Meanwhile in NYC, train operators have to point at signs

NYC subway operators have to follow a somewhat strange rule: when they pull into a station, they have to point at a black and white striped sign to show that the train is stopped at the right place. Well, a few New Yorkers decided to do a little experiment and have some fun with this rule.

Disclaimer: Please note that NYC MTA’s rule does not apply to Metro train operators. Our operators don’t need to stop and point at each station, and we ask that you don’t distract them unnecessarily. That being said, enjoy the video!


11 replies

  1. It’s not a strange rule. Almost every major transit oriented city has some sort of “pulling the train into the correct spot” as a way for the doors to line up correctly in the place where riders are waiting for the trains. If they do it, there’s a good reason for it.

    • K-Towner,

      I guess I just thought that there would be a more sophisticated way for operators to line up their train cars that doesn’t involve them having to point at a sign outside their window. 🙂

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  2. Anna these are conductors, not train operators. Almost every line in NYC sans a few with short trains has a two-person train crew on board.

    • Hey Eugene,

      I didn’t know that! Last time (only time) I was in NYC was about 15 years ago. Thanks for the info.

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  3. That’s such a nice and creative way to have some fun with the MTA folks! IMHO, that’s the main purpose for your post … right, Anna?

  4. Of course, having a full-time 2-person crew on board any transit vehicle other than a cable car (on which there are simply too many places to board or detrain for the gripman to keep an eye on, even if he didn’t quite literally have his hands full just operating the car) is a bit silly in itself.

    (Speaking of cable cars, I was once drafted, for about two minutes, to help operate a cable car: I was on my way back to my hotel after dinner at the House of Prime Rib, and a car pulled up to the California & Van Ness terminal with only one crewmember on board. I asked where the conductor went. The uniformed MUNI employee working the grip answered that he’d quit, then asked me to assist with the rear brakes [part of the conductor’s job on a cable car]. If a uniformed MUNI employee asks me to do something [especially on a cable car], and I have the knowledge [albeit theoretical] and physical ability to do, I don’t ask questions [although I might be looking around for Alan Funt’s camera crew]; I DO IT, as if my life depended on it. So I operated the rear brakes for one block, and then the real gripman walked out of a convenience store, and the fellow who had been filling in for him resumed his normal duties — as conductor.)

  5. “Of course, having a full-time 2-person crew on board any transit vehicle other than a cable car is a bit silly in itself.”

    That’s because you’re not used to a city where eight, ten, or twelve car long sets where the train operator cannot see the full length of the train behind them is the norm.

    In a city where the train operator at the front of the train cannot see all the way back because the train length is so so long, you need a conductor at the end of the train to make sure that the train is safe to depart.

    Go to Japan where long train sets are the norm and you’ll see this. The train moves only when the conductor at the end radios/hand signals the train operator that it’s clear (no passengers making a last minute run to the doors, etc.)

    There are perfectly good reasons why other cities do what they do. Whatever they do, they have a reason for it, and if you don’t understand it, don’t make fun of it because you’re going to come back later and say oh so that’s why they did.

    Just like fare gates, tap-in/tap-out and distance based fares. You thought that the idea was stupid. Now years later you come back and find out the reason why they’ve been using that for decades.

  6. Hmm. With regard to transit trains too long for the motorman to see all the way back to the end of the train, well, that’s also the reason why freight trains had cabooses for as long as they did. Now, they usually have telemetry/marker units hung on the last coupler, and connected to the last brake hose, that go by such terms as EOTD (“End Of Train Device”) or FRED (“Flashing Rear End Device”), and the conductors and brakemen ride the engine. (Or for long backing moves, they might ride the rear platform of a decommissioned caboose.)

    So far as I know, the Boston T, the Chicago L, BART, and most of the Philadelphia SEPTA lines all manage to run without conductors. And BART runs some pretty long trains.

    And for the record, I don’t find anything silly about distance-based fares, faregates, or tap-in, tap-out systems (BART had all of these from day one, long before TAP/Clipper/CharlieCard/SmarTrip technology existed). And I find it admirable that as soon as hand-held Clipper card validators became practical, the MUNI started accepting Clipper on cable cars. I do find it rather silly, though, that MetroRail passengers are required to “tap-across” when changing trains, EVEN WHEN THEY ARE TRAVELING ON A PASS. As well as damned inconvenient when going from Long Beach to Exposition Park, and I miss an Expo departure because I had to push through a crowd to get to a validator.

  7. I suppose the LA equivalent of this stunt would be signs asking Metro operators to “honk twice if you…”.

    Not that I’m endorsing such an effort. Just sayin’.

  8. This “pointing protocol” may strike some people as silly or repetitive, but this is an effective way of building up habits. And ultimately, these habits ensure the safety of the millions of New Yorkers who utilize the subway system.