Subway Conductor Provides Behind-the-Scenes Look

Posted on: October 21st, 2011 at 6:28 am by

This is pretty dope, and a must-read for all the subway nerds out there. Thanks to Gizmodo for pointing us to a fascinating Reddit thread, in which a subway conductor on the IRT line participates in an open Q&A session. The train operator spent a couple weeks fielding questions from curious readers, but the conversation ran its course and has since closed. The result is a compelling behind-the-scenes look at random MTA tid-bits.

This image has been archived or removed.

Below are a handful of interesting questions culled from the lengthy thread:

Q: Are passengers allowed to ride the 6 past the last stop to see the City Hall ghost station or only if they pretend to be asleep and don’t get caught?

A: Yes, you are. Infact there is a bulletin specifically telling us to NOT kick anyone off at Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn Bridge downtown is treated as a regular stop, and conductors are not supposed to waste any extra time there. Anyone who tries to kick you off there is not doing their job.

Q: Are you trained to operate as a motorman? (I only ask because if you are superior than him during operation, I assume you have more training/seniority?)

A:It’s weird. Motorman is a more senior job, and pays better, but conductors still have the final word with what happens with the train. I guess that’s because the motorman/train operator’s primary duty is to focus on moving the train from station to station, which is a more safety-sensitive duty than anything we do. They don’t have as much interaction with the customers or with the control center…only with whatever is right in front of them.

Q: What do you do in between long stops? Can you take out a cell phone and play some angry birds or read a newspaper or is there something for you to do while the motorman is driving to the station?

A: Absolutely not. If you get caught doing any of those things, you are toast. This is one thing the union will NOT defend you for.

Q: How often do you come across people in the tunnels? Taggers, homeless, anyone?

A: All I ever see in the tunnels are rats and track workers. I’ve seen a couple of emergency exits converted into living rooms though, complete with real couches and beds.

Q: What are your thoughts on graffiti on the inside and outside of the trains and in the train corridor?

A: Any train with graffiti on it gets taken out of service immediately, which is a great deterrent. I just can’t believe the city let things get so bad back in the 80s. There’s no way in hell I would have applied for a job here back then…

Q: What’s your favorite line and train car as a conductor?

A: The 4 train. 1 hour end to end, not many stations (only 5 stations in Brooklyn!), and Manhattan is a breeze since there’s a big turnover of customers at just about every station. The only time I ever do any work on that line is in the Bronx, and even there, at least every station is straight, which makes it much easier to see what is happening at the ends of the platforms.

The newer trains have their pros and cons, but I prefer them. It’s less work for me to do, and is easier on my throat, but some of the technology (the manual PA and intercom) never works right, and the pre-recorded announcements and doors are much slower, so it’s harder to keep things paced.

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