Discussion relating to the past and present operations of the NYC Subway, PATH, and Staten Island Railway (SIRT).

Moderator: GirlOnTheTrain

  by Scott10690
Hi MTA NYC Subway posters,

I'm not sure if this is acceptable to post here, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to try. Much like the MTA's New York City Subway the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has long utilized a system of Motorpersons and Conductors (known in Boston as 'Train Attendants') to operate each Rapid Transit train. In recent years the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has made a strong push to convert each of it's Rapid Transit lines to One Person Train Operation claiming that the change in operation will help cut the agency's massive debt. Over the last nine months I've worked on a three-pronged project consisting of a written, photographic, and video essay to serve as a counter argument to the T's proposal. Given the fact that the NYC Subway still utilizes Two Person Train Operation on most of it's lines I figured the MTA railroad.net members could enjoy the arguments put forth in the video and help give feedback on the difference between the TPTO and OPTO operative styles.

*The film's title "The Last of Their Kind" refers to the fact that the MBTA's Red Line is the last of it's Rapid Transit lines to convert to OPTO, not that these Conductors/Train Attendants are the last in the world or the country.
**I apologize in advance to the moderator if this posting about the MBTA violates the MTA NYC Subway board's rules.

Thank you all so much, and enjoy the video!!! - Scott

  by Allan
Very nicely done, Scott.

The Transport Workers Union in NYC has been very sucessful (to a point) in slowing down the progression of OPTO but in some cases (such as the G (during non-rush hours), the Franklin Shuttle, the Rockaway Shuttle and the late night Dyre Avenue Shuttle they have not been able to prevent OPTO.

The Canarsie line (L) has been converted to Communicatins Based Train Control (CBTC) but the MTA has been unsucessful in converting this to OPTO (partially due to actions of the TWU and others).

I think that full OPTO will eventually happen as technology advances but that will be quite a ways in the future. In the meantime the fight to slow it down must continue.
  by railfan365
I agree that efforts to preserve TPTO should continue.Not only does a conductor provide an additional set of eyes and ears for dealing directly with passengers, but other issues include: 1: That at long, curved platforms, seeing from one end of the train to the other can be difficult.
2: Given the practice of the conductor observing the platform until the train has moved at least 3 car lengths, it's safer to have one person observing the platofrm, and another keeping their eyes on the road.
3: One crew member can communicate as necessary by radio while the other drives the trians. a
4: In the event of an emergency trip or a major mechanical malfunction, it cold be important to have one crew member at the point of troube while the other is minding the controls.

There may be more reasons that I didn't get to here, but good railroading sometimes requires that a train operator have onboard backup.
  by Scott10690
Thank you guys so much for taking the time to view the video and for your kind words!!! :)

The MBTA's Orange Line went OPTO in June of 2010. The promises of better service and cost savings never materialized. In the face of major emergencies (of which the winter of 2010-2011 provided many) the response to passengers from MBTA employees was almost non-existent as a single Motorperson couldn't easily traverse a six car train capable of holding up to 1344 people (I can't imaging one person overseeing a 10-car train in NYC). Minor situations like air-cab failures forced entire consists out of service when prior to OPTO the Train Attendant (NYC=Conductor) could have just moved to a different cab. And the day-to-day faults include extra dwell time in stations due to the lack of split door control (especially on curved platforms), an increase in doorway safety hazards (particularly with the blind and disabled), and the additional time taken at each station while the Motorperson safely stops the train and crosses the cab to cycle the doors.

The MBTA is more-or-less underhandedly doing a run around on the Boston Carmen's Union (A.T.U. local 589) by eliminating these positions by shuffling most employees into other (meaningless) jobs while the Union's attention is focused on a huge Massachusetts healthcare debacle.

I know, as has been mentioned above, that NYC has converted some of its shuttles to OPTO in recent years. Has there been a push to expand that to other lines? Will OPTO trains always be shorter than non-OPTO trains? Or is this something NYC has no real plans for in the near future?
  by Kamen Rider
Part of what's preventing more OPTO service is there are still active cars, R32 and R42, which are functionly incompatable with OPTO. They don't have full width cabs, and on the R42s, the operating cabs don't have door controls.

On the Canarsie Line, before full length OPTO was tried, the MTA installed CCTV monitors at the front of the train at all stations. the eventual idea is to drop the C/R have the T/O take over thier role, while actually operating the train handeled by the train itself. L trains are automatic all day now days. T/Os only run maunally once or twice a shift so they don't get rusty. Seriosulys, all an L train T/O needs to do is push a little green button. And I don't know if it's just me, but the ATO trains seem acutally faster than the human controled ones.
  by Head-end View
Not surprising the ATO trains are faster. When I rode the Wash. D.C. Metro operated by computer control, the trains accelerated and braked at exactly the right moment, with more precision than a human operator so you get more efficient operation.
  by ExCon90
In the early years of PATCO, manual operation was used for one hour in 24 so the operators didn't get rusty. I was told by an official that during that hour the trains' transit time varied with the operator, with some trains taking several additional minutes to make the trip, depending on how conservative the operator was in braking and acceleration, whereas under automatic operation the times were unfailingly consistent.
  by Scott10690
I hate to be nit-picky but I'd never use the word "unfailingly" to describe any aspect of automated train operation. See the SF Muni West Portal wreck, SF Muni T-Line wreck, and DC Metro crash at Fort Totten Station among others as reference.
  by ExCon90
Scott10690 wrote:I hate to be nit-picky but I'd never use the word "unfailingly" to describe any aspect of automated train operation. See the SF Muni West Portal wreck, SF Muni T-Line wreck, and DC Metro crash at Fort Totten Station among others as reference.
I wasn't posting about what might happen -- I was posting about what did -- and did not -- happen ("were" is past tense). The automated operation worked fine. In any event, the Washington collision had nothing to do with automatic operation; the cause was failure of presence detection, which could have occurred in the same way under manual operation -- even if the line had never been equipped for automatic operation in the first place. I'm not familiar with the SF Muni collisions, but if they were caused by failure of presence detection rather than on-board automation equipment, the same would be true.
  by Kamen Rider
automation doesn't stop failurs in other componets. an automatic train could lose it's brakes the same way a normal train can.
  by ExCon90
I was responding to Head End View's post about automatic operation being more precise than manual, and cited an example from actual experience indicating that it was. Of course failure of unrelated components can cause collisions and other mishaps regardless of the mode of operation.
  by Patrick Boylan
Are you sure it's fair to cite examples from actual experience? Can't we just stick to undocumented rumors and wild speculation :)

There are many 1 person operations that have very little high tech automatic train operation technology, Philly's Broad St and Ridge Ave subways for example, as far as I know, are just old fashioned wayside green-yellow-red signals with trip arms to stop trains. I believe they may have a few spots with timed signals, one I remember is the downhill southbound from Olney to Logan stations.

Philly's Market Frankford line has some sort of non-wayside signaling system. I can't remember if they changed to 1 person operation before, during or after the conversion to the new signals, and I'm not sure if the new signal system's fully installed. I have read posts in the SEPTA forum that complain it doesn't work. Sometime since August I rode end to end from Frankford to 69th St and didn't notice any enormous speed changes from what I remember in the old days.

Broad St and Ridge Ave just use mirrors, Market Frankford uses television screens, to help the operators check the platforms.
  by Patrick Boylan
One possible worry about automatic train operation is that it can lead to over reliance. In other words when the system fails to detect a problem, such as a stopped train ahead, the operator might not be as quick to take notice as they would have if they were running manually.
Whether this happens much I don't know. I guess it comes down to that it's not necessarily as important what the train crew does most of the time, but rather what they might need to be able to do some of the time.
  by lirr42
CBTC seems to be working out pretty well. The MTA is adding 98 weekly round trips starting today.
MTA wrote:More Trains on the L Line
98 Weekly Round Trips Added will Ease Overcrowding and Decrease Wait Times

MTA New York City Transit announced [Friday] the addition of 98 weekly round trips on the L Line. An additional sixteen round trips will be added each weekday, eleven round trips on Saturday, and seven round trips on Sunday. The service increase will begin on Sunday.

“This is a perfect example of how our commitment of capital dollars to improve our signal system directly impacts the safety and quality of our service,” said MTA NYCT President Thomas F. Prendergast. “As a result of fully integrating Communications-Based Train Control on the L line, customers will have the added benefit of more trains that will help to ease overcrowding on a line that serves continuously growing populations in Brooklyn.”

Communications-Based Train Control, or CBTC, provides the ability to run additional trains each hour. As an example, as a result of the added service:
  • Customers during the a.m. rush hour can expect a train every three minutes, up from every 3 ½ minutes;
    Weekday customers traveling midday can expect a train every six minutes, up from every 7 ½ minutes;
    Saturday evening customers can expect a train every six minutes, up from every 7 ½ minutes; and
    Sunday evening customers can expect a train every six minutes, up from every 8 ½ minutes.
To ensure that subway schedules accurately match rider demand, schedules are regularly reviewed, evaluated, and revised accordingly to provide customers with the most efficient and effective service possible. NYCT will continue to monitor service along the L line to make sure it performs to expectations with the added service. Implementation of the added service will cost $1.7 million annually.
See the full Press Release here: More Trains on the L Line

Which other lines could benefit from CBTC and increased service now, and how's the CBTC project on the (7) train coming along?
  by keithsy
The problem is Transit over does safety like a burnt chicken. The crews are afraid to make their own decisions and THINK! The old-timers would think nothing of walking to a tower when they got no answer on the radio. M/M's used to pull up the handbrake and leave the train. I do not like this OPTO or anything this agency does because it is never done right and employees are not allowed to think, then do. As for CBTC, what makes you think there will be faster service? They are afraid to run fast trains. Knowing Transit, that CBTC is done to Transit's antiquated standards to placate and appease the Union, Management's ego and the riding public.