MTA says it's doing a better job getting riders off trapped trains
Most commuters know what it's like to get trapped on a stuck train.
And after admitting problems in the past, the MTA is trying to get riders off disabled trains and back en route to their destinations faster than ever.
NYPD transit bureau chief Joseph Fox said any extraordinary issues that stall subways are given "executive priority," and higher-ranking officials are sent to help.
"Anything out of the norm in the subway system . . . has obvious dangers and risks," Fox said. "It's given a top priority."
On back-to-back days this week, the agency showcased its improved abilities, evacuating more than 1,000 riders off a subway and a Long Island Rail Road train that were stranded.
"These time frames used to go to three, four hours and more," said Michael Coan, chief of department for the MTA Police. "With improvements in communication and response, there have been significant improvements."
In addition to equipment malfunctions, the agency has had to handle an increasing number of people getting struck by trains; many cases are determined to be suicides.
Twenty-nine people have been killed by subways this year, according to preliminary statistics from the MTA. That's on pace to eclipse the 50 who died last year. There have already been more deaths from LIRR trains this year than all of 2011. Two such incidents took place this week.
Early Wednesday morning, a man was struck and killed by an uptown A train just south of 175th Street. Since the subway was too far away from the station, about 100 riders were led out an emergency hatch at the front of the train and helped off using a temporary ladder. They walked 175 feet to the next station and were back on their way in just over an hour, according to MTA vice president of subways Carmen Bianco.
"Actually evacuating people off the train -- that is not something that happens routinely," Bianco said. "If you're going to have a train that's going to sit there for a long, long time, if you can safely get people off, that's the right thing to do. And in this case, that was the perfect thing to do."
Just the day before, the LIRR had a similar issue when a 50-year-old man was killed by a train near the Forest Hills station during the evening rush, snarling service.
About an hour later, a second train pulled up along side the train, and nearly 1,200 people were escorted over three makeshift bridges between the two trains in less than 10 minutes. Workers gave water stored on board to waiting passengers.
"We put a greater emphasis nowadays on trying to accommodate the customers as quickly as possible," said Rod Brooks, the LIRR's chief transportation officer. "Those people have been without lights in some cases, air-conditioning or heat, so it's important to get those people off."