The Times reports that there is a plague of “sick passengers” holding up the subway, with an estimated 3,000 train delays every month this year. For reasons unknown, that number has grown dramatically from roughly 1,800 illness-caused delays per month in 2012.
But what, exactly, does the phrase “sick passenger” mean? Is it a euphemism for “suicide on the tracks,” as many morbidly imaginative commuters believe it to be? Nope, MTA officials told the Times. Usually it’s just someone who has fainted or vomited, but sometimes the illness is more serious, like a seizure or heart attack. Sometimes passengers are able to get off at the next stop, saving other passengers from more delays, but often an emergency brake is pulled, forcing the train to an immediate stop and sending ripples of delays down the subway line.
Passengers are encouraged to get off the train at the first sign of illness to be considerate of others.
EMTs have to tend to the passenger, even if the train is between stations, and aren’t allowed to move passengers who can’t leave the train on their own, and a police officer, MTA official, or friend must wait with the sick person until help arrives. Sometimes the conductor of the train has to wait with the rider, putting the train out of service.
Not everyone is very sympathetic: Susie Moy, a Brooklyn resident who’s experienced recent delays, complained to the Times that something must be wrong. “It just doesn’t make sense to delay thousands of people over one sick passenger. There has to be a better way to handle it.”
Last year, the MTA received 129,000 requests for “delay verification” forms for passengers late for work who needed proof that it wasn’t their fault, up more than 40 percent from 2013 when the MTA verified a mere 92,000 forms.