Columnist Larry Penner
Larry Penner

NYC Transit Subway Rail Car Derailments And Disruptions Will Continue

By Larry Penner

It was disappointing to read about the latest NYC Transit Subway Car derailment.  Periodic derailments, signal problems, vandalism, third rail, flooding, crime and other issues continue to plague the system. All result in significant disruption of day to day service that over 4 million daily NYC Transit subway riders count on.  This latest incident took place on the Manhattan upper west side NYC Transit #1 local subway line. This route runs from the South Ferry, Manhattan station to the Bronx Van Cortland Park 242nd Street station. It appeared to have been based upon an out of service subway train being vandalized. It was found that several emergency cords had been pulled by a rider.  NYC Transit employees were able to reset all but one. This resulted in the train not being easily able to be moved from the station.  Pulling the emergency cord continues to be an every day occurance.  This results in service disruptions and periodic removal of trains from passenger service.  There is also periodic soiling of trains by passengers, vandalism of car windows, doors and  excessive graffiti both inside and outside of trains. These also contribute to removal of trains from passenger service.

There are solutions to these problems.  It requires the MTA & NYC Transit to allocate billions in additional funding and making proactive investments a priority over other multi-billion dollar capital expansion projects.

Installation of cameras inside and outside of all 6400 subway cars would help. This would assist both the motorman and conductor in monitoring activity both on the tracks and within the train.  Video recordings would be invaluable in assisting the MTA police to more easily identify the culprits who pulled emergency cords, soiled subway seats or floors, vandalized both subway car doors and windows.  The annual loss of several hundred million to fare evaders must also be dealt with. How many fare evaders also commit these crimes?

MTA Chairman Janno Lieber and NYC Transit President Richard Davey must lobby Governor Kathy Hochul, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Steward Cousins, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, NYC Mayor Eric Adams and the NYC Council for stronger legal penalties for those committing these acts. Cashless bail must end. Serving real jail time combined with several hundred hours of community service to clean and scrub damaged subway cars is a must. All five NYC District Attorneys must be instructed to enforce these new laws.

Successful implementation of Communication Based Train Control (CBCT) has improved both safety and reliability for the Flushing #7 line.  It runs from Main Street Flushing Queens to Manhattan Hudson Yards and also the Canarsie L line that runs from Rockaway Parkway, Brooklyn to Manhattan crossing the 14th Street corridor from 1st to 8th Avenue

Introduction and complete installation for Communication Based Train Control must be a priority for funding in the upcoming MTA 2025 – 2029 Five Year Capital Plan. The same holds true for bringing all signal systems, interlockings and third rail power for all 26 NYC Transit subway lines up to a state of good repair. Too many are decades old and sometimes beyond their useful life  Riders can’t afford to wait for completion of the next MTA 2025 – 2044 Twenty Year and the following 2045 -2064 Twenty Year Capital Plan before all of this is accomplished. These investments will collectively reduce the number of derailments, providing riders with a more safe and reliable system. There should be far fewer derailments and delays in service. 

Any system expansion projects such at the $7.7 Billion Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, $3.1 billion Metro North Bronx East Penn Station Access, $8 Billion Penn Station Upgrade or $5.5 Billion Brooklyn to Queens Light Rail Connector must be placed on hold.  It is a higher priority to allocate any of these funds to provide safe, daily reliable service to the 5.5 billion pre COVID-19 subway riders.  These other four projects collectively benefit far fewer riders.

Safe and reliable service for the existing 26 subway lines, which are serving 472 stations and currently 4 million plus daily NYC Transit subway riders, should be the watchwords of the day for MTA & NYC Transit Management.

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