Op-ed | MTA stepped up in response to Upper West Side derailment

MTA Chair Janno Lieber at Upper West Side subway derailment
MTA Chair Janno Lieber at Upper West Side subway derailment
Tim Minton/MTA

Anytime two subway trains collide – even at low speed – it’s a matter of the utmost seriousness, and we will investigate last week’s incident so we can learn from and prevent future accidents of this kind. More than 20 people were hurt, thankfully none with serious injuries. 

We’re not yet sure exactly how it happened, but MTA is fully cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation. And, to begin with, it’s clear the accident wouldn’t have happened at all if not for vandals whose handiwork took the incident train out of service in the first place.

But for a subway system that schedules 2.7 million train trips a year, covering 345 million miles annually, last week’s derailment was a rare occurrence that points to the safety and resilience of transit in New York. 

New York City Transit crews stepped up for New Yorkers once again, as they always do in times of trouble. They safely evacuated customers in the aftermath and worked nonstop — in incredibly tight quarters — to move cars around and figure out how to redo the working end of a train whose wheel system was damaged beyond repair. They restored service within a day, running 75 extra buses above ground in the meantime, so that no one was stranded without transit.

I am incredibly proud of this response, and MTA’s safety record overall. As I said, derailments of passenger trains are exceedingly rare. The last one happened in September 2020, and before that, another several years earlier. 

What would the automobile industry give to say they have just one incident in every 10 million trips? According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are an average of 15,000 car crashes every day – roughly one for every 70,000 trips.  

Traveling via transit is much safer. In addition to fewer collisions, there are just six major crimes a day on average in a system that now serves approximately 4 million daily riders – almost the same as the population of Los Angeles. 

It doesn’t get much better than that, and yet we’re determined to make sure there are even fewer still through our work with Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams to install more security cameras, increase police presence, and deploy our newly out-of-the-booth Station Agents to serve as ‘eyes and ears’ for law enforcement.

New York needs transit to function, and we won’t let millions of riders across the region down. Your safety is our number one priority. 

Janno Lieber is MTA chair and CEO.