Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

This is a fun ride-along with Gothamist’s Stephen Nessen, who reported recently on how The MTA Is Trying To Speed Up Your Ride By Searching For Faulty Signals:

Train operators are told during training to play it safe and drive under the posted speed limit to avoid tripping signals.

“You take your cues from the work culture from the training and they tell you to operate at five to seven miles per hour under the posted speed,” said Zach Arcidiacono, the union representative for train operators, who was an operator himself for 11 years.

And train operators have a real incentive not to set off signals. There’s a five-day unpaid suspension for setting off a signal timer the first time, 10-15 days for a second offense and possible dismissal for a third offense. Workers can also pay a fine of 30 percent of their wages in lieu of a suspension. Except for a few types of trains, most do not have a black box event recorder, so when it comes to a broken signal timer causing the emergency brakes to go off, it’s often just the operators’ word against the MTA’s.

I had no idea the penalties for exceeding the speed limit were so stiff. As someone who rides the subway to work every day, that’s a Very Good Thing, but the speed limits also ought to be set intentionally, rather than accidentally; the MTA’s been systematically reviewing the signals that set the speed limits, and it’s found hundreds that were mis-configured. What a nifty look into the day by day operations of the subway.