The Subways Melted Down Real Good Last Night

We sincerely hope you’re not reading this while still stuck on the G train


On Thursday evening, at the end of a beautiful, sunny day, nearly every line on the  New York City subway was delayed during the evening rush because of a cascading series of incidents that virtually paralyzed the system.

The evening of commuting nightmares began around 4 p.m., when a signal failure near the Bergen Street F/G stop halted service on those lines. At least one G train was stuck in the tunnel for two hours. Typically with “signal problems,” trains can still advance down the line very cautiously, which causes delays but at least keeps trains moving. Not so in this case, as G service was completely suspended for hours and F trains rerouted along the C or D lines.

On top of that, according to the MTA, there was a sick passenger at 36th Street in Brooklyn, a train with mechanical problems at 14th Street, and a police investigation at Whitehall Street causing issues on the N, R, D, and W. The 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 were feeling left out, so they got in on the act as well, thanks to a train with mechanical problems at Brooklyn Bridge, a sick passenger at Atlantic Avenue, and a host of other reported issues.

I think the L was OK?

All in all, it was an impressive display of a systemwide meltdown masquerading as an evening commute. Through it all, people posted frequent complaints that there were no MTA employees in G train stations informing people that the line wasn’t operating. Aspiring commuters took to Twitter to lament their predicament. Representative examples:

If you’re looking for some kind of detailed explanation of precisely how everything went so wrong all at the same time, here’s the best I can do: Every once in a while, it’s not only likely but quite predictable that when a system routinely experiences lots of delays, on some rare occasions it will experience a crap ton of delays all at the same time. In this case, the Bergen signal problem exacerbated an already bad commute. Because the F was diverted to the D and the R was diverted to the N, that meant two more lines than usual were running over the Manhattan Bridge, further clogging an already choked junction just before Dekalb Avenue (and hence the reports that trains were taking thirty minutes to get over the bridge despite “good service”). A similar effect happened with the F’s diverted onto the C, jamming up the works right where the C merges with the A to go under the East River. Add to that all the prospective G riders seeking alternative routes, and a broken door here or sick passenger there is all you need for icing on the broken-train cake.

But if you’re not after any of that, if all you want is some recognition that your commute really was that bad and that the subway really isn’t getting any better despite the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars to “stabilize” the system, then here is that recognition. And, I’m very sorry to tell you, this will happen again sooner than you would like, and we will be right back here once again in the not-too-distant future.