Yes, Subway Train Operators Know Just How Bad Things Are


New York City subways suck, and we’re asking MTA employees to tell us why. Today, actual train operators speak out on flawed equipment, overcrowding, and how they’re DOING THEIR BEST. Okay?

“Deplorable” conditions

I am a train operator on the A line. Yes I know the A line is horrible. I’ve been doing this for 18 years. I very much like not love my job. I take pride in taking thousands of people to work each morning.
My coworkers are for the most good people. There are lazy fucks in almost every job but the average train operator and conductor will get up at 2 in the morning and be at work 2 to 3 hours early during a snow storm while the public is still asleep. Our jobs are not rocket science but we do put up with tons of shit.
The riding public doesn’t know or really doesn’t care about our working conditions, out facilities for lunch breaks and bathroom breaks. They are deplorable. Some of our trains and equipment are highly flawed and we still move that train the best way we can.
We know the passengers hate when we give generic meanings for lateness such as train traffic ahead and held by dispatcher. I try to give them straight up answers such as why we late.
Management has very harsh disciplinary proceedings that the average person has no idea what we put up with. We deal with it. Our union is always divided. I apologize on behalf of the nastiness of the average coworker. These are not shitty people but its rooted in our culture when passengers ask the same questions over and over throughout the years. I admit we have a long way to go today be customer friendly.

The system is overtaxed

17 years a train conductor (C/R), and no, it’s not your imagination, delays are getting worse, at least in so far as signals and power are concerned. Alot of it is simply being victims of our own success. Especially along the Queens corridor (E,F,M,R), and along 6th and 8th Ave in Manhattan. With so many damn trains there is no room for error. There are only so many different ways to reroute service, and when we try to put 4 to 6 different lines on one track the inevitable shit storm ensues. Many things have been beyond our control, like power outages (F U con-ed) but the signal and switch system is really over taxed. Really, the place runs 24 hours, 7 days a week, unlike say, every other Subway system in the world. Our track and signal maintainers are the best in the world, bar near none, but there are only so many of them, and they can’t be everywhere at once.

Stay safe

As a new Conductor, I can say that the most frequent delays I’ve experienced recently are due to sick passengers, trains losing power, passengers blocking the doors and trains slowing down because of workers on the tracks. I’ve also noticed signal problems coincidentally reduced after several weekend disruptions on that same line.
You can’t demand on time 24 hour service and then complain about service disruptions when stations, signals and tracks are being upgraded so that we can run 24 hour on time service. You can’t have it both ways.
Speaking of which, as a NYC Transit worker and union shop steward for 12 years, I’ve also noticed that the most frequent deaths on the job occurs on the tracks. Recent deaths on the tracks have led the union and management to get together and piece together stronger regulations and safer procedures for construction flagging. So, when a subway is running less than 10MPH on the express track, it’s extremely likely the Train Operator is taking care not to kill someone working hard to improve the system. (Tip: the Train Operator blasting the horn is a dead giveaway: people on the tracks)
I failed to mention another frequent reason I’ve noticed lately for subway delays is people jumping onto the tracks for reasons suicidal and otherwise. You might want to tell your readers to please stop doing that. Life is not all that bad and cell phones are easily replaceable.

We’re people too

Been here a few years and wow you’re in for a treat as an employee. Been in title 2 years as a train operator. It’s a lifestyle adjustment to say the least. The job when it works and all is smooth is actually great. When it doesn’t you really get stressed out.
Ridership has increased and the system itself can’t handle the amount of passengers with the amount of trains in service now. A fully loaded 75 foot 8 car train can hold 2400 people one trip. Millions take the system everyday.
When there is a delay there is a reason for everything. A majority of the time it’s literally passengers holding the doors. Not you see it only as a 30 second delay per station. Let’s say the station has 40 stops. That just became 20 minutes if it’s held per station. In the rush hour trains have between 4-6 minute headways. It’s a domino effect and people don’t realize it. Also there are deficiencies in the system and breakdowns. Outdated trains, old rails and simply it’s a lot of upkeep. Most work is done nights and weekends as to not disrupt service but there aren’t enough hours in the day for repair. Sick passengers also delay train service and the old 12/9 (Customer under train) can shut down service for a while on one line. I know this is New York but the stuff you hear customers say when there is a 12/9 is appalling. I’ve heard everything from just scrape him up to keep running over him. No one cares. Really NY? Really?
Another thing also is that on avg we only get 20 min between runs to go back . That’s our break if we get that much. So if we are late that’s taken out of our break. We are also paid for 30 min lunch so if we come in late we don’t get a lunch. Train crews like to move trains and not be late because literally that’s all the rest we get.
Let me reiterate the job itself isn’t bad. Obviously since we don’t all quit. There are some perks. We are all grouped [together] though. MTA isn’t just NYCT. So when an LIRR and Metro North, which make more than us, makes 100k in overtime they assume we do too. I’ve been called ATM so many times they think we are all rich. I wish I was rich. I wouldn’t be working if I was.
Not to mention the daily threats and BS we get from customers. Assaults are at an all time high. I hear so much stuff through my train door and through my window you swear I was punching their mother or kids in the face. And it’s all genders and races that say things . I’ve heard so much it doesn’t faze me anymore. But to assault someone because they are late and it’s out of our control is absurd. We have families and lives too.
Homelessness is at an all time high down there and it’s nothing we can do. A large percentage down there are mentally disabled and are just forgotten by the system in NYC. Many have real bad issues and you get to know the regulars. After a while you become kind of cold. I always carry an extra bottle or water and hand it out to someone. These people are truly forgotten.
I’m still happy with the decision I made to come down here. Are there good days? Yes, and are there bad days? Yes. Both days I got paid and came home safe which is the plan. Btw fare increases have nothing to do with our salary. Do a little research and you will see it’s not.
Management comes and goes as well. It’s all a trickle down economy down here. Management can make you or break you. Some know how to run a rail road, some don’t. It’s like any job. And many times when they get promoted they forget they held our title and talk down and treat us like kids. I let a lot brush off my back and I’m easy going so much don’t faze me. It’s a hit or miss. And policies many times are written by people who have never operated down here or worked down here. They sit in an office somewhere and imagine how to do our job and tell us what we are doing wrong. It boggles your mind .
Just have patience with us. Nothing we can do. We follow orders and try and make it home to our families at the end of the day like you guys.
Thank you from your local train operator.

We’ll bring you more voices from inside the MTA next week. If you’re an MTA employee who wants to share your thoughts on what’s right and wrong there, email me.

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