New York

All Aboard Governor Cuomo’s F Train Inferno

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During last evening’s rush hour, the deterioration of New York City’s subway system trapped hundreds of F train commuters in a stalled train just north of Broadway-Lafayette for almost an hour.

According to Michael Sciaraffo, who wrote a thoroughly detailed first-person account of this experience on Facebook, the already un-air-conditioned train lost power to its lights, something the conductor initially attributed to the MTA’s catchall excuse “train traffic ahead of us.”

Then, the train began to heat up in the darkened tunnel.

Sciaraffo writes:

Coats started getting removed, and then people were sweating so much from standing in this crowded oven, that people starting taking off shirts and some pants. One lady disrobed while others covered her with a jacket so no one could see. Some people started getting faint, and we started to try and see if we could identify any elderly people or pregnant women on the car who were standing or needed water to see if they needed to sit and drink. Claustrophobia, panic, and heat exhaustion began to set in for many folks. At this point, the windows started getting steamed up.

This was when, according to Sciaraffo, the MTA decided to state the obvious: The train had broken down. In addition to issues with signals and tracks, the MTA’s own rolling stock has quickly deteriorated as well. The average distance between breakdowns is down by almost half since 2010.

The idea that the MTA’s collapse could happen so quickly and across all facets of its service was put eloquently by Riders Alliance executive director John Raskin, who told Politico last month, “Transit systems fall apart like people do — slowly, and then all of a sudden.”

According to Sciaraffo, the MTA finally got another train to push the broken-down train slowly into the Broadway-Lafayette station, but the number of passengers waiting on the platform to use the sweat-soaked hell train were too many for the MTA to open the doors. This resulted in the images below, which are as close to renditions of what the zombie apocalypse would look like on the subway as we’re going to get (until the actual zombie MTA apocalypse, which I’m sure the governor and mayor will blame on each other.)

Transit workers finally cleared the platform and opened the doors of the hell-bound F train, and sweat-drenched riders emerged into the cool and refreshing air of the subways.

The MTA has yet to respond to our queries regarding exactly what happened with this F train last night and why riders were kept in the dark (literally and figuratively) for so long.

And what were city leaders doing just hours before yet another MTA-related catastrophe? Complaining about car congestion, of course. Guess we know who’s really sweating the train delays in New York City these days — no one who can do anything to stop them.

Update: MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz has gotten back to the Voice with an explanation of what happened last night. Says the MTA:

At 6:20 p.m., a southbound F train was unable to take power north of the Broadway-Lafayette station. A train service supervisor arrived at the incident train approximately ten minutes later, entered the train from the rear end, and informed customers that the train was unable to take power. Announcements at that time by the train crew were also informing customers of the mechanical issue. At approximately 6:45 p.m., the supervisor was able to recharge the train and the train was able to move at slow speed into the Broadway-Lafayette station. At that time, the Rail Control Center instructed the train operator to pull the train a couple of cars outside the station in order to allow for the train behind the incident train to also enter the station and discharge customers. That is why the doors on the incident train did not immediately open. The doors on the incident train were opened within five minutes of pulling into the station, and customers were discharged at approximately 7:05 p.m.

The MTA has been taking a lot of heat (much like its passengers!) for initially telling the F train riders that there was “train traffic ahead” of them, a catchall that New Yorkers have had just about enough of. Ortiz says that the initial communication given to riders is currently “under review” and stressed that the MTA’s new six-point strategy to improve train service would hopefully address incidents like this. That plan, we should point out, is woefully inadequate.

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