An F’d Up RideObservations following an MTA emergency
En route to Hunter College, the student body is at the mercy of the MTA. As commuters we tolerate a great deal, from preaching hobos to impromptu performers—the tales of our travels could fill a book. But my recent experience, when the F, E, M, and R lines were shut down on Tuesday, March 13th, trumped any other incident I’ve experienced to date. I am not an expert on public transportation, and I don’t know the best way to provide information to commuters in an emergency situation. But leaving us disoriented and confused doesn’t seem like handling an emergency situation well.
At first it seemed a day like any other: the F train was running on the local track, but I was too tired to be suspicious. As we approached Roosevelt Avenue the conductor announced that we wouldn’t stop due to police activity. As the train passed through the station, there was an eerie combination of commuters, police, fire- men, and dimmed lights. Anxious to watch an uplifting film on Sylvia Plath, I was delighted to bypass the action. My pleasure was short-lived, however, as the train stopped on 65th Street, lights out, with no forward visibility. There was a garbled announcement that someone had pulled the emergency brake. After fifteen minutes, it became apparent that we weren’t moving anytime soon. I was in the first car, and when the con-ductor stepped out to speak we all huddled around him as if he were
about to deliver God’s words. His message was startling: the E train
had hit a person at Roosevelt Avenue, and all four lines going to and from Manhattan were shut down. He had no idea how long we would be stuck. A fight over personal space nearly broke out.
When the doors finally opened, most of the commuters stampeded out. We were told that a 7 Train was two blocks away, but truthfully it was closer to two miles. Twenty minutes later, when the train roared back to life, most had found other transportation. I arrived to my Sylvia Plath film only thirty minutes late, but for a forty-minute film.
In retrospect, my experience was bet- ter than others on the same train, mostly because I had the convenience of com-
municating with the conductor himself, as opposed to the pre-recorded automated messages. The MTA should have informed all of the commuters what the problem was, not just those lucky enough to be near an MTA employee. Instead, we were mostly kept in the dark, both figuratively and literally.
After my ordeal, I spoke to a friend whose father works for the MTA. She told me that people getting hit by subway trains is commonplace, and that such an event is likely to occur several times within the course of a week—horrifying. Be alert and be prepared—subway emer- gencies do happen!