The Truth Behind Train Delays

Do you ever find yourself taking the train and all of a sudden it stops between the stations? We have all heard the sounds of frustration coming from our fellow New Yorkers when we hear “There is train traffic ahead of us, we apologize for the inconvenience.” This might be valid on some occasions, but there might be more to the delays than the MTA employees are letting on. There are often signal problems, sick passengers, switch problems, and train malfunctions that are the real reasons why trains are constantly delayed.

Signal problems are common because the subways are not as advanced as they are supposed to be. According to an article produced by “The Village Voice,” there hasn’t been a lot of money that has been donated to the subway system, and although “…the MTA has spent more than $100 billion on improvements,” “…the agency remains in “catch-up” mode.” When the train conductor states over the loudspeaker that there are troubles with the signals, he means that red sensors pick up that there is a train in front of theirs, indicating train traffic. The problem with the sensors is that they pick up all metal objects, not just trains. This causes delays because the conductor must take the time to figure out whether or not a train, or a small object such as aluminum foil, is blocking theirs. An article from “AM New York” explains that conductors can move the train with a red signal, but must receive “…permission from The Rail Control Center, and move at a sluggish pace.”

Passengers often cause train delays without meaning to.  There are over 3,000 sick passengers that have prompted delays each month. A “New York Magazine” article suggests that travelers can get off the train at the following stop, but “…often an emergency brake is pulled, forcing the train to an immediate stop and sending ripples of delays down the subway line.” When the emergency cord is pulled, the brakes are stopped and it could take the MTA staff up to 15 minutes to restart the train. This causes delays not only for the passengers on that train, but the trains behind it. Individuals who take the train should never pull the emergency brake, unless “…someone gets caught between the train’s closing doors, or between subway cars,” according to an article from the New York Times. If there is violence or a fire in a train car, alert MTA employees, do not pull the emergency cord because it will delay passengers from receiving help because the train is stopped underground.

There are also malfunctions that occur, but they don’t happen as often as the other reasons for delays. There can be broken switches, which are necessary to operate the doors on the trains. An article from the New York Daily News stated that there have been power outages at Grand Central Terminal. During power outages, signals stop working, and when track fires occur, trains run less frequently and take different routes. The doors on trains can open onto the tracks instead of at the platform. These are all rare, but can cause delays that can interfere with a person’s commute.

It is frustrating when trains are delayed, but it is a part of the system that is constantly being worked on. Signal problems occur the most, but sick passengers are unpredictable, as well as rare malfunctions. The next time your train is delayed, don’t be too quick to blame the MTA.

Written by Rachel Manheim

Picture Credits to C2E2



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