Union Says Motormen Should Slow Down to Prevent More Subway Deaths

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Riders willfully ignore the MTA's garbled warning.
Riders willfully ignore the MTA's garbled warning.

Recent subway-pushing incidents have led to calls for safety improvements, but the cash-strapped MTA doesn't have the money to install doors between the platform and the tracks. Instead, after the death of Ki Suk Han in December, the agency reminded customers that they shouldn't stand near the edge of the platform, and when Sunando Sen was killed earlier this month they said they'd help out by ordering riders to "Please stand away from the platform edge" more often. The MTA's solution isn't very comforting, but the Transport Workers Union Local 100 has come up with a more pro-active plan. The Daily News reports that the union has distributed flyers instructing motormen to enter the station at 10 mph, rather than the usual 30 to 35 mph, in an effort to prevent subway deaths and save drivers from the "emotional trauma and potential loss of income that go with it." Their concern for our well-being seems heartwarming, but sadly the MTA is alleging that this is just a tactic to tick off management since union members haven't had a contract in a year.

In addition to possibly reducing subway deaths, the policy would also slow down service considerably. The MTA was quick to note that it's illegal for transit workers to strike or negatively impact service. "Any slowdowns in the system which results from this concerted union activity may be considered a job action," said Christopher Johnson, vice president of Labor Relations in the NYC Transit division. The union seems to be counting on skirmishes with managers, bolstering the agency's claim. "If you are asked where you lost your time, say you were operating safely to prevent 12-9s [code for a person on the tracks]," says the flyer, which instructs motormen to call the union if  "a supervisor hassles you because of your safe operation."

The union still insists that safety is its main concern, and derides the MTA for having no solution. "They're willing to accept some 50 deaths a year and having done anything substantial other than making announcement telling people to stand back from the edge of the platform, which no one can hear anyway," said Kevin Harrington, a union vice president. "Something has to be done now." The MTA counters that slowing down the system would actually lead to more deaths by increasing crowding on the platform. There are no reports of motormen slowing down in response to the flyer, so no matter which side is right, for now your only option is to heed the MTA's muffled warning.