Bloomberg News

NYC MetroCards Turn Bloody as Union Targets Track Deaths

February 06, 2013

NYC MetroCards Turn Bloody as Union Targets Deaths on Tracks

The Transport Workers Union Local 100 began a campaign last month recommending that train operators enter stations more slowly to increase reaction times and potentially prevent incidents but officials of the transit agency shot down that proposal, saying it could lead to a dangerous increase in platform crowding. Source: Transport Workers Union Local 100 via Bloomberg

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s largest union is taking its campaign to curb subway fatalities to riders with an imitation MetroCard doctored to look as though it’s been splattered with blood.

After the most subway track deaths in five years, members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 soon will begin handing out the grisly cards calling for train operators to slow down when entering stations, said Jim Gannon, a spokesman for the 38,000-member unit. The cards feature an image of the Grim Reaper, whose cloak bears the MTA’s blue-and-white logo.

The cards, which urge riders to sign a petition on the union website, are the latest element of its so-called 12-9 campaign -- transit code for a person making contact with a train -- that began after two riders were pushed to their deaths in December. While the union seeks to shield train operators from the emotional trauma that comes with striking a rider, the campaign is also a way to poke at the MTA’s leadership after a labor dispute has left TWU members without a contract for more than a year.

“Let the MTA know to enter stations slow!” the cards say. Adding “MTA agents on crowded platforms” and “emergency power shut-off to tracks in all station booths” would also help to cut the death rate, they say.

Toe Tag

The union began its campaign last month with a flier aimed at train operators, recommending they enter stations more slowly to increase reaction times and potentially prevent incidents. Officials of the largest U.S. transit agency shot down that proposal last week, saying it could lead to a dangerous increase in platform crowding.

A second flier under preparation depicts a corpse wearing a toe tag in the form of a MetroCard. “This may be your last pass,” it tells riders while urging riders to sign the petition backing slower speeds as an “immediate, no-cost solution to the crisis.”

While trains typically enter stations at about 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour, speed limits vary because of curves and hills, said Adam Lisberg, an MTA spokesman.

“We’ve seen no evidence of any slowdown” since the union campaign began, Lisberg said.

Concern over deaths has mounted even as the likelihood that straphangers will die hasn’t. Calls to increase safety have also come from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Councilman James Vacca, who’s chairing a transportation committee hearing on the matter tomorrow.

Death Odds

Last year, 55 of the 141 people struck by trains died, the most fatalities since 2007 and nine more than in 2002. Annual ridership, however, has increased by more than 200 million over that time. One rider was struck for every 11.8 million last year, down from one for every 10.4 million the decade before, according to MTA data. The odds of dying changed little, to one in 30.2 million last year from one in 30.7 million in 2002.

The MTA is responding nonetheless, by expanding a public- safety campaign and examining ways to warn subway operators about people in their path, such as an “intrusion-detection” system that could alert drivers with flashing lights. It would be difficult and expensive to install doors between platforms and tracks, as some have suggested, officials said last week.

Of the 141 incidents where people were struck by trains last year, 54 occurred after riders tripped or fell onto the tracks or into a moving train, 33 were suicides or attempted suicides and five resulted from people being pushed or bumped. Nearly a quarter involved customers impaired by drugs or alcohol, MTA data show.

To contact the reporter on this story: Esme E. Deprez in New York at edeprez@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net


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