Home New York City Transit Byford to NYPD: ‘You cannot stop the service for 90 minutes for a fight’

Byford to NYPD: ‘You cannot stop the service for 90 minutes for a fight’

by Benjamin Kabak

NYC Transit President Andy Byford last week urged the NYPD to prioritize moving trains.

A disputed seat becomes a fight between passengers becomes a crime scene becomes a 90-minute rush-hour delay to police activity. It all happens in the blink of an eye as it did last Thursday morning when a fight on an A train at High St. snarled rush hour service on both the 6th and 8th Avenue lines for 90 minutes. And now it’s touched off a bit of a war of words between new NYC Transit President Andy Byford and the NYPD over the right way for the cops to respond to subway disruptions so as not to snarl service for hundreds of thousands of riders.

The details regarding the incident on the A train at around 8:15 on Thursday morning are nearly inconsequential. Two people got into a fight over a seat on a crowded train, and a fight ensued which involved mace and reportedly some blood. The new combatants left the train and kept fighting on the platform at High Street, but cops held the Manhattan-bound A train in the station for 90 minutes. This led to MTA-acknowledged delays on the A, C, E and F trains and more crowded trains reported by riders along 6th Ave.

In the aftermath of the delay, Andy Byford diplomatically suggested that perhaps delaying service for 90 minutes isn’t quite the best way to handle it. Here is his full answer, via Dan Rivoli, in response to questions regarding whether the cops handled the situation appropriately:

“I need to look into it a bit more. The fact that it lasted so long would suggest to me – no. I very much appreciate what the police do. But we shouldn’t have been at a stand for that long so I’d say actually it’s between us and the police.

It should have been escalated certainly to my Chief Operating Officer’s level and ultimately to mine because I would have been all over that saying you have the train but you’re not having it there. We’ll give it to you, you could take it somewhere else but you cannot stop the service for 90 minutes for a fight.”

The cops of course responded graciously and with an acknowledgement that they would do better in the future. Oh wait no they didn’t. In anonymous comments to The Post, one law enforcement source was dismissive of Byford’s statement. “Where are you gonna move a train to if a police investigation is being conducted? Maybe Mr. Byford has a suggestion,” the source said. In milquetoast on-the-record comments to The Times on Friday, an assistant NYPD commissioner said the crime was “spread over a large area and needed to be handled with care” and that “safety of our subway system is a top priority.”

It’s indisputable that Byford is correct. The first priority, especially in a non-fatal situation, should be to get rush hour (or any-hour) trains moving as soon as possible, and a 90-minute delay in service for an investigation that led to one arrest on reckless endangerment charges is unacceptable. It’s also correct for Byford to engage in a dialogue with the NYPD on this approach to subway policing, as various MTA officials and spokespeople may clear on Thursday and Friday.

But it’s also notable and laudable that Byford even started to broach the topic in public and so directly, and it’s a good sign that he’s willing to advocate for keeping trains moving even in the face of an immovable object such as the NYPD. Keeping trains running smoothly at rush hour must be a top priority of both the MTA and NYPD, and I can’t recall an NYC Transit president willing to tackle this subject head-on. If that means addressing how police respond to incidents in the subway so that policing is more efficient and investigations conducted with an intent to move trains as soon as possible, that’s a good outcome for every straphanger and a good sign as Byford goes to bat for riders who have not often had a forceful, vocal ally leading the TA.

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BrooklynBus April 16, 2018 - 12:11 am

Byford was also responsible for getting the B82 SBS postponed in light of community opposition to this poorly planned out route. No previous President has gotten personally involved. It shows he is serious about listening to communities, rather than ramming poor plans down communities’ throats like was done with the Woodhaven SBS.


VLM April 16, 2018 - 12:22 am

The “community” disenfranchised bus riders and threw a spoiled fit led by you. No one should be praising anyone at the MTA for giving in to the misinformed whines of a bunch of out of touch NIMBYs. But this is a topic for another thread and has nothing to do with a verbal smackdown of the NYPD.

BrooklynBus April 16, 2018 - 9:16 am

You have once again proved you know absolutely nothing about what is really going on. For another time.

Jean April 16, 2018 - 12:04 pm

What’s wrong with the new SBS on Woodhaven? I’ve been loving the new bus lanes.

BrooklynBus April 17, 2018 - 1:33 pm

First of all they are not necessary in the off-peak. Second, it’s greatly increased auto travel times during the peak by as much as 45 minutes. People in cars account for about 80% of motorized users of Woodhaven Blvd.

See this: http://www.qptc.org/cb14powerpoint.html

and this:


JohnDoe April 17, 2018 - 7:24 pm

I’m not seeing the problem of increased auto transit time. Perhaps people taking cars might be better served by taking the bus instead.

Guest April 17, 2018 - 10:37 pm


The city needs to simultaneously enhance mass transportation and discourage excessive use of automobiles.

Street space is a zero-sum game.

BrooklynBus April 17, 2018 - 10:43 pm

Wouldn’t you think if those in cars could get where they were going faster by bus, they would take the bus? Or is it possible that the SBS doesn’t make their trip quicker than the car because it doesn’t take them where they want to go without multiple transfers and multiple fares so a car is still their best choice?

Guest April 23, 2018 - 9:42 pm

It’s not that simple because there’s a reason why a trip on a public bus will often take longer than one in a personal automobile, at least to the extent that it is.

There are bus routes throughout the city that travel in every direction. A bus would better complete with a personal auto (within NYC) if the bus had priority throughout its route, which it should.

Of course, if the bus gets priority, it would take away from the drivers, who currently benefit.

Personal autos get a lot of perks, like enormous amounts of on-street parking in public space and cheap meters. Drivers also do not cover the costs of necessary infrastructure or environmental degradation.

These are incentives that get more people to drive. More drivers leave us with more surface congestion and associated problems.

If we make driving more expensive and reduce the street space available, it will discourage usage. More people would use the bus, and the buses would only improve as a result. That’s because the percentage of the constituency that must rely on them would increase substantially, along with the political pressure to better fund transit.

rob April 16, 2018 - 8:37 am

old timers remember that the transit police used to be controlled by the ta. until the improvement of giving it to the nypd was made.

BrooklynBus April 16, 2018 - 11:04 am

Why is that an improvement, unless you are being sarcastic? With subway crime down, the city saw it as a cost saving measure so they could reallocate subway cops to the surface.

SEAN April 16, 2018 - 11:53 am

Brooklyn bus, I thought there were issues in the past between transit police & the NYPD. To solve the problem, the two units merged & the cost savings ended up being a side benefit. Perhaps you can fill in some more detail… thanks.

BrooklynBus April 16, 2018 - 2:33 pm

I am not going to pretend to know what those issues were, but it’s obvious there are now new issues between the NYPD and the MTA that didn’t exist back then. Maybe those cost savings ended up with other costs.

It’s funny that in the 1960s or 70’s a train was never taken out of service for a sick passenger. Did passengers not get sick then?

I also don’t remember it taking two or three hours to rescue passengers from stalled trains. I was on a stalled train many years ago and had to walk along the tracks and I don’t think it took even 45 minutes.

SEAN April 16, 2018 - 4:13 pm

Funny you should say that Brooklyn bus. I’m going to ask you an off topic question, but you’ll see where I’m going. Similar to what you described with the subway, have you noticed in the past when there was a power outage do to a storm of some sort the power would return at worst the next morning. In the past decade or so every time the power goes out, there’s a good chance it could take a week to come back even if it is the result of a typical thunderstorm in July.

Simply put… somewhere along the line policies changed & not for the better.

BrooklynBus April 16, 2018 - 5:16 pm

Yes, but I wouldn’t be that quick to fault the utilities. I think the storms today are more severe and everyone underestimates the amount of manual tedious work that must be undertaken to restore service. Maybe with all the fiber optics today the process is much slower or maybe they cut back on the numbers of employees. Without knowing all the facts, it’s difficult to make any conclusions one way or the other and transparency isn’t really the name of the game. That’s why we have a State Comptroller who should be gathering the facts for us.

Duke87 April 16, 2018 - 6:12 pm

One contributing factor is simply cutbacks in maintenance. Utilities used to be much more aggressive at making sure trees near power lines were kept pruned. This resulted in ugly lopsided tries but reliable electric service. Today, not nearly as much of this is done due to people complaining about the poor aesthetics / environmental damage and due to pressures to keep operating costs down. The result is that a storm of the same magnitude causes more outages.

I would also be curious to know how the number of crews available to fix downed power lines compared to the number of miles of overhead power lines compares over time.

Simon April 16, 2018 - 12:03 pm

Byford is not used to the bullshit we have been subjected to by New York City and New York State government bureaucrats.

I hope Byford is trying to achieve for New York City the same level of service Europeans enjoy in their own cities where they can set their wrist watch by the train’s arrival.

BrooklynBus April 16, 2018 - 2:27 pm

It used to be that way here also. I remember when I was a kid, there were posted arrival times at major stations. But minute accuracy was not good enough for the IND. One sign at Broadway-Nassau had some arrivals due at the half minute like 5:33 1/2 PM.

Alon Levy April 16, 2018 - 10:41 pm

they can set their wrist watch by the train’s arrival

Lol wut? Trains in Britain (where Byford is from) are notoriously delay-prone, even on the Underground.

Roy Berman April 19, 2018 - 9:25 am

Substitute Japan for Europe and it’s accurate.

Bolwerk April 20, 2018 - 2:30 pm

Well, it’s accurate on Amtrak on the northeast corridor, anyway…until it’s not.

15 years ago it was probably true in Germany and France, though things seem worse these days.

Alon Levy April 20, 2018 - 3:04 pm

Yes, then it’s accurate. However, Byford has no work experience in Japan. I would welcome MTA dialog with the Japanese urban rail operators (hiring away is dicey given Japanese expectations of lifetime employment), but so far no such dialog is forthcoming, and even dialog with Continental Europe is lacking.

Mr. Pedant April 16, 2018 - 1:12 pm

The past tense of “to lead” is “led”. The element “lead” is pronounced “led” but
“This lead to MTA-acknowledged delays…”
should be
“This led to MTA-acknowledged delays…”

having said that, 90 minutes is egregious.

Roy April 16, 2018 - 3:48 pm

Not sure why Byford’s acting surprised; I’m pretty sure the BTP (the national transit police that patrol the tube and national rail network in the UK) have done similar things.

Dexter April 17, 2018 - 9:49 am

Not really. They ieep trains running in most cases. Just bypass the affected station.

Bob Sklar April 16, 2018 - 9:38 pm

Amen! There are far too many people with the authority to hold up thousands of people on the subway. Get the perps off the train at the next station and handle it there. This also applies to many, although perhaps not all, of the medical interventions. Unless a person as fallen and it can be determined that he/she has actually broken a bone, it should be possible to move him/her out at the next station and have the station personnel or police handle the situation, rather than hold up thousands of people until the doctors (and, if I’m not mistaken, the lawyers!) show up.

t-bo April 17, 2018 - 8:09 am

This is just like the freeway signs that say: “Minor accident? Pull over to the side.” The cops get that one.
Meantime, the non-crime delays continue on the Q “Express” trains going uptown from Herald Sq (where they are blocked by delayed Ns) and south from Times Sq (where they wait for locals to go first). Mr. Byford?

Guest April 17, 2018 - 10:41 pm


Fare inspectors shouldn’t hold up SBS buses.

SEAN April 19, 2018 - 2:01 pm

Unless they are secretly part of the Marvel universe & holding up SBS busses is showing their power. Hmmm, I’ll bet you never thought of that one… right? LOL

AMH April 19, 2018 - 3:08 pm

Hear hear!

Tower18 April 22, 2018 - 10:58 am

I didn’t realize they do that. Why can’t they perform their inspections while the bus is in motion, get off when they’re done, and ride a bus back in the opposite direction while inspecting that bus?

Guest April 23, 2018 - 9:45 pm

That’s how it should be done but the NYPD does what they want.

AMH April 19, 2018 - 3:43 pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Andy Byford is amazing. We finally have an advocate in a top position, and I hope he’s able to cut through the BS and make the improvements that he wants to make. I would hate for him to be pushed out like Jay Walder was.

In this case, I think the larger issue is NYPD’s disdain for the public. Their hunger for power and refusal to answer to anyone are at the root of many of our problems.

SEAN April 19, 2018 - 8:39 pm

In this case, I think the larger issue is NYPD’s disdain for the public. Their hunger for power and refusal to answer to anyone are at the root of many of our problems.

Who in the NYPD is seeking power? I read this here from time to time & no one can identify who “they” are. It’s bordering on the level of Alex Jones weirdness & I’ll leave it at that.

J Adlai April 21, 2018 - 12:26 pm

I think that the larger overarching issue here is that everything today is sacrificed in the name of “safety”. In this case, there was pepper spray discharged on a train and as a result the police stopped everything in order to investigate the matter. But it’s really not all that different from recent articles about timer signals: On the altar of safety, capacity and travel time have been negatively impacted. How about Amtrak’s recent wholesale cancellations of service on the NE corridor for 8-12″ of snow? It’s all about “safety” now, regardless of whether something actually has a real impact on safety.


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