Earlier this month, an MTA conductor opened a forum on reddit to answer burning questions about the New York City subway system -- anonymously, of course. Not only does the thread answer pretty much any question you can think of about the MTA, it also might have changed some straphangers' views of MTA workers. (This one used to work in IT, but switched careers for more job security and better benefits).
Here are some highlights of the impromptu and hugely informative digital information session...
1. Sick passenger is code for dead customer ON the train
But.....Often times it actually IS a sick passenger though - sick usually refers to some kind of bodily injury, rather than someone puking or passing out, and the delays are mainly from the MTA doing an investigation to cover their asses when that customer eventually files a lawsuit.
In a separate, later discussion, fusoyaff2 advised what NOT to do in the event of a sick passenger who is not yet dead:
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...I can't stress this enough - if somebody faints or is having a heart attack or whatever on the train, for the love of god DO NOT pull the emergency brake. Doing so is going to KILL the customer, not save him. Now we not only have a sick customer, we have a sick customer who is stuck halfway between stations where EMS can't reach him, and if a passenger pulls the brake, that train won't be moving for at least 8 minutes.
2. If you fall onto the track, you are not guaranteed to die. As long as you stay away from the third rail, and don't try to climb back up to the platform.
fusoyaff2 goes into very helpful detail about what to do in this worst case scenario:
The best thing you can do is run as far down the platform as you can (in the opposite direction from where the train enters the station) and wave your arms frantically to get the train operator and passenger's attention. Believe me, the passengers WILL be doing the exact same thing, as nobody wants to see you get run over and their train get delayed. If you can get to the far end of the platform, it gives the train more room to stop, and there is a ladder at the end of each platform where you can climb back up -- do NOT try to climb up from where you are. So many people have been killed trying to jump back up rather than getting away from the entrance end of the station.
Do NOT trust the pits between the tracks --- they are often right next to the third rail which can be just as dangerous (and note that the wooden planks are not designed to hold a human's weight - they are there to protect the energized rail from drips and weather) and the train operator is less likely to see you if you're in there. And don't duck under the train, because most stations do not have enough clearance for the average human. And do NOT jump down onto the tracks to try to save someone else. The best thing you can do is run on the platform towards the tunnel where the train enters so you can get the operator's attention sooner. Waving your arms over the tracks will tell the operator to stop immediately.
Sounds like a good plan -- as long as you know before you fall which side the train will enter the station!
3. Subway suicides happen more often than you think -- like twice a week.
When asked how often people commit suicide by jumping onto the track, fusoyaff2 wrote:
It happened 136 times in 2010 (statistic includes accidental deaths). So about twice a week. It hasn't happened on one of my trains yet, but I did witness it happen on a train right across from mine.
(fusoyaff has been working as an MTA conductor since 2009).
Incidentally, 'Police investigation' is the code for a suicide by train. Service will be disrupted for about a half hour, usually. I've seen it mess up things for as long as 3 hours though.
4. Turnstile jumping is on the rise, and MTA workers can't do a darned thing about it.
Many stations no longer have station agents (not that they could do anything about fare beaters anyway, since only NYPD can enforce it) which gives customers a more 'out of sight, out of mind' attitude. Plus now that every exit has an emergency gate, customers will wait for someone to exit through it and then hold it open to get in.
I see fare beaters every single day. I do everything within my power to close the doors on their face.
5. The 6 line doesn't *really* end at Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall.
One redditor asked: Are passengers allowed to ride the 6 past the last stop to see the City Hall ghost station or only if they pretend to be asleep and don't get caught?
Here's fusoyaff2's response:
Yes, you are. In fact there is a bulletin specifically telling us to NOT kick anyone off at Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn Bridge downtown is treated as a regular stop, and conductors are not supposed to waste any extra time there. Anyone who tries to kick you off there is not doing their job.
There is a legitimate reason for this. Bleecker St. still doesn't have an underpass for the uptown platform, so passengers transferring from the F to the 6 and who want to go uptown are gonna have to either stay on the train, or do a crossover at Canal St or Brooklyn Bridge, which is likely gonna result in them boarding the same uptown 6 train they were already on.
Click here for photos of the City Hall Ghost station, which closed in 1945.
6. Subway conductors want you to say hello! But don't overstay your welcome.
It really does make my day when customers say thank you, or smile or wave... Nothing wrong with saying thanks, but if you have a question PLEASE just get to the point (that goes for anyone asking anyone anything in NYC). And there's no need to start the question with 'sorry to bother you, but....' because that's part of our job.
Oh, and one more thing -- if you see me making an announcement, wait until I finish before you start asking the question. You aren't my only customer, and I never close the doors if I have people standing right outside my window.
7. The Why Does it Take So Long for the Doors to Open at the Last Stop Mystery Solved:
(Anyone who has ever taken the L train to 8th Avenue knows what we're talking about here).
I get asked this almost every day by customer, fusoyaff2 wrote. I won't go into details, but if the conductor wants to exit the train and leave the doors open at the terminal, he needs to walk to the next car at the last stop in order to open the doors, which is why there's a short delay before they open. If the doors open immediately at the last stop, then it means the train is either going to go to the yard, or the crew is going to manually key open one door per car (which is only done if the train is going to sit there for at least 10 minutes, and helps the air comfort system).
8. Some conductors make over $100,000 a year. But they really work for it.
...there are some conductors who make $100,000+ a year. However, they are at top pay, work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day and have no life outside of work. The average senior conductor makes about $65K a year.
Elsewhere in the thread, fusoyaff2 explained: Starting salaries for conductors are currently about $20/hr, with top pay at $29/hr after 3 years. There is time-and-a-half overtime once you work more than 8 hours a day, and there is LOTS of overtime opportunities for those who want it.
9. You have at least ten seconds to get on a train once the doors open. But the train might not wait for you if you weren't on the platform when it pulled in.
In response to the question, When do you decide to close the doors on a car? fusoyaff2 wrote:
Minimum of 10 seconds per station (on the newer trains, wait until it's done playing the next stop announcement). If there are still people boarding after that, keep waiting. However, you don't have to wait for stragglers. If I see last second runners (people who weren't already on the platform before the train arrived), it's at my discretion if I hold the doors for them, or see if I can can [sic] close down before they're able to grab the doors. There are some stations where if I wait for everyone, I will literally NEVER be able to close down, so I try to close at the first opportunity where I can do it without catching anyone in the doors.
10. Conductors have strict rules governing what they can and cannot say over the PA system.
One redditor waxed nostalgic about a subway ride back in 1996 when the conductor gave passengers live updates of the Yankees vs. Braves World Series Game.
This is fusoyaff2's response:
Yeah see, they don't let us do stuff like that. We're actually conditioned to not even say things like good morning or have a great weekend on the PA, because we might offend someone having a crappy day. Doing baseball updates on the PA could just rile up Red Sox or Mets fans, or annoy people who don't care about baseball.
You never know who is riding your train, so the less you say, the more likely you are to stay out of trouble....
Speaking of staying out of trouble, fusoyaff2 shut down the conversation the same day it started, writing, okay, this thread has pretty much run its course. Thanks for participating, hope it was insightful!
When he started the thread, fusoyaff2 wrote, keep in mind that I'm not going to answer anything which can jeopardize my job or will specifically identify me, and offered this photo as identification: