The MTA Fucks Itself: Slow Train Comin’ And Goin’ And Stopping Short

030This is what it said when entering the Queens Lefferts Blvd destination A train on 14th Street in Manhattan. Fuck the MTA.

It’s been almost a year since this digital publication decreed the MTA as the worst fucking transit system in the universe, which to no surprise to me is the most read post in the existence of Impunity City. Your city and mine. Since then, there has been a multitude of articles by professional journalists actually confirming my vulgar opinion. But none as deftly infuriating as the most recent piece by the now full time digital Village Voice. It ultimately turns out that the rationale for the perpetual shit service of the transit system is because of the actual modernization of the signal system leading to a policy of running the trains at a slower speed which was discovered in a three year old study by an intern at Columbia University that the MTA, in their hapless way, tried to throw it in the memory hole. (The only bright side of this is that this study probably didn’t cost taxpayers a dime).

The Village Voice: The Trains Are Slower Because They Slowed the Trains Down

The root cause of the subway system’s decay, it turns out, isn’t budget cuts or overcrowding — rather, the collapse of the subway system appears to have been primarily self-inflicted by the authority itself, in response to a single accident two decades ago that set the transit system on a path to disaster.

 But there is one type of delay that’s gotten exponentially worse during that time: a catchall category blandly titled “insufficient capacity, excess dwell, unknown,” which captures every delay without an obvious cause. From January 2012 to December 2017, these delays increased by a whopping 1,190 percent — from 105 per weekday to 1,355. In December, one out of every six trains run across the entire system experienced such a delay. The increase has been steady and uninterrupted over the past six years.

In 1995, a Manhattan-bound J train crossing the Williamsburg Bridge rear-ended an M train that was stopped on the bridge, killing the J train operator and injuring more than fifty passengers. The National Transportation and Safety Board investigation placed most of the blame on the J train operator, who the NTSB suspected had been asleep. But the NTSB also identified potential issues with the signal system that contributed to the accident, which it found didn’t guarantee train operators enough time to apply the emergency brakes even when awake.

“They slowed the trains down after the Williamsburg Bridge crash,” a veteran train operator who asked not to be identified told the Village Voice. “The MTA said the train was going too fast for the signal system.” As a result, the MTA, quite literally, slowed all the trains down, issuing a bulletin informing employees in April 1996 that their propulsion systems would be modified so they could achieve a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour, down from the previous high of 50 to 55 miles per hour on a flat grade.

But the MTA didn’t stop there, internal documents show. One of the NTSB’s safety recommendations was to set speed limits. As a result, the MTA began a still-ongoing process of changing the way many signals work to meet modern safety standards. Previously, trains would encounter green lights if the track ahead was clear; if not, a red light would trip the train’s brakes if it tried to cross that section of track, stopping it a safe distance from the train ahead. (Restarting the train after it is tripped can take anywhere from one to ten minutes, and the incident gets noted in the operator’s performance file, according to MTA sources.) Under the new program, generally referred to as signal modifications, the brakes would be tripped based not only on whether the track ahead was vacant, but also on the train’s speed.

NYCT’s estimates were so off in part because they didn’t account for a human element. The most problematic of the newly modified signals were “one-shot timers,” so called because the operator has only one chance to meet the posted speed limit. One-shot timers are easier and cheaper to install, say MTA sources; the more “shots” the operators have to get under the required speed, the more timing mechanisms have to be installed across a longer portion of track. (An MTA spokesperson disputed this, characterizing the decision to install one- or two-shot timers as safety-related.) But the consequences of going over the speed limit are high — the train is stopped, and the operator gets penalized — so many operators now opt to go well below the posted speed limit just to be on the safe side.

So because of a train wreck on the bridge, the trains have been pussyfooting across the rails for the past two decades, extending platform wait times and commutes. And this exposes the dirty little secret of the daily refrain during the daily sojourns of commuters “train is delayed because of red signal ahead”. It also explains why the commute the day after this Voice article came out that the trains were moving sloooowwer than usual.

Now with the city’s population explosion from all the tower development and rampant tourism growing every year, in addition to the reprehensible etiquette of commuters lethargically boarding and exiting trains while gazing at their phones, the frightening overcrowded platforms especially by major transfer hubs where commuters have to wait on the stairs, it has made this fubar transit system slower and slower. Which must be throwing those new countdown clocks and jumbo touch screen schedules off kilter.

This is ultimately an existential and irremediable disaster. But my prophecy is becoming possible because of the feud nobody likes of the two top officials nobody likes, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andy Cuomo. de Blasio refuses to pony up half of the money for the $830 million action plan (which the Voice points out won’t help much, but it’s a start since it’ll supposedly fund overtime work) and at the last MTA board meeting in a stroke of funding blowback, Mario’s son decided to allocate 1 billion dollars for renovations and modernizations at 6 stations. So instead of signal modernization. track repairs and train maintenance, expect more art on the walls to ignore or pricey novelty take-out eateries on the mezzanines.

This retarded targeted spending comes on the heels of the NY Times expose of the MTA’s expensive moronic contracting, worker redundancies at work sites, and the transit union’s abuse of overtime hours. And with the recent revelations of the new crop of hired operators and conductors had insufficient training, it makes the MTA’s decision to run trains at a slugs pace for safety reasons utterly without merit. It should be worrisome how quick their reactions are when they confront those sudden switches from those pesky “one stop timers” which explain why lately the trains are always stopping short in the tunnels and arriving at the stations.

(On the subject of lacking merit for safety, at a train yard in East New York, four workers have filed suit against the MTA refusing to place flags on tracks to warn arriving trains of their presence on the rails and withheld their pay and denied them work hours the more they continued to address the hazards in their surroundings.)

But the necessity to worry should take hold for the MTA under the new leader Andy Byford, who is very cognizant of the inefficiencies causing commuters to lose money every day. He has ordered office workers to get out of their cubicle pens and head underground donning orange vests to assist and mollify commuters to make their terrible train rides easier, making them basically yoeman subway escorts as they through no fault of their own disregard their actual responsibilities to make the MTA operate. Get this, they called this the Subway Action Plan, just like the continuing dormant joint city and state plan that is currently languishing in civic purgatory.

And that’s not all that twit directing the worst fucking transit system of the universe just did, they took another dump on the bureaucratic shitshow by inventing a new executive job called Chief Customer Officer and hired some chick from a marketing firm who the MTA contracted for consulting services last year. Apparently, according to the press release, the CCO’s focus is to not alleviate the constant delays that is effecting the customers salaries every goddamn day, but to get workers to be more customer friendly (holy shit, just like what was mentioned right above this paragraph!) and get rid of “transit jargon” which you would think would be the same verbal pablum excuse for every damn delay but it’s actually the workers euphemisms and abbreviations for the technical problems plaguing the system. Which is actually a workplace order and nothing familiar to what the populace are paying $2.75 for every fucking day.

This woman is getting paid $200,000 for doing what Byford calls in his own native Britain euphemistic terms, doing away with redundancies like token booth clerks and putting them on “the field” to help commuters. Which is bloody ironic and hysterical since the idea was already in place, making the Chief Customer Officer position fucking redundant itself!

It can’t be any more transparent that the MTA is more concerned with spinning the optical quality of the transit service than actually running it efficiently.

All this fucking nonsense, squabbling, machinating, marketing and incompetence as the MTA’s debt is now at fucking $38.6 billion dollars.

Fuck the MTA. Nah, it’s already fucked.

 

 

Update:

At a MTA committee board hearing the other day, an official, Stephen Plochochi audaciously revealed that the transit agency recently extended the contracts of corrupted firms that have settled billion dollar suits involving bribery in three nations, the U.S. Army and for half-assed work at a nuclear power plant. They are tasked with upgrading the antiquated and jiggered for slow service for the last 20 years signal system and the renovation of the Cortlandt St. station by the New World Trade Center.

How is the new Chief Customer Officer going to spin this craven bullshit of wanton stupidity and enabling to the commuting public.

Quoted VP Stephen, who clearly doesn’t give a fuck:

“New York City Transit and the MTA as a whole for many, many, many years — for the 30 years that I’ve been here and for many before that — have looked at this as a rehabilitative organization,”

Except when it obviously comes to rehabilitating the essential infrastructure of the subway and the fleet of train cars. Fuck no, it’s to rehabilitate recidivist criminal contractors who are so corrupted and moneyed that they can still thrive and get rewarded for their unethical standards and tactics.

Plochochi said the MTA has a “robust program” for overseeing contractors that includes assigning monitors to ensure “good ethics and compliance” by companies with checkered pasts.

Yes, these firms will be good little boys and girls now that they got another billions of dollars which will surely go to its targeted and intended purpose, even with the MTA’s and the state’s sordid past and present for unchecked wasteful spending and obvious lousy vetting. Actually, the latter is clearly intentional and standard executive-driven procedure at the fucking worst and robustly unprofessional transit system in the universe. Fuck Plochochi, Fuck Byford and fuck the MTA.

 

 

 

 

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