Home View from Underground Why the renewed attention to subway-related deaths?

Why the renewed attention to subway-related deaths?

by Benjamin Kabak

The latest TWU poster admits to being a ‘slight exaggeration’ but still urges a slowdown until the MTA finds a ‘better solution.’

While you were enjoying a three-day weekend, a drunk 26-year-old from New Jersey decided to take a nap in the crevasse next to a set of active subway tracks early Sunday morning. He awoke when his leg splayed out and an E train drove over it. He survived but will live with one leg. On Monday morning, a man or maybe a woman leaped in front of an oncoming 2 train at Times Square. He or she was DOA in a suicide.

These are but the latest in what seems to many like an uptick in subway/passenger accidents. For the last few weeks, we’ve heard terrifying stories of two incidents involving someone pushing another straphanger into the path of an oncoming train. We heard of someone who fell into the tracks while defecating between subway cars (which, by the way, is something that doesn’t happen too often). We’ve heard of threats of an TWU-requested slowdown, and now we have Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer calling for an MTA Inspector General audit on subway safety. What exactly is going on here?

The answer, you may be surprised to hear, is nothing. At least that’s one rational take on it. As Dana Rubinstein expertly detailed in Capital New York yesterday, subway accidents aren’t on the rise. Rather, the only thing on the rise seems to be the attention we pay to them. Rubinstein writes:

In 2012, 141 people were struck by trains and 55 died. That fatality number was up from in 2011, when 146 people were struck by trains but 47 died. In 2010, 127 people were struck by trains and 51 died. In 2009, 136 people were hit by subway cars, of whom 49 died. The M.T.A.’s data on this only goes back to 2001, but in those years, the high mark for fatalities was set at 55 in 2007, and matched last year.

The number of people hit by trains is essentially holding steady, but the incidents seem to be getting more attention lately, after two particularly ghoulish homicides in December, both of which involved mentally unstable assailants allegedly pushing strangers in front of oncoming trains and to their deaths…

The M.T.A. says that reducing entry speeds would reduce the number of trains that could move through the system by up to 40 percent, which means there would be longer waits for trains, and more crowding on subway platforms, leading to even more collisions between straphangers and subway cars. The authority also suggests that what the union is actually advocating is a work slow-down in disguise.

Whether or not this spate of subway deaths is a problem depends upon one’s perspective. People who witness these accidents say they are horrific, and train operators, in particular, bear the psychological brunt of these collision. The City Council, never one to miss an opportunity to gain media attention, also seems to be in on the action. “Standing by without a plan of action as incident after incident occurs is not an option,” Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca said in a statement. “The MTA needs to bring all the stakeholders to the table and acknowledge that this is a serious problem that demands a coordination solution, and they must tell the public what their plan is.”

But how much should we spend on this problem? A subway slowdown isn’t the answer anywhere else, and it’s not the answer here. Until we start responding to automobile deaths in a similar fashion, it’s hard for a rationalist to see subway deaths as a major problem. But it seems as though the MTA will have to answer to someone, be it the public, the TWU or the City Council.

So we’re left with a problem that isn’t really solvable at a reasonable cost, a union playing politics with people’s lives over a tenuous contract situation and a government oversight body snatching at headlines. Call me cynical, but that seems to be a perfect storm heading toward a bad solution to something that we could consider an intractable problem.

You may also like


Asher January 23, 2013 - 4:50 am

How do these numbers compare to the number of people who got run over by cars, trucks, etc. during the same period?

Eric January 23, 2013 - 6:51 am

Approximately 250 people die per year in road accidents in NYC. The majority of them pedestrians or cyclists.


(In any other city, the number of road deaths would be much higher – NYC’s high density and good transit system make road trips less frequent and shorter on average.)

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 10:18 am

But even in NYC, very few road deaths are suicides or homicides. They’re quite literally unintentional, often stemming from driver incompetence.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 6:42 pm

Or pedestrians walking into traffic, not watching where they are going.

VLM January 23, 2013 - 6:45 pm

Classic victim-blaming. You know (m)any situations where the pedestrian strays into the path of an incoming car like a thief in the night?

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 9:49 pm

It happens all the time. It’s not always the motorist’s fault. Sometimes people aren’t paying attention. Sometimes it is kids walking into traffic from between parked cars. Sometimes a person is being robbed or chased and unknowingly steps into traffic to get away from his attackers. There are other reasons too.

My mother spent her entire life crossing the street without paying attention to cars, no matter how many times I cautioned her. She believed it was the driver’s job to see her and stop for her. She never looked at traffic signals. I always thought that’s how she would eventually die. When she was about 80, she finally had a minor accident with a police scooter. The rest of the time she was just very lucky.

Anyway here is an incident that just happened yesterday.

VLM January 24, 2013 - 10:13 am

You should read Streetsblog’s take on what happened in Midwood. It’s not as cut and dry at Sheepshead Bites makes it out to be. Here you go.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 11:10 am

I read the article and the associated links. The investigation is still ongoing. If the driver was in fact speeding and that could be proven, hopefully he will be charged. I also agree that it seems that proper investigations are not done some times or most times. However, in some of the other cases mentioned, it does seem from the information given that there were some cases where the driver was not guilty.

Let’s say in the Midwood case, the child did not step out from between parked cars. She still was in the wrong by crossing mid block and she obviously misjudged the speed of the van, unless he deliberately sped up to purposely hit her, which is extremely unlikely.

Most likely was that there was not enough time for him to stop. I wonder if he blew his horn or perhaps the girl was hard of hearing. Hopefully, an investigation will ask those questions. The point is that the driver is not automatically a murderer which is what Streetsblog tries to imply in all its articles. Did they even mention that she was wrong by crossing mid-block? Of course not. They have their agenda and that is what they are going to push.

VLM January 24, 2013 - 11:12 am

I’m done with this conversation but your basic assumption that it’s OK to hit someone if they’re not in a crosswalk is just flat-out wrong. Enjoy your day.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 11:40 am

I never said it was okay to hit someone who is not in a crosswalk, so please do not put words in my mouth.

The police may be wrong by not doing proper investigations, but you and your friends at Streetsblog are also wrong for not wanting to be objective and look at all the facts in every situation.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 7:18 pm

What VLM said. Also, the person driving the 2-ton vehicle has an obligation to be a little more careful than the locals wondering out into their own streets.

Drivers should drive on streets under the assumption that a kid could pop out of nowhere at any time, and the fear that they will be bludgeoned by a mob if they hit ANYONE.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 8:21 pm

No said drivers shouldn’t be careful. There are such things as accidents. You can’t stop a 2-ton truck on a dime, just like you can’t stop a subway train on a dime.

Would you advocate a 5 mph speed limit for all big trucks on city streets? That sure sounds like what you are saying. Parents and schools need to teach their children traffic safety. They sure did when I was growing up. When I was 5, my mother told me never to step off the curb by myself and I listened. I have no idea what parents teach their children today or what schools teach.

But even if I never stepped off the curb, that still wouldn’t save me from a car mounting the sidewalk, and the person mounting the car may not even be the guilty party.

Point–There will always be accidents, though we should try our best to minimize them, but you can’t stop traffic from moving to prevent all accidents.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 9:35 pm

No said drivers shouldn’t be careful.

I reserve the right to come back and make fun of this once the full batshit stupidity of that comment sinks in.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 10:37 pm

“No” should have been “no one” I typed it correctly but computer didn’t register the words and I hit submit without checking.

What is stupid about that comment?

“No one said drivers shouldn’t be careful.”

Someone January 24, 2013 - 8:37 am

That’s implying that all drivers should be careful. Which is impossible, if you are a conductor on the L or some other automated subway line.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 9:32 am

Don’t understand. Why is that impossible? I was only speaking about motor vehicles. Of course motormen need to be careful too which I am sure they are. That doesn’t mean they will be able to stop in time if someone falls or is pushed onto the tracks in front of them. I don’t know why you are bringing up conductors, and as far as automated trains go, that is another subject entirely.

Someone January 25, 2013 - 8:19 am

“No one said drivers shouldn’t be careful.”
“Drivers should be careful.”

Those mean 2 different things.

Alon Levy January 23, 2013 - 8:17 pm

Robbery is often caused by people walking into where criminals hang out.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 9:27 pm

And what exactly are you trying to say?

John-2 January 23, 2013 - 7:48 am

Yn an odd way, the city and the MTA are victims of their own success. It anything, the available news hole to fill nowadays is bigger than it was 30-40 years ago, with the rise of multiple TV channels, plus the internet, but at the same time the subway system is far more reliable and far less dangerous than the 1970s or the 1980s, due to the city’s lower overall crime stats.

So there’s a bigger news hole to fill, but at the same time less bad news for the general public with which to fill it, and it’s got to be filled with something to obsess over as a major crisis. So we get the suicide situation, which becomes a major problems because trains aren’t breaking down or catching fire like they used to, and the city’s murder rate is down to about 1.6 per day on average from the six-per-day highs of two decades ago.

The obsession by the media to obsess about something — anything! — combined with certain peoples’ belief that that can make the world risk-free if you only give them a few dollars more is why we now have a subway suicide ‘crisis’, and why the MTA is going to have to consign at least several million dollars for a platform door test program, at a time when there really is a problem with the lack of available funds for far more needed projects (but unless the stock market is cratering or the city’s going bankrupt, budget numbers bore people and don’t get obsessed over by the media).

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 10:41 am

News is almost always the stuff too unusual or sensational to kill you. If PSDs are a good idea, they’re a good idea in spite of recent events – not because of them.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 10:49 am

They ARE a good idea, which has unfortunately not been considered for the last 10 years because of the MTA’s “bankruptcy”.

Larry Littlefield January 23, 2013 - 11:16 am

And the decision to have different door positions for every new car class. Probably generated by union politics revolving around the conductor job.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 11:31 am

Actually, it has more to do with increasing cars’ capacity while refraining from the use of articulated cars. Once the MTA realised that the cars on the J, L, M and Z trains needed replacement, they started to order the R143, R160, and R179.

Larry Littlefield January 23, 2013 - 12:23 pm

The question is, will all subsequent car classes have the same door position? Or do those three car classes already have different positions from each other?

If they are all the same, the MTA should stick with it, and 60 foot cars. To at least make platform doors a possiblity in some stations at some point in the future.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 1:18 pm

The distance between doors is the same. I doubt the R211 will be 60 ft long, however.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 11:42 am

They’re a good idea, and the MTA can’t afford them. That pretty much sums it up.

I’m open to Alon Levy’s argument (or here) about financial value, but for it to make sense society still needs to pony up the funds to pay for it.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 2:10 pm

Then why is the MTA installing them on the L?

Eric Brasure January 23, 2013 - 3:36 pm

They’re not?

Someone January 23, 2013 - 3:50 pm

Um… yes, they are?

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 4:11 pm

It says they’re exploring it; it doesn’t say they greenlighted it. Anyway, the L makes a little more sense. The equipment is uniform for the foreseeable future and crowding is bad. There may not be another line with those being met criteria in the city.

It still opens up many a can of worms. Do we commit to only L-style 60′ cars from now on? Do we commit now to never bother on the parts of the IND with 75′ cars?

John-2 January 23, 2013 - 11:54 am

If your budget is unlimited, than you can spend your budget on anything. If not, you’ve got to prioritize the limited resources. Then it becomes a question of do you set your budget priorities based on the lead story on the 11 o’clock news? Especially if you know that it’s not that there’s a sudden outbreak of these incidents, just that because there are less things to complain about that affect everyone these stories are getting a higher profile, because the 11 o’clock news needs a lead story and t he Post and Daily News need a 120-point headline.

Budgets are boring, unless there’s an immediate budget crisis looming. Scheduled maintenance, especially of infrastructure in tunnels is boring, unless failure to do so causes a fire or a major derailment. You’re not going to get people interested in those things, and you’re not going to get editors or news directors to lead with those stories.

Blood on the tracks, yeah, that gets peoples’ interest, even if there’s no difference now in the number of suicides than there were five years ago. It’s a ‘crisis’ because the media now decides it’s a crisis, and the MTA is about to spend several million dollars to try and solve the crisis, even when the limited resources could be used elsewhere (and trust, me, if the media really turned their interest to the subject, they could get politicians and some in the public demanding that the MTA install solid critter safety walls around ground-level or open-cut tracks to prevent animals from getting pureed by passing R-68 trains).

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 2:00 pm

I get sensationalism, and I get public officials having to respond to sensationalism. But the response should be: these are a few random, unrelated events that coincidentally happened temporally close together. There is no crisis. Actually, if they had balls, they’d add: The New York Post is illiterate and written for slopebrows.

Anyway, public figures don’t need to act on every echo in the tabloid echo chamber. They can respond to them, and remind people who think (at all) that this is relatively minor compared to other things in NYC that are likely to kill you.

John-2 January 23, 2013 - 2:12 pm

In a perfect world, that’s what would happen. But politicians have gotten elected to higher office pushing the “I care more about you than you’ve ever cared about yourself” buttons for years, by creating and/or reacting to a ‘crisis’ that hits just the right buttons with the public.

So while the media may blow up something that’s been occurred at the same rate for years into a major emergency simply because they’re short on stuff to fill Page 1 or the lead story on the nightly news, there’s always a pol out there eager to stoke the fire for their own benefit, by pushing himself/herself as the person who’ll bring us out of this horrific nightmare (usually by taking money that should be going somewhere else and spending it on this suddenly critical need).

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 4:20 pm

Heh, well, if a pol were willing to spend money, there wouldn’t be much of a problem. Selective use of PSDs makes sense, afterall. Like I said above, the L might be the only option for the time being, but it makes sense there. The operative problem is the media is actively spreading misinformation that leads to hysteria, rather than helpful information.

I don’t really know that I buy the idea that the great unwashed masses simply can’t reason this stuff out though. There may be assumptions that are hard to break, but when you actually explain why something might work – and that there is often non-NIH experience related to it – people do often get it. Because of poor critical thinking skills and/or delusion, it’s not always possible, but it often is.

SEAN January 23, 2013 - 11:12 am

well said.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 8:09 am

This could be understood. The MTA is also known to shove dead bodies into closets, so as to lessen the amount of disruption to service. But if you were one of over a million people daily whose commutes were prolonged because trains were told to slow down, you’d speak out against this.

Dom January 23, 2013 - 8:44 am

I’m sure that we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on road safety projects that save fewer than 50 lives per year, and these are rightfully justified in both the eyes of the public and politicians. It’s an affront to the 8 million people who ride the subway every day that the state will not seriously consider installing platform screen doors which are basically guaranteed to prevent 50 deaths per year. It says that we do not value the safety of people who ride transit as much as we value the safety of those who drive.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 8:56 am

Well, zero deaths are better than 50 deaths.

Erik January 23, 2013 - 9:13 am

I’ve always found people’s accounting for cars vs. transit to be strange (and biased).

When it comes to cars, the only costs people usually care about are the cost of gas and the car loan / lease (any many seem to not not think much about that, just lumping it into monthly bills like the mortgage). The myriad other costs of road maintenance and traffic lights, traffic cops, etc., are all invisible costs paid indirectly through taxes. Then there are opportunity costs such as the time committed to driving where you can (or shouldn’t be) doing anything else as well as the percentage of developed America that consists sadly of parking lots. Finally there are true externalities like smog, asthma, and climate change.

Meanwhile, mass transit must pay for itself at all times! The cost of that subway or LIRR ticket or Amtrak ticket must include all costs because taxpayers should not subsidize transit! Oh then that’s a $5 subway right or a $30 LIRR trip or a $200 Amtrak ticket? That’s too high! I think I’ll just drive. Ugh.

The body count is just another example. For cars it’s high but invisible. For transit it’s still low, but by golly, we need to DO something about it. Ugh.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 9:24 am

Butwe have responded to automobile deaths in a similar fashion with the unrealistic 55 per mile speed limits for highways designed for 65 or 70 mph and we also put in red light cameras, which some argue are just for revenue, but others insist it is to reduce fatalities.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 10:44 am

Uh, the 55mph limit was put in place to reduce fuel consumption and was repealed nearly 20 years ago. State/local law can now decide safe travel speeds, which seems fine by me. 55mph seems to be pushing it anywhere in NYC.

I don’t see how red light cameras aren’t a safety matter, and a prudent one at that. If they’re for revenue, they aren’t doing a very good job given the deficit between road costs and road funding.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 11:33 am

Uh, red light cameras are to catch motorists running red lights, not to catch motorists going 90 mph or more.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 11:46 am

And, if somebody said red light cams were intended to catch speeding motorists, it wasn’t me. I find BrooklynBus’ concern about raising revenue by finding antisocial behavior a little misplaced, in any event.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 12:29 pm

The only reason why there is a 55 mph speed limit in NYC is because that it’s virtually impossible to go any faster, not because it causes fatalities. Although speeding accidents cause a large number of fatalities annually.

Benjamin Kabak January 23, 2013 - 12:31 pm

That’s incorrect. The 55 mph speed limit has to do with a federal stick-and-carrot set up from ages ago that’s been relaxed a bit. And anyway, the NYC speed limit is 30 (sans much enforcement) due to safety concerns, not practicalities of speeding.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 12:36 pm

Isn’t the speed limit 45 on most arterial limited access highway? (Maybe the SIE is 55.)

People go faster on the FDR, but 55 really already seems to be pushing it.

John January 23, 2013 - 2:18 pm

The NYC speed limit is 30mph, unless otherwise posted, which, on almost every expressway/arterial, is 45.

LLQBTT January 23, 2013 - 1:49 pm

The ‘standard’ NYC highway speed limit is 50 unless otherwise posted.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 6:19 pm


It is only 45 on highways with excessive curves or narrow lanes. The only exception is the northern portion of the BQE which once had a reason to be 45 because of sharp curves and narrow lanes. However, they have been eliminated with recent reconstruction so there is no reason not to raise it to 50 mph especially since it is designed for 65 mph. But most of the time due to traffic you can’t do more than 45 anyway, and sometimes you can do only 20 mph.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 6:25 pm

It’s purpose is to raise revenue, not to improve safety. As proof, I offer you the cities that have removed the cameras because they didn’t raise the amount of expected revenue and the cities actually lost money on them.

They were removed because they couldn’t pay for themselves. If safety was the concern, why wasn’t it worth a few bucks to save some lives? Unless they believed that lives weren’t saved at all.

VLM January 23, 2013 - 6:31 pm

I love me a good Al Rosen cars conspiracy theory. Please! Let us hear more.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 6:37 pm

Who said anything about any conspiracy?

I was just stating the truth. Something you obviously disagree with or don’t care about.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 7:30 pm

Um, even if that’s true, those examples don’t mean all red light cameras just exist to raise revenue. Some could still exist to promote safety.

Anyway, why do you care? As even Streetsblog’s mostly knuckledragging readership seems to grasp, the road system doesn’t pay for itself. If we’re raising revenue by monetizing some of the most antisocial behavior out there, what difference should it make to you?* It would be better to raise revenue by charging users their share of the costs of driving, but that’s obviously not politically kosher.

* Unless you’re not a defensive driver….

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 8:32 pm

What do you mean by “Why do you care?”

No one should run red lights. But there is a difference between someone being trapped into running a red light .01 seconds after it turns red and someone who flagrantly runs a red light just because he is in a hurry and thinks laws don’t apply to him. Laws and enforcement need to be fair.

Users of the roads do pay their fair share and more. The bulk of the overpriced bridge and tunnel revenue goes to mass transit not to bridges and roads. (Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.) And NYC’s roads are in among the worst condition in the country. So don’t make it seem that drivers here are getting away with murder with everyone paying their costs. Roads are not only for the private automobile driver. They exist also to move goods and for buses. In midtown Manhattan, private cars are a small minority of the traffic. Most are taxis, buses, trucks. limos, govt vehicles, utility vehicles, etc.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 9:52 pm

That attitude is ridiculous. You don’t need to attempt to go through a light until you have a reasonable expectation of making it through. If you go into an intersection anticipating to go left before the green light changes, but instead end up blocking everyone on a cross street, it’s absolutely your fault. Especially in the environment we in New York must drive in.

This isn’t just about the individual driver, either. It’s about everybody on the road. That kind of behavior screws things up for everyone, including bus riders.

Users of the roads do pay their fair share and more.

I think that myth has been addressed here before.

The bulk of the overpriced bridge and tunnel revenue goes to mass transit not to bridges and roads.

Is there still congestion? Then they aren’t paying enough. Never mind that they aren’t even covering their own fucking costs.

Roads are not only for the private automobile driver. They exist also to move goods and for buses.

Somehow I suspect I’m more keenly aware of that than you, or most people who try to parade the opinion that lenience is desirable when dealing with selfish/antisocial driving behavior. Indeed, I would prefer roads operated efficiently precisely so they could be better put to those latter, more important users.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 10:31 pm

Don’t start changing the subject. We were talking about red light cameras, not blocking the box. They are two totally separate issues and I am not going to prolong the discussion by telling you my views about blocking intersections.

Yes there is still congestion for a number of reasons which does not only have to do with the prices of bridges and tunnels.

I never supported “selfish/antisocial driving behavior.” I only was talking about fairness. You don’t entrap and harm innocent people to pay for the wrong deeds of others.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 11:32 pm

You brought up people who somehow innocently run red lights, not me.

Who is being entrapped though? People travel through red lights, or take the risk of running them without being sure what the guy in front of them will do, at their own volition. Those are exactly the types of things that red light cameras should aim to prevent. Drivers have no excuse going through a light until they are certain they have a clear, safe path through.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 9:51 am

We are talking about two separate issues. Red light cameras entrap people when the amber signal is not long enough for them to safely come to a stop while traveling at the speed limit without having to slam on your brakes in order to stop and risk being rear ended because the guy in back of you didn’t do the same thing. Statistics have shown an increase in rear enders at intersections since cameras have been installed. On whether they prevent more serious accidents, I believe the jury is still out on that one. When stuck in that situation, some woud rather risk a summons by going through rather than be rear ended, because there is no danger of being hit by a car on a cross street since there is a full second at each intersection where both directions are red before one of hem turns green. That’s how it is entrapment.

If someone gets stuck in the middle of an intersection while the light turns red has nothing to do with red light cameras and in fact would not even be registered by a red light camera and I am not going to get into a conversation whether it’s avoidable or not because it will never end.

VLM January 24, 2013 - 9:54 am

Your willingness to make excuses for reckless and dangerous driving knows no bounds. Wow. I don’t even have anything snarkier to add to this right now. This is just another flat-out terrible argument you’re making on driving behavior.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 10:09 am

How am I making excuses for dangerous driving? I am just as opposed to you as someone flagrantly running red lights which I have seen all too often and they get away with it. I’m not even sure that the cameras are programmed to catch those people. They may only work when someone goes through a red right after it turns from amber, not a minute later.

I stated that people walk between cars. You asked me to provide an instance. I shared a link where it just happened the day before, and you didn’t respond there.

I certainly wouldn’t want you on any type of jury since your mind is already made up that every single driver is guilty without hearing any of the facts first.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 10:11 am

Should read “just as opposed as you to someone..,”

LLQBTT January 23, 2013 - 1:55 pm

Red light enforcement cameras are solely to generate revenue. A motorist on the edge of making it will ‘juice it’ or ‘floor it’ in an attempt to catch the brief yellow light before it turns red. That reduces safety. One things that could be done is to increase the time the light stays yellow as is done most everywhere else. That will increase the time motorists have to respond and slow down accordingly. It’s been studied however the city won’t adopt it because they fear that it would cut down on red light running revenue.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 6:33 pm

100% correct.

I’m not even sure if they go off if someone runs a red light in the middle of the cycle. They may only go off within the first second of the light turning red.

Try stopping on Woodhaven Blvd if you are doing the speed limit of 35 mph as you are nearing the signal. With only a 3 or 4 second yellow, you have to slam on the brake and you still end up in the middle of the crosswalk and have to back up. You risk a rear ender, and if you don’t stop, you go through the red at .03 seconds after the signal turns red and the camera goes off.

For this not to happen, you have to know to slow down to 30 mph when approaching the camera although you are allowed to go through at 35 mph. What is wrong with that picture? I drove on Woodhaven for 9 years on a daily basis so I know what I am talking about.

Alon Levy January 23, 2013 - 8:22 pm

The only thing that can be done is to reduce the amount of human driving. The limiting factor to accident rates is psychological rather than technical, and building better roads makes people drive more and faster but does not increase safety.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 8:35 pm

Building better roads does increase safety. Moreso than red light cameras. That’s why highways with sharp curves designed for 1930 traffic speeds were (are) rebuilt.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 9:56 pm

Alon’s right though. The biggest safety benefit comes from reducing driving. Heavily trafficked modern highways are still full of poorly-trained, frustrated, and bizarrely car-dependent suburbanites. The city shouldn’t be a doormat for them.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 10:16 pm

Perhaps if they had better mass transit alternatives, they wouldn’t be driving. I don’t see Albany or anyone else pouring money into mass transit. People are selfish. They do what is best for them. Everyone’s travel needs are different. They drive because it is their best alternative.

Bolwerk January 24, 2013 - 11:28 am

We aren’t getting better transit until we stop pouring so many resources into the drivers who, in New York, aren’t even a majority of the commuting population. We’re not allowed to do that because of your (all too common, even with politicians) delusion that drivers somehow pay for themselves and transit.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 2:27 pm

Pouring so many resources into the “drivers”? That’s why the roads are falling apart I suppose. Guess we just should have let the Williamsburg Bridge fall apart then instead of rebuilding it. And the same is true I suppose about the Manhattan Bridge. Since those bridges are free, those horrible drivers deserve to fall into the river I suppose until we get congestion pricing.

Bolwerk January 24, 2013 - 2:45 pm

Stop exaggerating. Yes, roads are falling apart because drivers don’t pay the full cost of maintenance. Absolutely, the resources we pour into them on top of what they pay for in usage fees doesn’t cover the full cost of the road network. How can that be so hard to grasp?

Welcome to reality.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 5:22 pm

It’s the heavy trucks and buses that cause much of the wear and tear to the roadways, not so much private cars. And how could we be pouring all that money into the roads when some haven’t been repaved in over 50 years?

Benjamin Kabak January 24, 2013 - 5:26 pm

There are no roads in New York City that have not been repaved within the last 50 years. There probably aren’t any that haven’t been repaved within the last 25 years in fact. Check out the DOTMAP for info.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 6:43 pm

Totally untrue.

Every street in my neighborhood was repaved in 1985. And that is quite unusual as DOT rarely repaves all streets in any neighborhood at the same time. Unless you are only talking about major roadways which is another story. Those are resurfaced more often and even that is deficient.

I have been driving since 1970 and Linden Boulevard east of Remsen Avenue has only been resurfaced one time since then, and that was some time in the 1970s. That road has had craters in it for years especially near the intersections.

I checked your link and the DOT map is totally misleading. They show any street as resurfaced if a pothole was repaired. That is not the definition of resurfacing. On Oriental Blvd where I live, the center mall had plants added to it, so that is the date they use for resurfacing. Similarly Irwin Street had a speed bump installed so they use that date and highlight the entire block.

Also their database of parking regulations is incomplete. No regulations are shown for my block. When I called 311 to report that the database was inaccurate, I received a response thanking me for reporting a missing traffic sign.

As I stated before, NYCDOT makes the MTA appear very competent in comparison.

Someone January 25, 2013 - 8:17 am

I checked the DOT map, which said that the road I live on has not been repaved since 1998. It was repaved in 2009.

BrooklynBus January 25, 2013 - 8:42 am

Even their updating is sloppy. Of the ones I checked only the dates on one street were legitimate.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 9:58 pm

I can’t help but note that if you drive properly, you will caught behind a red light under virtually no reasonable condition short of a really odd accident in front of you or a cattle stampede. The only people who ever need to worry about being caught by a red light camera are not being conscientious drivers.

Seriously, fuck them. They probably shouldn’t be driving to begin with. A fine is the least they could pay.

BrooklynBus January 23, 2013 - 10:23 pm

Totally untrue. See my comment above re. Woodhaven Boulevard.

Sometimes the cameras are used just to entrap. A few years ago there was a story I think in Maryland where the ambers were 7 seconds each at every intersection, but 4 seconds at the intersection with the camera. One person got suspicious when he got a ticket and sued. The result? City claimed it was an innocent error and reduced amber to 4 seconds at each intersection and refused to give any refunds. If it wasn’t the government doing this, there would have been a hefty fine and jail time involved.

If you are used to 7 second ambers, you plan your stopping distance accordingly. If it turns out one is only 4 seconds, and coincidentally the one with the camera, you will get a ticket when it is not your fault. As part of the case it was revealed that something 30% of the red light camera revenue came from that single camera.

Bolwerk January 24, 2013 - 12:53 pm


Try stopping on Woodhaven Blvd if you are doing the speed limit of 35 mph as you are nearing the signal. With only a 3 or 4 second yellow, you have to slam on the brake and you still end up in the middle of the crosswalk and have to back up. You risk a rear ender, and if you don’t stop, you go through the red at .03 seconds after the signal turns red and the camera goes off.

So, if what you report is even true, what we have here is an example of you displaying preexisting knowledge of the condition at that light and promoting the belief that driver should plow through anyway. Nobody makes you drive the speed limit of 35. It’s a speed limit, not a mandatory speed. You should, as a licensed driver, go slower than the speed limit when conditions call for it. Sorry, but if you know the light is timed for 3s, act on that knowledge instead of pretending you have some right to plow through a light.

Now, the average time for a yellow light in NYC is something like 3 seconds, which I think is low regardless of cameras. But I’ve never seen any believable source that says it’s different for cameras. AAA-NewYorkPost – not very believable.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 2:42 pm

First of all the ambers only exceed three seconds on roads with speed limits of 35 or 40 mph and those roads are very few. Queens Blvd was even lowered to 30 mph which no one adheres to because it is ridiculously low. In many cases the ambers are only two seconds and even only one second at a few three way intersections. I know of one intersection where it is a quarter of a second and I once missed the entire amber cycle because I blinked! I approached the intersection on the green at about 10 mph and next thing I knew it was red and I was in t middle of it.

I’m sure that is not DOT’s intention, but how often if ever unless there is a complaint do you think the ambers are calibrated to assure they are at least 3 seconds which they should be. Many intersections get a second chopped off the amber to increase the red for all directions from one second to two seconds in the hope tat improves safety. I’m not sure it does. I woud rather see longer ambers even if it comes off the green time.

And yes, no one forces you to go the speed limit and you should do less than the speed limit. I would always slow down to 30 on Woodhaven when approaching a camera, but that was only after I learned where the cameras were.

What about someone who doesn’t know the road. Is he supposed to slow down to 30 at every intersection when the limit s 30? After someone gets his first summons, I’m sure they no longer go through intersections with cameras when the Don’t walk sign is flashing which isIyour only guideline that’s he light might turn yellow soon although you have every right to proceed at 35 during optimal driving conditions.

I admit there are some drivers who don’t know the definition of speed limit and believe you should travel as fast as the car in front of you and if there is no one there, you are allowed to go as fast as you want. But that is a minority of drivers and there is no reason to paint all drivers like that.

Bolwerk January 24, 2013 - 2:52 pm

You really have a speed entitlement. Queens Blvd west of 48th Street is a pretty major pedestrian way. 30 mph is already too high there, and the signs warning about pedestrians killed by drivers should say it all.

I don’t know what people who don’t know the road can do except drive cautiously and defensively, the way they’re supposed to. It’s a safe bet that those people will never, ever get in trouble. It’s people who drive in a perpetual state of frustration/indignation who cause most of the problems for both pedestrians and other drivers, and most probably earn themselves most of the red light camera tickets.

BrooklynBus January 24, 2013 - 4:58 pm

Maybe 30 mph is too high there. I am not that familiar with that portion of Queens Blvd. I was talking about the portion of the street with service roads. Driving at 30 mph there when there is light traffic is like you are standing still.

I agree with you about people who drive in a perpetual state of frustration. From my experience I find they are mostly young people and whenever I get cut off by one of those who are constantly weaving in and out of traffic and are never ticketed (boy how I wish they were ticketed), a good percentage of the time it is a BMW or Mercedes or other luxury car.

I try to take it easy whenever I drive, but when it is perfectly safe to go faster than I should I do because speed limits are guidelines, they are not perfect for all situations. Sometimes you should never go more than 10 or 15 on side roads although the limit is 30. The only reason it isn’t 15 is that the City doesn’t want to spend the money necessary on additional signage to make the speed limits more in line with what they should be. Same reason why some roads aren’t higher than 30, although they could be. It’s much cheaper to have a uniform limit of 30 mph, but unfortunately too many drivers think that they can always do 30 safely when they can’t. There really needs to be better driver education and periodic retesting (even if it’s only written) to make sure people remember the rules of the road which many don’t.

Back to Queens Blvd. People think, just lower the speed limit and that will solve all the problems. In fact it does nothing at all especially when there is zero enforcement. A sign telling you how fast you are going is virtually useless.

There is also a sign that a person was killed at 51 Avenue. I think that sign is good and makes people think a little. There should be more of them. But the way to make that intersection safer is not by lowering the speed limit. It is by redesigning it. There is no reason why the crosswalks need to be diagonal. They should be at right angles so it will possible to cross the street in less time. It may mean that you have to walk a few more feet to cross the intersection but isn’t it worth that to improve safety?

But as much as DOT claims it wants to improve safety, redesigning the intersection costs money and means additional traffic signals. It’s so much cheaper to appease everyone by placing a sign there to appease people. It all comes down to money.

In my neighborhood, some people asked for an additional traffic signal when someone was once killed crossing the street. So instead DOT banned two parking spaces to supposedly improve visibility which wasn’t the problem and accomplished nothing except inconveniencing people. But at least DOT could say they did something to shut people up.

So why don’t you put some blame on DOT instead of placing all the blame on drivers?

Someone January 25, 2013 - 8:26 am

First of all the ambers only exceed three seconds on roads with speed limits of 35 or 40 mph and those roads are very few. Queens Blvd was even lowered to 30 mph which no one adheres to because it is ridiculously low. In many cases the ambers are only two seconds and even only one second at a few three way intersections. I know of one intersection where it is a quarter of a second and I once missed the entire amber cycle because I blinked! I approached the intersection on the green at about 10 mph and next thing I knew it was red and I was in the middle of it.

By federal law, amber cycles must be at least 4.5 seconds. But because NYC’s intersections apply to the old rules, the amber cycles are only 2-3 seconds, rather than the required 4.5 seconds.

Someone January 25, 2013 - 8:23 am

The intersections on Woodhaven are sometimes pretty large- once I got a red-light camera ticket for “running” a red light at Yellowstone. I was in the intersection during the amber phase and it turned red just as I entered the intersection. The cameras should turn on 2 seconds after the red light phase begins, just to be safe.

BrooklynBus January 25, 2013 - 8:48 am

That’s how I feel. Even 1 second would be okay. But they ticket you for.01 seconds which is why I say they are only there for the revenue. I’m sure if you check, most of the tickets are given for under point 3 seconds. My question is what if you run the red light after 15 or 30 seconds of red? Would the camera even go off in those cases? Those are the real offenders.

Doug G. January 23, 2013 - 10:51 am

“Standing by without a plan of action as incident after incident occurs is not an option,” said Vacca.

If only the City Council felt the same way about an average of one traffic death above ground every 2.5 days.

SEAN January 23, 2013 - 11:32 am

Meanwhile, mass transit must pay for itself at all times! The cost of that subway or LIRR ticket or Amtrak ticket must include all costs because taxpayers should not subsidize transit! Oh then that’s a $5 subway right or a $30 LIRR trip or a $200 Amtrak ticket? That’s too high! I think I’ll just drive. Ugh.

That’s because many americans think that roads are free or pay for them selves. All you need to do is look at most of americas suburban landscape for proof. If they new the truth & had to pay those costs directly, there would be such outrage that it would make the T party blush.

Locally look at Paramus, Wayne & Woodbridge for the way those communities are layed out & function. now look at those suburbs with frequent rail service to NYC. Most of them have walkable & vibrent downtown cores & transit connections of some kind.

martindelaware January 23, 2013 - 12:36 pm

I think “subway/passenger accidents” is a misnomer, especially for incidents that are intentional (e.g., homicides and suicides). “Subway-passenger collisions” would be a more accurate term.

Benjamin Kabak January 23, 2013 - 12:38 pm

I’ve actually struggled a bit with the proper nomenclature here. It’s an awkward phrasing that depends upon the situation. Suicides and homicides aren’t necessarily accidents for some of the people involved, but no train driver is out to hit someone intentionally. “Collision” is probably the best word.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 2:17 pm

Actually, that terminology is used by the MTA to cover the fact that the “accidents” in question were, in reality, collisions.

LLQBTT January 23, 2013 - 1:33 pm

As you mention, people are struck by cars and such. Was it last year or the year before, it was the Boulevard of Death that got all the media attention.

When I want to sleep it off so to speak, the first thing I look for is a nice comfortable busy subway track, such as the Lex Ave Express at rush hour, a busy thoroughfare or 1 of the cushy runways at LGA or JFK where I can get 40 winks.

Only so much can be done to protect against sheer stupidity, unfortunate circumstances and just bad luck. I put most recent incidents in the first category.

Additionally, the sensationalist media, aka, yellow journalism, with absolutley nothing going on of substance in the world to report, has elected to run with this topic making things worse. At risk of playing the race card, what’s more frightening than being pushed to the tracks by an angry black man. (Let’s face it, this was an undertone to the coverage.) Or the image of a man about to be struck by a train? So the NY Post was successful in creating a news agenda out of nothing that talks to our primal emotion…F E A R and how unsafe we all are in this really scary world. Right NY Post, it’s just like the ’80s in NYC!

Ban Subways! Six killed in New York City already this year « This Got My Attention January 25, 2013 - 9:32 am

[…] is MTA going to prevent these […]

On slower trains, fearmongering and a public hearing :: Second Ave. Sagas February 7, 2013 - 2:05 pm

[…] on subway platform safety. With 54 deaths out of 1.6 billion riders, this is only a problem due to a pair of recent high-profile incidents. It’s always tragic when someone gets hit by a train, but in terms of pressing problems, this […]

Subway-related collisions largely held steady for 2013 :: Second Ave. Sagas January 1, 2014 - 11:47 pm

[…] as I disputed whether or not these subway incidents were enough of a problem to warrant action, over the course of the year they crept in and out of transit-related news coverage. Spurred on by […]


Leave a Comment