Planetizen - Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education

An Investigation into Subway Delays Identifies a New Culprit

An investigative report digs into the causes of delays on the New York subway and finds that the official company line might not square with reality.
March 14, 2018, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments

Aaron Gordon releases a bombshell investigative report on delays on the New York subway, and the great lengths it seems the New York MTA has gone to cover up or avoid the real causes of the issue.

Gordon begins by explaining the MTA's long abused scapegoat for system delays: "a catchall category blandly titled 'insufficient capacity, excess dwell, unknown,' which captures every delay without an obvious cause. According to Gordon that category "is where the other primary MTA narrative developed, that of 'overcrowding': Historically high ridership has resulted in crowds that are keeping trains in stations longer."

But Gordon has found ample evidence to doubt overcrowding as the persistent reason for subway delays in New York, including, but not limited to, the fact that "overcrowding" delays have continued to increase even as ridership has decreased. 

As for what is causing the delays, Gordon says the MTA had the real culprit under its nose in a report produced in 2014 but never released to the public. According to the article, the MTA slowed all the trains down after a train collision in 1995. According to Gordon, "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."

There were other speed limits built into the system, including modified signals that would trip the speed of trains if they were traveling over a certain speed, requiring a restart process of duration anywhere from one to ten minutes long. An unpublished 2014 study, reported for the first time here by Gordon, "found 2,851 lost total passenger hours per weekday could be attributed to thirteen modified signals alone."

The article should be considered a long read, so there's a lot more detail, evidence, and commentary provided.

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 in The Village Voice
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email