31, 2012 - 12:58 pm

No, not with a rescue train. Evacuations don’t necessarily mean going to the roadbed or catwalk, or removing 3rd rail power.

nycpat August 31, 2012 - 1:17 pm

Yes, in the one instance I could hear on my radio the TSSs had to count the passengers as they made it to the platform. Other train crew were reporting that trains were cleared of passengers etc.

Donald September 1, 2012 - 5:48 pm

And last Friday I saw a stalled 6 train discharging its passengers at Astor Place with about 8 cars in the tunnel.

R2 August 31, 2012 - 9:30 am

I was in the stalled 7 train. A rescue train with folks from DCE and a few police officers came. Can’t say an extra person already on the train made a difference.

Debbie August 31, 2012 - 9:30 am

Fire insurance for a fire that “rarely or never” is needed is not a foolish expense; same thing here.

Bolwerk August 31, 2012 - 11:12 am

Then why stop at two-man crews? Why don’t we just get three-man crews? Oh, hell, every bus has a driver to keep us safe. A train car holds almost double a bus. Let’s have a 1.5 crewmembers/train car. Also, let’s get conductors for buses. That’ll improve safety.

BoerumBum August 31, 2012 - 12:13 pm

Perhaps a new PSA announcement could help?

“Please check your location in the train… if you’re one of those people who jams in front of the door instead of stepping to the center, you may be required to help evacuate the car in the event of emergency.”

Epson August 31, 2012 - 4:09 pm

Are you sure bus drivers are safe? Why the hell some buses dont have partition when bus operators assaults are on the rise.

Nathanael September 1, 2012 - 3:28 am

We could go back to 19th century practices and have one crewman per car, plus a “fireman” in the locomotive, and an additional “trainman” in the caboose.

But that would be stupid.

At this point, the TWU is trying to make itself undesirable. If it accepted one person train operation, which is the worldwide standard, that would be that. If it won’t, there will be a strong incentive for the MTA to switch to *fully automated* trains just to get rid of the TWU.

Bolwerk September 1, 2012 - 4:20 am

I can buy there is a big incremental safety increase between no crew and a 1-man crew. As I said earlier, I don’t buy a big incremental increase in safety between one person and two and can even see how constraining human capital causes a decrease in safety.

Larry Littlefield August 31, 2012 - 6:40 am

“MTA CEO and Chairman Joseph J. Lhota has been working with TWU President John Samuelsen, in private” “vowing to keep negotiations out of the press.”

The MTA is not a private company. Both the workers and those who have to pay for them are being kept in the dark. I don’t think this is right. I think it is very wrong. The tendency in state government as been to screw the people who are not in the room, and who do not even know what is going on.

As in the case of the secret pension deals, all of us are about to become parties to an irrevocable contract we will have to honor regardless of the consequences. And we don’t even get to hear about what it says beforehand.

R. Graham August 31, 2012 - 1:10 pm

Wait a second. How are the workers getting screwed? First of all they get to vote on any contract the Union approves. Second when you pay a Union you basically give the Union the authority to negotiate your contract for you. Third I’m sure the changes to work rules would apply through attrition and reassignments.

Nathanael September 1, 2012 - 3:15 am

Samuelsen is continuing to repeat stuff which he should know is false. His behavior is shameful and disgusting.

Conductors provide no added safety. They serve no function — actually they haven’t served a function since they stopped collecting tickets in 19-oh-something. If Samuelson were concerned about safety, he would advocate hiring Transit Police and placing one on every train. But even if conductors were retrained as Transit Police, that would involve putting them into a DIFFERENT UNION, so he doesn’t want to do that.

This is one reason why industrial unions are better than trade unions; craft wars can kill businesses.

Epson September 3, 2012 - 2:51 am

You are one big idiot.

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:36 pm

I think calling names without providing supporting evidence is a sign of lack of intelligence. Don’t you, idiot?

Matthew August 31, 2012 - 8:20 am

A way to implement OPTO is to first do the automated Canarsie Line. Take those conductors displaced from those jobs and extend other services. Some would be offered promotions to Motorman.

Some possibilities are to extend the late night 5 shuttle to 149th Street for direct transfer to the 4, extend the M late night and weekend shuttle to Essex St for direct transfer to the F, or provide weekend B service for better CPW local service and Brighton express service.

No jobs lost, and the safety of the passengers is unaffected because the computer makes sure the correct doors open. Win-win for the management and the union.

Do the same when the Flushing line is automated.

al August 31, 2012 - 9:34 am

The other way is to run short (2, 4, 5 car trains) OPTO train during midday, evenings, and late nights. Same staffing and equipment levels, but more frequent service. This will make subways more attractive as headways come down to 3-4 min during the day/evening and 10 min max during late night. That in turn will drive up off hr ridership and improve MTA finances.

Spendmore Wastemore August 31, 2012 - 9:54 am

That makes a lot of sense, and as I understand it coupling/uncoupling a 10 into a 5 is a trivial operation which the motorman can do. So why not?

Caveat: One needs to look twice about which trains underused late at night. Coming from downtown one can have a full 10 car train at 1am.

Bolwerk August 31, 2012 - 10:30 am

I think uncoupling is fairly trivial, but coupling may be a yard operation. Anyway, if they’re going to do OPTO during the day, they could probably just keep using the extra trainsets they have for rush hour. I doubt there is much point in de-coupling for what might get you two round trips, at least if coupling again is a pain in the ass.

I really don’t see why the TWU should be dictating passenger safety concerns to management in a way that’s such a flagrant, um, conflict of interest.

al August 31, 2012 - 4:00 pm

I’ve seen videos of train coupling at stations. It takes a few minutes. They also couple and uncouple trains on layup and relay tracks. Round trip number depends on run time. You have 6 hrs (9:30AM-3:30PM) during Midday, 4 hrs (8-12PM) during evenings, and6.5hrs during late night.

D trains take a while (1.5 hrs) to complete runs. You can expect 2 round trips midday, 1.5 evenings, and 2 late night.

A train stands to gain in much better branch frequency in Queens. 7-8min headways at Lefferts Blvd instead of the current 15min and 6-9 min at Far Rockaway instead of 13-17min. Another option is a super express to/from JFK.

G and 7 have roughly 35min runs. That comes out to 5 round trips midday, 3 evenings, and 5 late nights.

Peak direction express trains during Middays and Evenings is another option with this setup.

Bolwerk September 1, 2012 - 4:22 am

Yeah, I know coupling by itself takes a few minutes, but don’t passengers need to be cleared to do it? That turns it into a yard operation.

al September 3, 2012 - 9:20 am

You can do it at terminals as passengers have to clear anyway. You can also use the existing staff to rapidly clear trains and allow for coupling.

Bolwerk September 3, 2012 - 9:32 am

I thought work rules precluded that.

Epson August 31, 2012 - 4:11 pm

Have you guys ever ride the train at 2 a.m. with 20 minute frequency. There are alot of people riding during the night in CBD.

Epson August 31, 2012 - 4:31 pm

That is a very bad idea, it will screw up the service and time consuming to uncouple and recouple trainsets thus increase $$$$.

Alon Levy September 1, 2012 - 7:00 pm

Coupling and uncoupling moves happen many times a day on both commuter rail (Shonan-Shinjuku Line) and high-speed rail (Mini-Shinkansen) in Japan, in revenue service. Looking at schedules on Hyperdia, the time it takes to break or couple trains is about 3-5 minutes.

Epson September 3, 2012 - 2:50 am

Try coupling and uncoupling at NYC Subway station terminals with very little room… efficiency my ass.

Alon Levy September 3, 2012 - 4:02 am

No need to do that at terminals. The most useful places to do this are branch junction stations, or maybe possibly stations beyond which demand drops like a rock such that the alternative to coupling moves is to turn some trains short. On the subway these are Rockaway Boulevard and Broad Channel on the A. On commuter rail these are Stamford, Hicksville, Valley Stream, Summit, and a few others I’m forgetting.

(By the way, this does not mean I’m advocating coupling, just that if it’s useful, it’s most useful at these stations. Coupling isn’t that common.)

Epson September 3, 2012 - 11:48 am

Your plan will still not work. MTA can not run service when the train is block and still you need to hire more personals to do this operation. NYC Subway is rapid transit system… They need to make service.

Kai B September 4, 2012 - 10:58 am

The MTA tried uncoupling in the 80s/90s to improve safety (you can still see some “During off hours, trains stop here”) signs in stations.

Obviously, increasing safety and passenger numbers caused them to abandon this practice.

Also, newer rolling stock can only be split 50/50, so you’d essentially cut capacity in half.

Alon Levy September 4, 2012 - 7:19 pm

At the one place where it’s justified – Rockaway Boulevard on the A – frequency is already split 50/50.

Donald September 1, 2012 - 5:38 pm

That’s an absurd idea. Because now the train has to sit in every station for a million years waiting for passengers all the way in the front and back of the platform to run to the closest door panel. It happens all the time on the G.

Alon Levy September 1, 2012 - 7:03 pm

It depends on how clear the signage is. Instead of “off-peak trains stop here,” the signs should demarcate clearly where shorter trains stop, and at what times passengers should expect shorter trains. For example, there could a pair of red lines crossing the platform, with signs at both ends indicating, say, “Trains stop here except weekdays 6 am – 9 pm.”

Donald September 1, 2012 - 8:58 pm

And that idea will not only not save any money, it will cost more money since now you will need to hire dozens of switchmen to do all that coupling and uncoupling. For those who dont know, 99% of train operators who operate trains in passenger service don’t couple and uncopule cars. There are special train oeprators in the yards who do this called switchmen.

Alon Levy September 1, 2012 - 9:18 pm

Not sure about New York-area work rules, but JR East, which does coupling and uncoupling on both its commuter and high-speed lines, has marginally more transportation employees than NYCT (I believe it has 55,000 now). Not sure how many revenue train-hours it has, but it has 130 billion passenger-km per year (NYCT has 16 billion on the subway, and I think 2 billion on the buses).

nycpat September 2, 2012 - 12:05 pm

All T/Os are supposed to know how to do it however people who don’t do it often can have problems. On the 142s you have to be spry enough to hang the barrier springs up, an operation which can be a dirty and dangerous pain. It involves hanging on to the train with three points of contact and jamming the springs in place. An awful and awkward design.
Road T/Os uncoulpe the Dyre shuttle in the station around 11:30pm.

Donald September 2, 2012 - 1:36 pm

That’s true, but at most temrinals you can’t tie up a track while the crew uncuples the train since you would have a bottleneck of trains waiting to enter the terminal. At Dyre, you can uncouple since the headways that time of night are longer, but on other lines, they are tighter.

Bolwerk August 31, 2012 - 10:33 am

In a fantasy world, conductors seem like ideal candidates for operating future surface rail services. But then, so do bus drivers, and the main reason surface rail is politically infeasible is it would cut down on staffing needs.

Epson August 31, 2012 - 4:20 pm

If Flushing line to automatic…just say a prayer when you board.

Alon Levy September 2, 2012 - 2:53 am

I feel bad for taking my mom on the subway here in Vancouver. The system is entirely driverless, and I was recklessly endangering her life.

Alex C September 2, 2012 - 9:12 pm

That SkyTrain system you guys got looks amazing. Also proof that you don’t need drivers or platform doors to have a safe rapid transit system.

Epson September 3, 2012 - 2:43 am

Umm, Vancouver system is much smaller system then NYC. Below 500,000 riders. Can’t it handle NYC crowds daily. LOL.

Alon Levy September 3, 2012 - 4:11 am

It also has fewer lines. So what?

Epson September 3, 2012 - 11:49 am

and you just comparing apples to oranges.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines August 31, 2012 - 9:21 am

[…] Samuelsen Airs Conflict With MTA Over One Person Train Operation in HuffPo (via 2nd Ave Sagas) […]

Jonathan August 31, 2012 - 9:27 am

I’ve often heard the safety argument, and I think most people assume that to mean that there is an extra person to intervene in an emergency. But isn’t MTA policy for operators to remain in their cab and wait for police?

nycpat August 31, 2012 - 1:22 pm

No! How the hell does the Rail Control Center find out what is going on? They ask the train crew to investigate.

Bolwerk August 31, 2012 - 10:08 am

First of all, “secret” negotiations are unacceptable. The public deserves to know what it is paying for.

Second, the OPTO safety line is smouldering, steamy BS. Why? OPTO can make the system safer. Where there is actual dangerous crowding, they could reduce it by taking a conductor, turning him into an operator, and giving riders more service frequency. There is no way the lost safety of a two-crew train exceeds the benefits of reduced crowding in stations – and trains could be less crowded when they have to be evacuated too.

The crime comment is especially incredulous. A uniformed conductor is nothing more than another potential victim.

Larry Littlefield August 31, 2012 - 12:16 pm

After all, that’s what happened in the Taking of Pelham 123, right?

nycpat August 31, 2012 - 1:23 pm

French Connection.

R. Graham August 31, 2012 - 1:17 pm

When the public and the MTA have the same interests it makes the argument of secret negotiations being secret pointless.

Any gains that benefit the public in term of spending is a net positive. Getting OPTO done would be a huge victory.

Peter August 31, 2012 - 10:14 am

How about the fact that many other systems are already using OPTO without any disasters. Don’t all Paris Metro trains have a single operator? They are a bit shorter than NYCT train sets, but that doesn’t seem like a decisive difference.

Nathanael September 1, 2012 - 3:18 am

I believe that NY and Boston are the only two metro systems in the US which still have two people per train (I could be wrong, Philly might still be overstaffed). Boston is absolutely intent on getting rid of the redundant, make-work conductor position and probably will do so fairly soon.

The commuter rail services still have a *lot* more than two people per train, but that’s because they have onboard fare collection, no turnstiles.

Stephen Smith September 1, 2012 - 5:40 am

Philadelphia has OPTO on both the El and the Broad Street Line. I’m surprised Boston still has an extra person…I didn’t realize that. Chicago definitely is OPTO on all lines at all times.

Donald September 1, 2012 - 9:00 pm

PATH has conductors

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:37 pm

Yep, that’s right (just verified). Thanks for the info. So NY has *two* overstaffed Metro systems, two of only three in the US.

Alon Levy September 1, 2012 - 6:38 am

Paris has ZPTO on two Métro lines and OPTO on the rest. I think the RER has 2PTO.

Donald September 2, 2012 - 1:44 pm

So your advocating ZPTO trains? So whose going to take care of mechanical problems en route? If a train is stuck with a broken door at 59 St., do you want to wait in the station while the RCI all the way at 125 St. comes to fix it? That’s one long wait.

Alon Levy September 3, 2012 - 1:28 am

I don’t know if I’m advocating ZPTO trains. Unlike OPTO, which is a fairly trivial matter to implement, automation on mainlines (i.e. not the shuttles) requires nontrivial capital investment. I don’t know the exact numbers in New York, though I do think the MTA should investigate this and publish cost estimates, including net savings.

But the point I’m making is that there are no safety issues with OPTO, and a lot of the issues that New Yorkers think are intractable (e.g. door opening) are actually the easier ones. Automating the conductor’s job is much easier than automating the driver’s.

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:40 pm

I actually don’t advocate ZPTO; I think OPTO has some real advantages.

However, if the TWU local in NY continues to behave obnoxiously, stupidly, and obstructively, ZPTO will become extremely attractive to the MTA — because they won’t have to deal with obnoxious, lying idiots like Samulsen. TWU should pay attention to which side its bread is buttered on. The side its bread is buttered on is OPTO.

John-2 August 31, 2012 - 11:05 am

HD cameras on the platform at the conductor’s position and the rear of the station and an HDTV monitor at the train operator’s spot would handle the ‘blind spot’ problems, and you could station someone during rush hours to spot on the most crowded platforms, if there’s fear something might be missed in extreme crowding conditions (which I experienced in Washington on the Yellow/Green Line back in early July, when they had a derailment at the start of Friday rush hour and a few hours before a Nationals’ home game. IRT Lex-like conditions on the platforms and in the cars until they started short-turning the trains, but there were no reports of any delays connected to getting the doors closed or getting in and out of the stations).

Epson August 31, 2012 - 4:12 pm

HD cameras will still wont work, there still numerous blind spots…especially if you at 4,5,6 train platform at 14 St-Union Sq for example.

R. Graham August 31, 2012 - 6:37 pm

They will work just fine in combination with the fact that you really can’t close the doors on much of anything obstructing them except a light jacket.

Steve W August 31, 2012 - 6:51 pm

Have you even operate at train and closing the doors on a 600ft train car at a curve station?

Alex C August 31, 2012 - 10:50 pm

They have cameras and screens for that. Not like the job is any easier from the conductor’s position at curved stations.

Donald September 1, 2012 - 9:02 pm

And good luck seeing those screens in the outdoor stations when the sun is glaring right onto it.

Alon Levy September 1, 2012 - 9:23 pm

There exist above-ground stations in OPTO (and ZPTO) cities.

Donald September 2, 2012 - 12:37 am

You do know that most other systems run shorter trains, carry less people, and don’t have stations with sharp curves?

DC Metro’s trains are 450 feet long.

The Paris Metro’s trains are less than 300 feet long

London Underground’s trains are 360 feet long

Compare that to the average NYC train, which is 600 feet long.

Alon Levy September 2, 2012 - 2:51 am

London’s trains are actually up to 133 meters long; a ten-car IRT train is 155. Yes, New York’s trains are longer, but not by that much.

In addition, the Moscow Metro has 155-meter trains on most lines. Most lines in Singapore run 140-meter trains, including one of the driverless lines. In Tokyo I’m not sure which lines are OPTO, but I know for a fact that lines with train lengths up to 128 meters (Oedo, and also Mita and Meguro at 120) are OPTO and, in addition, one line running 200-meter trains is at least partially OPTO (go to 2002).

It’s hard to find long trains on driverless lines, not because it’s impossible (the North East Line in Singapore has long trains), but because usually if you’re building a driverless system, you can save money on station construction by building shorter platforms and running trains more frequently. The latest driverless systems let you run trains every 75 seconds, and if New Yorkers weren’t completely provincial they’d be sending people to Paris, Copenhagen, Vancouver, and Singapore to learn how to convert the IRT to driverless operation not for operating costs but for capacity.

Oh, and Moscow and Tokyo both have much busier trains than New York. London and Paris’s busiest lines are comparable. Paris has 90-meter trains, but despite the shorter trains Line 1 has 210 million riders per year; Lexington has either 240 or 400 million (800,000 or 1.3 million per weekday), depending on which source you believe, but it has four tracks. London’s busiest lines, with 250-260 million riders per year, are also two-track.

Rob Stevens September 2, 2012 - 3:48 pm

incorrect. Wash metro does operate some 8 car trains, which is 600 ft.

Henry September 3, 2012 - 12:01 pm

The MTR’s East Rail Line in Hong Kong runs automated OPTO with side platforms, island platforms, nasty curves ( http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi.....n_2008.jpg ) and 900 ft long trains.

However, I’m not going to overestimate the MTA’s competency here when it comes to pulling off feats of a similar magnitude.

Epson September 3, 2012 - 2:27 pm

That part of the line still has platform conductors.

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:43 pm

*Platform* attendants/conductors are actually a good idea in busy stations or stations with difficult curves.

However, the TWU local in NY has opposed reassigning the token booth clerks to this job. I would assume, therefore, that it also opposes reassigning train conductors to the job of platform attendant.

The TWU local in NY has made it very clear that it wishes to obstruct efficient operation and avoid improvements in service. This is in sharp contrast to your average TWU local, most of which appear to be open to this sort of change.

Donald September 1, 2012 - 5:42 pm

And if someone is wearing that jacket when it is caught in the doors and the train begins to move, now the train might drag them and there will be no conductor on the OPTO train to stop it. And people sometimes get stuck in the gap between the train and the platform since some of those IRT stations have really big gaps.

Kai B September 4, 2012 - 11:10 am

You could also use obstruction sensors (motion detection) to determine when the doors can be closed. I’ve seen those in use on Vienna’s U6 line but often someone’s foot or bag would obstruct them leading to increased wait time.

Not to mention that they can be abused by blocking them to let other people make the train.

Nathanael September 1, 2012 - 3:20 am

Really difficult stations should have what’s known as a “platform attendant”.

The MTA tried to replace the token booth jobs with these, but the extremely intransigent and rigid TWU didn’t want that.

Stephen Smith September 1, 2012 - 5:42 am

Interesting, I didn’t know that! Would you mind emailing me the details? Or at least get in touch? I’m interested in your craft unionism comments… smithsj@gmail.com

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:44 pm

Rrrgh. That was in the newspapers at the time. I’ll have to dig it out, not sure whether I’ll find it.

LLQBTT August 31, 2012 - 12:12 pm

OPTO is the wrong place to exact savings. Some trains carry a few hundred people at a time, and we’re going to OPTO their care? Many buses go around 1/2 empty most of the time and that’s what, 20 people max? Additionally, there are so many more support crew with these supposed archaic work rules (where can we see these?), that it makes most sense to pursue efficiencies in this manner. Keep the 2 man train crews. Compared to bus drivers and other workers, 2 man crews are freakin’ bargain!

BoerumBum August 31, 2012 - 12:16 pm

How long until the self-driving GoogleBus rolls out?

Bolwerk August 31, 2012 - 12:47 pm

Given how many decades driverless trains have been around, I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to be adopted even if it does come out.

Larry Littlefield August 31, 2012 - 12:19 pm

Again, what about the LIRR? How about some kind of contactless payment system, cameras for those who walk on the tracks to get past the turnstiles and hop up on the platform, huge fines when those people are caught — and two employees per commuter train?

Epson August 31, 2012 - 4:13 pm

It will never work with the union rules and FRA rules.

Nathanael September 1, 2012 - 3:30 am

Two employees per commuter train is perfectly viable (and done nationwide) under FRA rules, *even* with stations which don’t have turnstiles.

You’re right about the LIRR unions, of course; they’re *terrible* and have been preventing improvements in LIRR service for *decades*. LIRR has the most retrogressive, 19th century operating practices in the United States.

Alex C September 1, 2012 - 11:50 pm

That *could* work, but only with full grade separation and fencing off at level areas. As you mention, there is the issue of freeloaders walking onto the tracks and hopping onto the platform. Even with the now-Minority-Report-like surveillance technology being used these days (who cares about the 4th Amendment, right?), I don’t know if they’d be able to identify every person using that trick. Proper grade separation and contactless payment would be preferable.

Henry September 3, 2012 - 12:03 pm

Maybe only for the area before the city limits – conductors could check tickets after trains have passed to see if people have valid tickets, and then fine them appropriately.

Nathanael September 1, 2012 - 3:21 am

Nearly every other system in the world runs OPTO.

The conductors are pure WASTE at this point. That makes it a good place to get more efficiency.

WilletsPoint-SheaStadium August 31, 2012 - 12:57 pm

Regarding OPTO, I’ll say this. It’s always very vexing at how long it takes to load/unload the (G) during weekends. The train operator has to come to a halt, stand up, put in one’s key, open the doors, check the doors, close the doors, take out the key, sit down, and THEN proceed. It nearly doubles the in-station time of a train which is annoying on a train that’s supposed to be a shortcut to avoid Manhattan.

I would say that OPTO would be best paired with efficient CBTC operation, with the conductor/train operator handling operations from the front car. The operator can simply be ready to handle conductor duties the moment CBTC brings the train to a halt.

And totally separately, we need to get those two cars back on the (G) train sets again. Those bad boys get packed and it’s really lame to have to walk half a platform’s length to board a train, which ALSO slows down operations on the (G) as TO/Conductors tend to wait for people to jog down the platform to board.

Epson August 31, 2012 - 4:14 pm

There not saving time with OPTO on the Gline Weekends, haha

R. Graham August 31, 2012 - 6:41 pm

You’re right! OPTO will work much better with CBTC, but CBTC is here and it’s about to start flooding the system as new cars start coming in and signalling projects start hitting the CBD lines. With that said it’s best to get the work rules changes in place now instead of waiting for the next contract so attrition can begin just as soon as CBTC hits.

The days of conductor are pretty much done for.

Steve W August 31, 2012 - 6:48 pm

LOL, not today and not tomorrow unless the salary of train operator goes up to 100% then we could see OPTO on all lines.

We still have platform conductors though.

Alex C August 31, 2012 - 10:54 pm

CBTC isn’t flooding the system any time soon. It’s still about 4 years before it will be operational on the Flushing Line, and then a few more years before fully operating on the IND Queens Boulevard. That would still leave the vast majority of the subway system with good ole 18th century fixed-block signaling. And it will stay that way for a while what with the MTA (and the US as a whole) going bankrupt pretty soon due to Generation Greed robbing us all blind.

Alex C August 31, 2012 - 10:55 pm

EDIT: 19th century fixed-block signaling.

Henry September 1, 2012 - 7:32 pm

I feel that you’re being overly optimistic about what the MTA can and should spend – only the Queens Blvd Line will be done after the Flushing Line project is over. SAS and the 7 Line Extension should have CBTC preinstalled, because it wouldn’t really make much sense to have to close the line later for signalling upgrades.

The next candidate for CBTC after those two lines is the 1 – although it doesn’t rank that high when it comes to ridership, no other line shares tracks with the 1 (on a normal basis, anyways)

Donald September 1, 2012 - 9:10 pm

The 2 runs local on the 1 during late nights.

Alon Levy September 2, 2012 - 3:04 am

Late night isn’t the time you need CBTC for.

Andrew September 10, 2012 - 8:40 pm

But if the wayside signal system on a section of track has been replaced by CBTC, any train without CBTC equipment won’t be able to operate on that section of track. That’s a problem for the late night 2 service, for GO’s, for spur-of-the-moment reroutes.

There is simply no way that CBTC will ever be implemented on only two tracks of a four-track line.

There’s also no need to try to restrict CBTC to lines that don’t share track with other lines – Queens Blvd. will already have broken that rule.

As I recently pointed out elsewhere, CBTC is an entirely new signal system, not magical capacity-enhancing pixie dust. It’s not going to be implemented on the 1 when much of the IND has older signals.

Henry September 3, 2012 - 12:04 pm

As an add-on, there’s also the 6, which doesn’t share trackage with any other line during rush-hour (and probably needs it a lot more than the 1)

Donald September 1, 2012 - 8:48 pm

Tha’s not how CBTC works. The train operator is supposed to be at the controls anytime the wheels are turning. So even with CBTC, you would still have to wait for the operator to get up, cross to the other side of the cab, and open the doors. CBTC would not save any time.

Kai B September 4, 2012 - 11:14 am

Part of the problem is that the rolling stock is not OPTO friendly.

OPTO systems I’ve seen in Europe have the operator sitting in the middle of the train, opening and closing the doors with a button (ie. not having to get up and inserting a key).

The CCTV monitors are also placed in a fashion that is friendly to this, ie. diagonally at the end of the platform.

Kai B September 4, 2012 - 11:18 am

*By “middle of the train” I mean at the front of the train but the seat is in the middle, so there is no difference in view for island vs. outer platforms.

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:48 pm

That is a point. Full-width cabs do seem to be much more common these days. I assume NYCT, being rather old-fashioned in its procurement, hasn’t ordered them.

BenW September 4, 2012 - 8:19 pm

Full-width cabs like the R44 and R46 have?

Henry September 4, 2012 - 8:20 pm

The newer trains do have full-width cabs – I believe the main reason the seat is still on the right is because they need to keep the doors between cars in the middle.

Henry August 31, 2012 - 1:21 pm

It’s really sad when New York union officials talk about how two operators are needed for safety, when Singapore’s metro system can evacuate its automated lines without a hitch.

Is evacuation of a subway train really that hard? It really consists of getting off the front of the car and walking down to the nearest platform or emergency exit. (For the newer cars though, you might need someone to unlock the inter-car gangways, because sometimes when I’ve used them, they open from the inside but not from the outside.)

nycpat August 31, 2012 - 1:28 pm

If NYC had corporeal punishment for quality of life offenses I would agree with you.

Alon Levy September 1, 2012 - 6:42 am

If you think Singapore is bad, in Vancouver blocking doors is a hanging offense, and in Paris quality of life offenses will get you publicly tortured to death.

Epson August 31, 2012 - 4:06 pm

NYC and Singapore is not the same.

Donald September 1, 2012 - 5:59 pm

So you think getting off a train in the tunnel is that simple? What about live third rails? What about trains flying by at full speed on adjacent tracks? What about emerency exits that are locked? And what about elderly and disabled people who can’t climb down from the train to the road bed?

Alon Levy September 1, 2012 - 7:09 pm

A train with a thousand passengers and 2 employees has the exact same safety level as a train with a thousand passengers and 0 employees. If passengers need guidance, you need a much higher employee:passenger ratio than 1:500 for passengers to even notice that there’s an employee. Something like 1:50, the required ratio for flight attendants. So either you’re committing to hiring about 20,000 attendants, or you’re blowing smoke to protect redundant employees.

Henry September 1, 2012 - 7:16 pm

And that is why we have the NYPD, the FDNY and EMS.

London doesn’t operate its trains using two drivers, but it’s not like everyone was left to die after the 2005 bombings. An extra conductor is unnecessary.

Donald September 1, 2012 - 8:39 pm

The NYPD and FDNY won’t go into the tracks unless the power is off. And what if a train is stuck in the river tube? By the time they reach the train, who knows how long it will be. So when an emergency first occurs, they are of little use.

And what if the train operator is incapiciated? When the Red Line train in the DC Metro had that collission a few years ago, the train’s operator was killed. So there were no employees on the train.

Alon Levy September 1, 2012 - 9:25 pm

I hear London and Paris have rivers, too.

Alex C September 1, 2012 - 11:41 pm

I don’t know if the Red Line accident is a great example for a case for 2 person operation. If you’ve seen photos, you know a conductor may not have necessarily survived that wreck either…

Henry September 2, 2012 - 9:23 pm

I think MTA Police would probably be more appropriate in that situation.

Plus, I highly doubt any passengers are going to wait for an orderly, employee-assissted emergency evacuation if the crash is serious enough to kill an operator.

Donald September 2, 2012 - 10:41 pm

The MTA Police don’t work in the subway. They are only on the MTA Railroads.

Henry September 3, 2012 - 12:06 pm

Am I thinking of Transit Police then?

nycpat September 3, 2012 - 1:11 pm

The Transit Police are now the Transit Bureau of the NYPD. They and the Housing Authority Police were merged into the NYPD during the Giuliani administration.
The subways are still NYC property and are patrolled by NYC’s police.

Michele Kaplan September 1, 2012 - 4:57 pm

I’d like to take a moment here to talk about one community, that if I am understanding this correctly, would be affected by this change, but the MTA is not even thinking about. (surprise, surprise)

I’m talking about the disability community. Customers in wheelchairs.

I was reading this other article (http://blogs.wsj.com/metropoli.....way-trains) on the topic and it says that if this went into effect, there would be ” no conductor in the middle of the train to handle opening and closing of the doors”

Now at the same time, the MTA is telling it’s customers in wheelchairs “Wait for the train near the center of the platform, where the car with the conductor normally stops.” (http://mta.info/accessibility/transit.htm#subways). The MTA website goes on to say “(The vertical gap on accessible subway station platforms is lower only near the center of the platform, near the conductor’s position.)”

At the same time, The MTA has been quoted by the media “The MTA says the designated boarding areas it’s built are more level with the subway cars and they’re also within sight of the conductor, so riders who need extra help can ask for it.” (http://www.ny1.com/content/top.....y-stations)

Now, if there is no conductor in the middle, how the hell is the conductor going to help? He/She sure in hell can’t leave the end of the train, walk all the down and to help someone out – each time a person in a wheelchair needs “extra help”

Or let’s say you’re from out of town. A tourist in a wheelchair ready to travel NYC and check out the usual sights. You see the designated boarding area on a wheelchair accessible platform, so naturally you wait in that area. A train pulls up, you assume every car within that area is wheelchair accessible. However, it’s not and you end up getting stuck. How could the conductor see you?

I can tell you as a local that when this happens in the presence of the conductor, it’s very scary. You are unable to move forward or back. Half of your wheelchair is in the subway car and the other half is on the platform. I can’t even imagine how freaky that would be, if it happens to you and the conductor is no where in sight. Whose going to help you? The passenger? What if something goes wrong. What if you get injured? The conductor is all the way at the end of the train.

The MTA is continuing to disregard safety for the customer in a wheelchair, and it is unacceptable. Furthermore, don’t they want to raise the fare? So you’re paying more money and getting less service.

I can’t see any benefit to this to the consumer, not only is it not necessary, but it’s irresponsible and dangerous.

Donald September 1, 2012 - 8:51 pm

I like how they make stations level with the train in the boarding areas at stations that are NOT wheelchair accessible. It’s nice that there is an area where the wheelchair can easily get onto the train. Now if only the wheelchair user can get up 2 flights of stairs to get to the boarding area.

Henry September 1, 2012 - 11:26 pm

I’ve never really understood why the MTA would only make the center part of the platform level in the first place. Station rehab is already ridiculously expensive – is adding another inch or two to the height of the platform to make all of it level really going to bloat the cost any further?

Alex C September 1, 2012 - 11:56 pm

Something with loading gauge probably? The door thresholds make up a 10-foot width at 45 inches above top-of-rail. I suppose the MTA wants the slightly-lower platform to allow for a tighter fit at curved stations. We would need somebody from SubChat on here to answer this (when they’re not busy turning turning each other’s threads into flamewars).

Epson September 3, 2012 - 3:01 am

Its the weight of the subway car with fat passengers on board that shifts the boarding level between the platform level and the subway car door entrance. The difference is a few inches height since they are not even.

It is a good lawsuit to fight with MTA that they violate ADA laws!

Andrew September 10, 2012 - 8:43 pm

In your first paragraph, you explain that the car height depends on the weight of the passengers on board.

In your second paragraph, you recommend suing the MTA for violating ADA.

Do you think a lawsuit will change the laws of physics?

Alon Levy September 3, 2012 - 4:16 am

Serious question: do disability rights advocates even care about platform-train gaps? All I’ve heard of, which is a small sample size and means approximately nothing, is that they complain that few stations are accessible and even those are often inaccessible in practice due to elevator outages.

I’m asking because one of the standard industry practices in countries that care about timetable adherence, of which the US is not one, is to have level boarding on all trains, so that passengers can board unaided for the full length of the train and a single wheelchair passenger will not wreck the entire schedule.

Bolwerk September 3, 2012 - 9:50 am

Many advocates probably only care if the station is called accessible by a bureaucrat. If your wheelchair can spend several hours on a serpentine trip between the street and a deep level station, it’s accessible; your time means nothing. A certain gap (not sure what, but didn’t South Ferry fun afoul of this?) or incline means it can’t be called accessible, even if it were perfectly good otherwise – maybe for good reason sometimes.

Michele September 3, 2012 - 6:04 pm

As a passenger in a motorized wheelchair, the platform train gaps is a huge problem. Many times I’ve lacked access to the subway car (in the designated boarding area, by the conductor as The MTA suggests) because the gap has been too high. Other times, I have tried to enter the (what is supposed to be) wheelchair accessible subway car, and my chair has gotten stuck.

What I wonder : who is making these decisions about wheelchair accessibility and the subway and if they themselves are not in wheelchairs and do not take the subway, then has the MTA tested the system out (with people in wheelchairs – both manual and motorized?)

This is why (or at least one of the reasons) why I am really against this whole OPTO idea. It’s bad enough myself (and my community) has issues with the subway, especially when my chair gets stuck, but there is some comfort in seeing a conductor. At least I know if something serious happens, there is someone right there to immediately call for help. If the only train crew member is the driver who is at the end of the train – that is not so comforting.

I am really against this OPTO idea.

Alon Levy September 3, 2012 - 9:50 pm

Do you mean a vertical gap, or a horizontal gap? Another question: have you (or anyone you know) used the platform extenders at Union Square, and if so, do they improve things?

(I’m asking because vertical gaps are a matter of worn wheels, which happen everywhere in the world where trains run, and so solutions that work in Vancouver and Singapore port easily to New York. Horizontal gaps are more New York-specific; hence the platform extender question.)

Anyway, I’ll try to ask on Skyscraper Page whether there are problems in Vancouver. I’m fairly certain unaided wheelchair boarding is normal on mainline trains in Germany and Japan, but I know what the bureaucrats consider accessible, not what is actually accessible.

Michele September 4, 2012 - 10:24 am

Both are an issue, but in my experience it’s the vertical gap that I have the most problems with.

I wasn’t even aware there were platform extenders on the union square platform. I’ll have to keep my eyes open next time I visit that station. I certainly haven’t seen them, but am definitely curious to check them out.

“what the bureaucrats consider accessible, not what is actually accessible.”

That’s the thing. Every time I’ve filed a complaint to the MTA, they tell me, there shouldn’t be a problem, there isn’t a problem, but what I wonder if anyone making these decisions even in a wheelchair? have they ever tested out the system? and if not, what qualifies them to tell a person in a wheelchair that there isn’t an issue?

I actually made a video on the topic if you’re interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnnKzIebNvw

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 11:19 am

The “moving platforms” at Union Square aren’t even for the handicapped. The gap is bad enough that everyone needs them.

Michele September 4, 2012 - 12:16 pm

What do they use them for?

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 1:41 pm

They go way back, probably at least to the famed doubling of the IRT platforms’ lengths in the 1950s. When the IRT was extended, there was no way to do away with the curves heading into 14th Street, which meant a wide gap on parts of the (I think only local) platforms.

I’d actually be curious to know how effective they are for wheelchair users – but then, the IRT there may not have any chance of ever being ADA compliant. The other lines are.

Michele September 4, 2012 - 2:14 pm

I know only the L, Q, N and R platforms are listed as wheelchair accessible on 14th street. If it’s on the 4,5 and 6 platforms, I don’t think there’s an accessible way to get on that platform (or is there?).

Epson September 4, 2012 - 4:03 pm

There is no elevator access on the 4/5/6 platforms at 14 St since the gap is too large right at the conductor position of the trains.

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:59 pm

The MTA appears to have a bad attitude when it comes to wheelchair access. Period.

London, which has older and curvier Underground lines, is at least making a serious effort.

Horizontal gaps in metro systems are largely due to curved platforms, and are very hard to eliminate without relocating the station or the tracks.

Modern systems simply put the stations on straight track. This is why I always look at London for comparison, as it’s the only other system with equally problematic stations. Transport for London basically said that they have no idea how to provide wheelchair access at the stations with sharply curved platforms. However, they’re rebuilding all the *others* to provide unaided wheelchair access; as far as I can tell, their solutions have gotten relatively good reviews.

The most important thing in London is that they actually attempt to be informative — they have a map specifying the “gap” and the “step” (vertical gap) at each station. There is no equivalent for NYC, because NYC is not trying.

NYC is also routinely violating the law by rebuilding entire platforms without making them wheelchair-accessible. They just are not trying. They have a bad attitude, and no number of extra conductors will make up for a bad attitude emanating from management.

Andrew September 10, 2012 - 9:15 pm

Really? This map is pretty sparse.

Henry September 4, 2012 - 8:23 pm

I don’t imagine they’d be very helpful – the platform fillers are grated, and i could imagine wheels getting stuck in the grates.

Hong Kong has similar platform fillers on its East Rail Line at University station – without them, the gap could very well exceed four, or maybe even six inches at the widest parts of the curve.

Alon Levy September 4, 2012 - 3:16 am

Okay, I haven’t asked yet, but I went on both subway lines here just now and checked the equivalent platform gaps. I didn’t bring a tape measure or anything, but I measured gaps at several inner stations based on markings on my fingers and my phone, and they appear to be a little less than 1″ vertical and 2″ horizontal, on trains ranging in age from 3 years to 25. I also saw a woman in a motorized wheelchair get on the train without trouble.

I’m puzzled as to why the MTA thinks a 2″ vertical gap is fine.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 8:27 am

The MTA has a policy saying 2″ is fine?

Most of the problem with horizontal gaps in NYC seems to be with older stations, particularly on els.

Michele September 4, 2012 - 12:29 pm

Why the MTA only refers to 1/3rd of the ADA Law Section 38.53, is beyond me.

They always refer to the third part as if that applies to ALL subway cars, when it just doesn’t.

Note: A new train is defined as a train purchased on or after August 25, 1990, so obviously there are a number of platforms that fit into the second category (such as the Q & N)

1.) New Station / New Vehicle where the vertical height cannot be greater than 5/8 of an inch and the horizontal gap can be not be greater then 3 inches.

2.) New Vehicles / Existing Stations. The vertical gap height cannot be greater than 1 ½ inches and the horizontal gap can be not greater than 3 inches.

3.) Retrofitted Vehicles / Existing Stations. Vertical height cannot be greater than 2 inches, and the horizontal gap height cannot be more than 4 inches, but that only applies when the cars are under 50% passenger load.

(source: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/C.....part38.pdf)

Alon Levy September 4, 2012 - 8:13 pm

To be honest, I have no idea why NYCT keeps ordering trains with the wrong floor height. It’s the same thing with how commuter rail operators in the Northeast have 48″ platforms and 51″ train floors. It’s probably just institutional inertia: “we’ve always had trains that are a bit higher than the platforms, and we see no reason to change this.”

Michele September 4, 2012 - 12:35 pm

It varies. Sometimes I have no problem, though more than not, the vertical gap is so high that I can’t even get onto the subway. I used to have take the MTA’s word for it (even though things didn’t look wheelchair accessible) and just go for it, only to find my wheelchair would get stuck.

Plus if it’s a new train in an existing station, the vertical gap can not be higher than 1.5 inches. If it’s over that, the MTA is not complying with ADA Law.

Epson September 4, 2012 - 4:04 pm

Sue MTA then, since they are geniuses.

Michele September 8, 2012 - 9:32 am

Oh, believe me. I am fighting it.


(feel free to sign the petition)

Andrew September 10, 2012 - 8:58 pm

I was recently speaking with a friend who uses a wheelchair in another city. Her advice: (1) Use a wheelchair with the largest wheels possible. (2) Make sure the larger wheel goes first, even if it means backing and off of the train.

In your video, you seem to go forward onto the train. Have you tried going backwards instead?

Michele September 10, 2012 - 9:04 pm

what city does your friend live in? I am not sure if it’s safe to board a subway car backwards? lol someone might get hurt

I haven’t tried going backwards but that honestly (and while I do appreciated the suggestion) I don’t think it wouldn solve the issue. 1.) The vertical gap is often too high and is not complying the ADA law. What you saw was not the worst there is. and 2.) the issue wasn’t the wheels, but that the subway car ledge was hitting the underbelly of the wheelchair. If the NYC Subway complied with ADA Law, then it wouldn’t be an issue. I know this because when the vertical gap does apply with ADA law, it’s not an issue.

Andrew September 10, 2012 - 9:18 pm

Why wouldn’t it be safe to board backwards? If the larger wheels are in the back, it should be safer. A wheelchair customer boarded my train today (N train at Union Square), and that’s how he got on – he didn’t seem to have any trouble with it.

Andrew September 10, 2012 - 9:26 pm

As for the vertical gap, it depends on the loading on board the car – that’s why what you’re seeing is not consistent.

Please try going backwards. If that isn’t much better, would it be practical for you to try a wheelchair with super-large wheels (like most manual wheelchairs)?

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:52 pm

“I can tell you as a local that when this happens in the presence of the conductor, it’s very scary.”

…which shows you precisely how useless the conductors actually are!

I agree with you that the MTA is doing its best to ignore the requirements of the ADA and prevent wheelchair users from taking the subway. I do not believe that the conductors are a significant help.

London is establishing “platform humps” for wheelchair access near the center of the train, but they’re capable of being used unattended — or *the employees who work in the station* assist you.

Michele September 8, 2012 - 9:37 am

The conductors are not useless. If the MTA doesn’t supply the conductor with proper mobility assistance training, then how are they supposed to know what to do?

It’s the MTA’s fault for not giving them proper training. The MTA tells the consumer in a wheelchair that if we need extra help and/or assistance, the conductor can provide that but then they fail to give the conductor any training in such.

The MTA is so neglectful of basic safety and ethics, it’s not even funny. This is not the conductor’s fault. That’s on the MTA.

Andrew September 10, 2012 - 9:19 pm

New York has humps at many if not most ADA stations.

Donald September 1, 2012 - 5:56 pm

System wide CBTC is still many decades away. Over half of the rolling stock is not even capable of being CBTC. And CBTC will be much more difficult to build in the future since they will have to do it on tracks used by more than one line. The reason they did it first on the L and 7 is because they do not share their track with other lines.

Alon Levy September 1, 2012 - 7:10 pm

If they’re doing it systemwide, it is no more difficult to do it on shared lines than on dedicated lines. It’s only easier to do it on dedicated lines if you’re building CBTC on just one line.

Henry September 1, 2012 - 7:35 pm

I believe they abandoned a CBTC project on the GWML in Britain because CBTC technology was not advanced enough to handle all the junctions on the line.

Has technology really progressed to the point where it can handle something as ridiculously complex as the NYC subway and its associated headaches (interlining, service disruptions, rerouted service, etc.)?

Alon Levy September 1, 2012 - 9:29 pm

They went ahead with the project on the WCML, at enormous cost. It’s not a matter of junctions; it’s a matter of an open mainline system with tons of through-service to other lines. Before the WCML disaster, the only European mainlines with moving-block signaling were central areas of commuter rail systems, i.e. the Berlin S-Bahn and the central part of the RER A. Both have junctions and track sharing, like NYCT, but they’re still relatively closed systems in that a random intercity train is not going to wander onto the tracks.

Not that systemwide CBTC is really required, or has anything to do with OPTO. It’s a nice-to-have on congested central segments (e.g. the IRT mainlines).

Donald September 1, 2012 - 8:44 pm

Why would they do CBTC system wide when there are currently only two types of trains that are capabale of running CBTC? They would have to spend billions to retrofit and reaplce older rolling stock.

Alex C September 2, 2012 - 12:03 am

With them mentioning strip-maps and other upgrades for the 1980s fleet, maybe the MTA can try and get some federal funding for CBTC (and the required propulsion control upgrades on the R62/A’s) on the IRT. If there’s any lines that need priority on that, it’s the IRT lines.

Donald September 2, 2012 - 12:16 am

That’s not going to happen anytime soon. Besides, it makes no sense to spend all that money upgrading 30 year old trains that have nothing wrong with them. CBTC will have to wait until the R62s are retired.

Alex C September 2, 2012 - 9:14 pm

That’s fairly obvious. That being said, the IRT makes sense to be the next post-IND-QB CBTC implementation.

Alon Levy September 3, 2012 - 3:37 am

They can implement it early on the Lexington Line.

Epson September 3, 2012 - 11:56 am

That means Catch a Bus To City hall…. King Bloomburger.

Donald September 2, 2012 - 12:13 am

Why does everyone ehre think that CBTC is needed for OPTO to work effectively? OPTO and CBTC are entirely different and have absolutely nothing to do with each other. On a CBTC train running OPTO, the train operator would still open and close the doors the exact same way as they do on today’s non-CBTC OPTO trains.

Donald September 2, 2012 - 12:23 am

The main reason you can’t have system wide OPTO is because it would significantly increase station dwell times, especially when the platform is on the left side of the train. Seriously, you think your going to run OPTO on the 6 during the rush hour? Heck, you can’t even run OPTO on any of the Lexington Ave. lines any time of the day. Those lines alone carry more people than the entire subway systems of Chicago and DC. In fact, you probably can’t run OPTO on any IRT line since those trains are always packed due to the smaller dimensions of the rolling stock. Yes, the 5 is OPTO at night, but there isn’t exactly heavy riderhsip between Dyre Ave. and East 180 St. at 3 in the morning.

Alon Levy September 2, 2012 - 2:20 am

Paris Metro Line 1 probably carries more people than any two-track line in New York (so, more than the Lex express, but less than the Lex express plus local). And then there are the lines in Moscow and London, or the OPTO lines in Tokyo.

Driverless systems actually have lower minimum headways, because there is less room for human error. You need extra capital spending to get that, but what it shows is that you can have automatic doors without humans in the loop, without people being dragged to death. That’s completely different from eliminating human drivers, which is the hard part.

A good hint that “it’s too crowded” is an argument in the opposite direction is that in Paris and Tokyo, it’s the busiest lines that are targeted for staffing reduction. Paris Metro Line 1, which was retrofitted for driverless operation (as opposed to being built driverless), is the busiest Metro line; the two lines Toei chose to do OPTO on are its busier two.

Donald September 2, 2012 - 1:25 pm

Driverless trains don’t always increase capacity. CBTC on the 7 is not going to result in a single extra train being run. Not one.

Henry September 2, 2012 - 2:00 pm

The important thing is that it allows for more trains to be run in the future, and that if there is a fire or the Steinway tunnels flood again, the signals aren’t so outdated that they’re no longer commercially available.

Does the 7 even have enough rolling stock to run the same amount of service on the 7 Line Extension?

Donald September 2, 2012 - 3:23 pm

How will CBTC allow for more 7 trains to run in the future? Times Square only has two tracks and if you run more trains, there will just be a long line of trains stretching all the way to Grand Central waiting to get into the terminal. And 34 St. on the 7 extension is also only going to have 2 tracks, so that problem won’t be resolved.

Henry September 2, 2012 - 3:33 pm

CBTC is a moving-block signal system instead of a fixed-block one, so trains are capable of running closer together instead of being inhibited by signal blocks, even within stations. More information here:

The 7 Line extension should also improve the ability to have more trains – tail tracks stretching past the station means that the trains no longer have to crawl to avoid hitting bumper blocks at high speed, so the trains can get out of the terminal faster.

It wouldn’t really make sense to install CBTC if it didn’t result in the possibility of more efficient operations – OPTO is already possible on most trains, with or without CBTC.

Donald September 2, 2012 - 4:40 pm

OPTO would require billions of dollars to be spent installing and maintaining monitors and cameras by the first car. With OPTO, you would also have to pay train operators more and have more supervisors. And you would have to reduce service to account for the longer station dwell times. OPTO train operators currently make $2 an hour more, but the TWU will want at least an extra $5 an hour for OPTO on full length trains.

nycpat September 3, 2012 - 12:54 am

The MTA ofered $6 an hour more in the early ’90s.
I’m curious as to what happens in OPTO systems when the T/O overshoots the monitors. How does he leave the station safely? Does he discharge the train? Wait for another employee to flag him out?

John-2 September 3, 2012 - 9:44 am

OPTO with CBTC means the computer would be the one that would cause the train to overshoot the monitor, not the T/O. If that’s the case, you’ve got a problem with the software either on the train or on the entire line, and the system’s going into manual operation anyway.

nycpat September 3, 2012 - 1:16 pm

The system going into manual operation when there are workers on the tracks. In a 24 hour system that’s a lot of manual operation.

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 5:02 pm

Well, when there are workers on the tracks the trains have to run slower anyway, so it should be a lot harder to overshoot….

Henry September 3, 2012 - 12:08 pm

I’m pretty sure that was one of the initial glitches with the L line when “Robotrain” came out.

I think they just skipped the station when that happened, although I’m not entirely sure.

Alon Levy September 3, 2012 - 1:06 am

Billions of dollars on monitors? You need an orders of magnitude check.

Epson September 3, 2012 - 11:54 am

You dont realized MTA is on a spending spree with awarded no bid contracts and hiring lots of consultants to do nothing but getting wrong ideas.

Henry September 3, 2012 - 12:07 pm

If they really don’t have people with the technical expertise to hook a camera up to a monitor in-house, then that is just really sad.

Epson September 3, 2012 - 12:02 pm

The 7 line ext. will get new rolling stock R-188 (R-142A) just a couple new cars.

Alon Levy September 3, 2012 - 1:08 am

Driverless systems are capable of 75-second headways, because removing the human from the loop reduces margins of error around stopping times. Vancouver’s Expo-Millennium trunk line can support that; see here for a track diagram.

Streetsblog New York City » Upper Manhattan Assembly Candidates Square Off on Transit Issues September 7, 2012 - 4:11 pm

[…] “I knew it was downhill from there.” All three candidates opposed proposals for one-person train operation and part-time bus operators. Rosa specifically called out the new Tier 6 pension plan and called for it to be rolled […]

Harlem Assembly Candidates Square Off on Transit Issues | September 8, 2012 - 12:29 pm

[…] said Linares, “I knew it was downhill from there.” All three candidates opposed proposals for one-person train operation and part-time bus operators. Rosa specifically called out the new Tier 6 pension plan and called for it to be rolled […]

Quinn Wants Control of the MTA, But Why? – insiderater.com April 12, 2013 - 3:43 pm

[…] labor reform on New York City’s subways, despite issues like one-person train operation being at the heart of the MTA’s negotiations with its […]


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