Home Transit LaborTWU On slower trains, fearmongering and a public hearing

On slower trains, fearmongering and a public hearing

by Benjamin Kabak

The TWU’s own MetroCard. Fearmongering or a necessary public awareness campaign?

The City Council’s Transportation Committee is in full-fledged oversight mode today. Even as “no criminality” remains the norm for the daily pedestrian deaths caused by drivers, the committee has decided to hold an emergency hearing 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 is not one of them.

Still, the show must go on. As the MTA embarks on a new public awareness campaign and eyes subway track sensor technology, the TWU has continued to push for slow trains. Preying on outsized public fears and stoking the flames of general unease with subway platforms, union members — including one dressed as the Grim Reaper — will be distributing the MetroCards you see above and at right this afternoon at some Lower Manhattan subway stations. It is not, by any means, a calm or rational approach to discussing the problem (if there’s even a problem).

As the cards show, the TWU wants three things. It wants trains to slow to a crawl while entering stations. Even at 10 miles per hour though, a huge subway train can do considerable damage to someone who jumps or falls in front of it. Additionally, the dollar cost of such a slowdown would be quite significant, and the MTA says slower trains would seriously reduce travel times and system capacity, leading to dangerous overcrowding.

Second, the TWU wants eyes on the platforms. I can’t disagree with this even if it is a blatant ploy for more jobs for union members. When I pass through Times Square each morning, MTA workers are on the IRT platforms making sure people are safely entering and exiting trains. No harm can come from watchful eyes as long as they are doing their work and contributing to safety.

Third, the TWU wants an emergency power shut-off in station booths. I struggle to see why this is a bad idea. As long as proper protocols are put into place, the only issue I can see concerns the amount of time it would take to power back up. I’m not familiar enough with the technical details of power delivery to the third track to go in depth on this request.

So two of the TWU’s three requests seem sensible, but the first one is obscuring the others. They’ve managed to turn slower trains into some mindworm that Transportation Committee Chairman James Vacca has whole-heartedly embraced, and their public statements are either misleading or misinformed. In defending their bloody MetroCards, a TWU spokesman called slower trains “a quick, easy and no-cost solution” when it is clearly not a quick or no-cost solution.

I believe the union has turned this into such a public matter due to the state of its current contract. Negotiations are stalled until the MTA has a permanent head, and it’s been nearly 13 months since the last agreement expired. But cooler heads should prevail. A train slowdown just isn’t the right answer, and neither is incessant fearmongering.

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Brian February 7, 2013 - 2:09 pm

Much Ado about Nothing

Bolwerk February 7, 2013 - 3:10 pm

Do they think our time means nothing or what? This is probably its own kind of safety hazard, if it means more crowded platforms because trains arrive less frequently (an actually likely scenario).

How about: every time someone in a position of authority suggests further slowing down our already way-too-slow subway/transit system, we get to punch them in the dick? These people don’t understand why citizens’ time matters to them, but they are probably smart enough to understand that a punch in the dick hurts very much.

JB February 7, 2013 - 4:56 pm


Miles Bader February 10, 2013 - 10:21 am

Gotta be better than the current alternatives….

Patrick February 7, 2013 - 5:12 pm

LMAO, Bolwerk FTW

Someone February 7, 2013 - 6:50 pm


kevdflb February 8, 2013 - 10:11 am

Do idiotic female politician receive a punch in the box?
I don’t see why they should get a free pass due to dicklessness.

Someone February 8, 2013 - 10:51 am

The female pols get a free punch in the ******.

Alon Levy February 8, 2013 - 4:52 pm

The one I’m currently thinking of should be shipped to North Korea.

Someone February 8, 2013 - 8:09 pm

Who? Janette Sadik-Khan?

LLQBTT February 7, 2013 - 3:14 pm

This guy was on my train the other day!

John-2 February 7, 2013 - 3:35 pm

I suppose if the TWU wants to make an issue of the delays in the South Ferry rehab they’ll issue a Metrocard with a guy dressed in a diving helmet and pressure suit.

Someone February 7, 2013 - 3:53 pm

What? Ten Miles Per Hour? TWU, how much time do you think we have on our hands?

Someone February 7, 2013 - 3:54 pm

Those bloody bloody MetroCards promote nothing.

Kai B February 7, 2013 - 4:42 pm

Emergency power shut off it quite common in more modern systems.

Just having it at the (usually) lone station booth per station seems to be pretty useless as in most cases you’d lose precious seconds trying to either run to the booth or try to use a Help Point. Generally you want these along the platform for other passengers to pull.

eg. Vienna: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mI5HDQt4Fk

This being NYC of course, everyone will be worried that some kids are going to pull these all the time.

Someone February 7, 2013 - 4:43 pm

I can’t read German. Sorry, I don’t understand the video.

Kai B February 8, 2013 - 3:43 pm

Text doesn’t really matter, it was mostly about the visual of the device.

Ivan February 8, 2013 - 2:29 pm

The Mexico City subway has “emergency levers” at each end of the platform. I’m not sure what they do, though. Do they cut power, sound an alarm, or are they just a placebo? There is a warning about “severe penalties for abuse”, and I’ve never seen anyone pulling it, even though residents of Mexico City are not famous for being law-abiding.

Someone February 8, 2013 - 3:14 pm

I think they sound an alarm to the control centre, not shut off power directly. If the NYC subway had that, though, that would be catastrophic, because there would be hundreds of daily reports of teenagers pulling levers.

Kai B February 8, 2013 - 3:45 pm

Kind of like how the NYC Subway doesn’t have “door emergency” levers or buttons. Would be very useful to be able to open the doors in a real catastrophic emergency, but of course, those teenagers…

Bolwerk February 8, 2013 - 4:43 pm

Teenagers are always pulling those emergency brakes. It’s a wonder the Subway works at all.

Tom February 7, 2013 - 5:17 pm

This would be a safety benefit of full automation with platform doors.


Someone February 7, 2013 - 6:51 pm

But they can;t install PSDs until the rolling stock is standardised as well.

Alon Levy February 7, 2013 - 11:56 pm

Sure they can.

Nathanael February 11, 2013 - 3:21 pm

It would be astoundingly stupid to do so, ridiculously expensive, and even counterproductive.

The bigger problem is that many platforms are too narrow to install platform screen doors at all. That’s an expensive problem to fix.

Nathanael February 11, 2013 - 3:25 pm

Actually, depending on door spacing, it might be completely impossible. Suppose you have two car designs with doors which are offset by, say, one door with. There is no way to design sliding platform screen doors which will work for both car designs. Remember, the sliding door has to go somewhere when it opens.

Berk32 February 7, 2013 - 8:11 pm

great – you have $50 billion to spare?

Tom February 8, 2013 - 9:50 am

Someone, I didn’t advocate that they put up platform doors tomorrow or ever, I simply said that “This would be a safety benefit of full automation with platform doors” and it would be.

Berk, again I didn’t advocate doing that. As in any case I would want to look at the best estimates of costs and benefits before deciding if an idea was worthwhile. Platform safety would be one benefit of platform doors.


kevdflb February 8, 2013 - 10:13 am

Actually, you didn’t say “until” so people were understandably confused.

“Tom says:
February 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm
This would be a safety benefit of full automation with platform doors.


Tom February 8, 2013 - 10:46 am

Kevdfib, are you replying to me? I feel my statement was completely understandable as orginally stated. I do not understand where “until” would fit in.

Someone February 8, 2013 - 10:52 am

Actually, Tom, you did fail to say exactly when PSDs would be installed, so that can be confusing.

Tom February 8, 2013 - 11:21 am

Someone, I made a clear statement. For the purpose of my statement there was no reason for me to state when. You then brought up a good point relating to my statement, but it did not show my statement to be incorrect. Perhaps I was a bit too touchy when replying to you, but everything I said was correct and clear. I stand by my original statement and I will not be responding to this conversation anymore.


Tom February 9, 2013 - 9:11 am

Someone, I’ve been thinking about our recent exchange. Initially I read your comment as being a criticism of mine. However, in rereading it I now feel it may not have been criticism, so in that case my response to you was inappropriate and I apologize for not wording it better.

Someone February 9, 2013 - 12:15 pm

I wasn’t trying to denounce your comment. I was simply also stating the fact that a uniform rolling stock would be conducive to the installation of PSDs.

BBnet3000 February 8, 2013 - 8:43 am

Before we standardize the doors Id like to advocate exploring the offset door configuration of the R142’s for B-division trains.

The huge area of being stranded with no hand-holds near the doors doesnt exist when the doors arent directly across from each other.

Stephen Bauman February 8, 2013 - 9:57 am

The huge area of being stranded with no hand-holds near the doors doesn’t exist when the doors aren’t directly across from each other.

I disagree. Passengers in cars who block access to the doors increase station dwell time. This is particularly important when there are a significant number of standees.

The last thing one wants is an incentive for passengers to stand in the doorways or the passageways leading to them. The lack of poles and other grab points encourages standees to move out of the passageway and into the car interior where such amenities exist.

The best designed cars from the passenger perspective were the BRT-BMT A/B types, which ran from 1914 to 1967. You will notice the judicious placement of poles and grab points that are away from the doors. The pole placement was so designed that passengers holding onto these poles would not interfere with passengers entering or leaving the car. Perhaps, the best proof that this design worked is the fact that these 67′ long cars had only 3 doors per side but had quicker loading times than the current design with 4 doors per side of a 60′ long car. One additional benefit was that the extra wall space permitted these cars to seat 75 people vs. the current design’s 44.

Alon Levy February 8, 2013 - 4:55 pm

I think the main reason is to ensure that passengers who get on at a station where doors open to the right and don’t move in don’t block passengers trying to get in or out at stations where doors open to the left.

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