Subway FAQ: A Day in the Life of a Transit Worker

From nycsubway.org

A Day In the Life of ...

A Shop Superintendant

By Train Dude

What is it like to run a New York City Transit Maintenance Facility? I suppose that if I had to give a short answer to that question, it could be summed up in four words.

Every day is Monday.

Each day is a continuation of the last and at the same time each day starts anew with its own problems.

In the New York City Transit System, there are thirteen maintenance shops (not including overhaul and diesel facilities). Each one operates in a particular way, tailored to its surroundings. For example, most provide trains 24/7, while others put their railroad to bed at night. Some manage their own fleets, while others need to support the fleets of other shops. However, despite their differences, all thirteen facilities are driven by the same goals and priorities. To run a maintenance facility, one must be constantly pushing to meet those goals while managing the fragile balance within the facility.

The managerial structure of a maintenance facility depends on its size and is not uniform but can be represented by this:

  • General Superintendent: May be responsible one to as many as four maintenance shops. Oversees the fleet performance and other general business.
  • Shop Superintendent: Responsible for the day to day operation of the maintenance shop. Some shops (Coney Island & Jamaica have two Shop Supts.
  • Deputy Superintendent of Inspections: Responsible for the timely scheduling of inspections and proper performance of the inspection teams.
  • Deputy Superintendent of Car Repairs: Responsible for the overall maintenance of the fleet, performing running repairs, modifications, pre-service inspections, etc. He's also responsible for insuring full service on a daily basis.
  • Deputy Superintendent of Facilities & Car Appearance: Responsible for the maintenance of the facility, improvements to it and the interior and exterior appearance of the fleet.

Some (three) shops also have a deputy superintendent for night operations. However, as I said, regardless of its size or particular structure, all shops are driven by the same set of goals and priorities. When you manage a maintenance facility, every day revolves around meeting those goals. Whatever that goal may be, be it MDBF, employee availability or overtime control, there is no "almost". Either you make the goal or you fail. Your successes and failures are reflected in your performance review, and ultimately in your salary.

The day usually begins around 6:30 AM when I arrive at my facility. By that time, I've already called my shop to insure that we have full service (our primary function) and to find out what I'll be walking in to that morning. I've also usually called something called "Emergency Response" or "Train Trouble Control". They'll fill me in on all of the significant events that occurred overnight. By 6:30 AM, I pretty much know which way the day is going to go.

In a maintenance facility, the Car Desk is the nerve center for the shop's operation. The supervisor monitors the computer for reported delays to service. Every shop's fortunes rise and fall with their MDBF numbers. The first step in maintaining a high MDBF is the prompt and proper handling of all train trouble incidents. Because train trouble incidents may involve mechanical failure, early failures after inspection, vandalism or injury, all managers are equally involved in monitoring the "Train Trouble" screen on the computer.

Of course, everyone wants their reports. By 8:00AM the phone is ringing with people from downtown looking for every report imaginable from modification progress reports, probation reports, weekly reports, monthly reports, car wash reports, graffiti reports. You name it and we have a report for it.

We've yet to cover the most important aspect of any maintenance facility: the people. Every goal we have is met because of the performance of hourly employees. Several goals are directly tied to the employee in general. These goals include:

  • Employee Availability: How many days each year employees come to work. This also involves monitoring of Sick Leave and the use of discipline to modify behavior where necessary.
  • Accident Prevention: Includes routine safety meetings, safety "Walk-Arounds" with the union, analysis of all accidents to correct performance problems and/or unsafe conditions.

At the same time, our workforce is a diverse one. A shop population can be anywhere from 100 to 500 employees. They may not all speak the same language or like the same foods. They are men and women of all ages. Some may smoke and others don't. A very large part of any day is devoted to managing the "P" (people) problems. These problems may be as simple as too many people waiting to use the microwave in the lunchroom at the same time or as complicated as same-sex sexual harassment. The "P" problems and the documentation required when handling them can occupy nearly one half of your day.

Back to maintenance, by noon we've already determined that we have enough trains for PM service. We're inspecting them and we're cleaning them. At the same time we're also performing required modifications. We're also looking ahead to the next days needs. Our truck driver has been out since 7AM, picking up parts we need that won't be delivered via normal channels, in time to get cars repaired for service. He may be beeped several times during the day and be re-directed as our material needs change. Maintenance is a fluid situation and we must be prepared to change directions to maintain our fleet to provide full service.

By 3:00 PM, the day is winding down -- not! The PM tour reports between 3:00 and 4:00. They must be met with to keep them in the loop. There are "C" problems and "P" problems on all tours that must be dealt. Of course, since the day starts later at Jay St., it goes without saying that at 4:00 PM, some analyst realized that he needs some information immediately. The typical day ends around 5:00 PM. Of course, I have not mentioned the unusual occurrences, the derailments, the collisions, the employee injuries. The things that, thankfully, are rare but do happen and must be dealt with. Even in the case of a derailment or collision, the routine shop operation must be maintained to the extent possible.

As I said at the outset, every day is Monday. As you can see, a maintenance shop operation is continuous with no real beginning or end but just a precious few lulls between the frenzied periods of activity. There is no regular routine. Each day brings a week's worth of maintenance problems, logistical problems and people problems. The problems may be a rash of brake system failures, excessive vandalism, extra trains needed for the playoffs, a flooded bathroom, no heat in the shop, or one employee whose paycheck is missing. Every problem must be dealt with effectively if the shop is going to remain on a straight, smooth course. No two days are alike, but that's what keeps things interesting.

There is one thing that continually fascinates me. On mornings when I come in very early, I'll sometimes stand at the front of the shop and watch the trains leaving the yard. With the floodlights or sunlight reflecting off of the stainless steel, it's amazing to see my trains leaving, one right after the other, on time, in good shape and I think to myself how well we actually do what we do.

A Train Operator

By Alex LaBianca

Wednesday 0445 Van Cortlandt Crew Reporting Center -- It never fails; today I work from 5AM to 1PM, tomorrow, my Friday (I'm off Friday & Saturday), I report at 1032 at Mott for a GO job on the 5.

Thursday 0700 -- Time to get up. Weatherman says it will be hot and sunny, so the train will be an oven. Take a shower, wake up my daughter, get dressed, give her breakfast and make sure both our bags are packed.

0850 -- Arrive at the Ferry Terminal at St. George. Grab a couple of bagels, a Coke and M&M Peanuts - food to eat while operating a train.

0900 -- Half an hour to relax on board the ferry (the Newhouse - one of the two biggest boats in the world - 6000+ passengers and crew). Of course relaxing here means ignoring the snide comments about service and TA workers when they see the MTA on my sleeve.

0931 -- Bowling Green - Got here just in time to step onto a

  1. 4. 30 scheduled minutes to Mott so I'll be a half-hour early. the

next ferry would have got me here in another half-hour, but then I would have been late and here in the TA early is much better than late.

How hard today's job will be depends on the dispatcher. I've worked this job twice before - once with the regular dispatcher and once with his vacation relief. The VR guy runs the supplement as written, which means two trips from Mott to the Green, while the regular guy runs an amended supplement, which is also two trips to the Green, but the second one ending at Dyre.

1010 -- Mott Ave Tower - The regular dispatcher is back from vacation - guess I'm going to Dyre. Sign on the payroll, get a new radio battery, say hi to everyone I know (two Dispatchers, a TSS, a Tower Op and various TOs and CRs) and copy down the schedule. Bathroom break, then grab everything I need out of my bag - belt with my handles, keys, and radio, safety glasses, earmuffs and door check - and my CR and head down to the platform.

1049 -- Here comes the train - a rusting redbird that thinks it's going to Flatbush (the switchman could've changed the signs, but nooooo). Bag under the seat, throw reverser and charge up train; while it's charging, change the bulkhead sign and side signs, lean out window to punch for Lexington Ave, place door check so I get some air, tell the CR to close down, do my standing brake tests. Indication comes in, followed by two buzzes from the CR; X14L is red over green and we are out of here. Sensitive rolling test in the curve to the Lex tracks - no handbrakes on, train rolls free. All timers into 138 St, so the dynamics test will just have to wait til I leave there.

1056 -- 125 St - Usually, we get held to make a connection with an incoming 6, but not today. Put it in series (10MPH leaving this station) and the train heads to the .. right. Wrong. "Grand Tower, why is the 1050 Mott going down the local?" No answer - par for the course. Have already bypassed 116 St (express on the local runs express unless told otherwise), when Control comes on the air - "Attention all 4, 5 & 6 crews. Due to a broken rail north of Grand Central, all Southbound express trains are being re-routed via the local track from 125 to Grand Central. All express trains are to make ALL local stops to 42St." Stop at 110 St, inform customers and make sure the CR understood.

110 St - 51 St -- Moving OK so far - we were the one of the first re-routed, so we're ahead of most of the congestion. The station dwell time is killing us, though. Apparanetly, no one has ever seen a 5 train running on the local track, so they can't decide what to do - get on or wait. Most just settle for standing in the doorways.

North of Grand Central Interlocking -- The homeball is red over red. The tower has been telling trains to punch for their correct line-up. "Train at X??, please punch for your track. Do you see the box?" "Grand Tower, the 1050 Mott sees the box, just can't reach it." Miraculously, the signal changes to green over yellow, allowing me to enter on the express track. Now we hear it from all the local passengers who have to change for a local to get where they are going.

14 St -- After a nice fast run from 42 St, there's one timer North of the station to slow you down, then a 20 MPH restriction entering the station. This is one of the two hardest stations to stop in - there's a leeway of about 2 feet. Miss it and the gap fillers don't come out (and you'll never hear the end of it). When it's time to go, go slow. There is a red signal that works with the gap fillers - it doesn't clear until they are fully retracted. Once it clears, wrap it up. Just don't forget about the upcoming timers from Bleeker to Canal.

1131 -- Bowling Green - Make the stop and punch for B Loop (the inner loop). Check that my car is empty of passengers - the loop is supposed to be non-revenue track, so no one is allowed to ride around it. Nevins Tower finally gives me my bottom yellow on 44 Ball, so into the loop we go. While we are held in the loop to let a 4 go by, I change the bulkhead sign again to read 149 St - Grand Concourse - not our last stop, but close enough.

Bowling Green NB -- The dispatcher says we will be an 1137 Extra out of Bowling Green. The trip uptown is quiet - No delays, no gap fillers, less timers (entering Fulton St, entering Grand Central, N of 86 St, entering 125 St and the curve into Mott). Miss a transfer with a 6 at Grand Central, 125 St is crowded (remember to punch Jerome/White Plains), 138 St is empty (punch White Plains for lower level at Mott), skeletonized track in the curve to Mott (no more than 10 MPH - now if only I had a speedometer). Make SURE that a switchman gets on at Mott, otherwise I have to relay this thing myself.

1211 -- 3rd Ave - Last stop. Help the platform people empty out the train (If anyone comes into the relay, it's my fault), then head outside to the middle track South of Jackson Ave to the 10 car marker. Dump the train and wait until the switchman starts charging it from the other end. Lock the cab and go meet my CR in the middle.

1220 -- Arrive back at Mott on the southbound track. Now it's lunch time. McDonald's. Not much else around here. Need to be back by 1400.

1410 -- They were just getting ready to run regular with the downtown express service when a 4 train decided to lay down over the switches north of Grand Central. Now they can't run anything. As a result I'll be heading down Seventh Ave with a 5 train (at least I know this side of town better).

1415 -- At least this time the switchman changed the bulkhead sign to read Bowling Green. Unfortunately, I've got to move it to Special, since I really don't know where I'll be going. He also punched for Lex Ave, so I have to clear the route request and punch for 7 Ave. Green over red comes in and we go out.

Approaching 142 St Junction-- Lenox Tower knows we're coming. However, they've got a 3 to get out in place, so I'm waiting on an upgrade for the signals to clear. With a 3 right in front of me, the signals will be on time right into 135 St and the passenger load should be kind of light.

1426 -- Leaving 110 St - Lenox was easy - no one holding the doors, no one trying to get on after the doors were closed (happened to me when I was a CR, here at 110. That's how the monitors finally grew there). The floor of the tunnel along Lenox Ave still looks like a river - I figure in another 10-15 years we'll do the Invert Project again. 15 MPH out of the station until the switches, then wrap it up 'til the next curve, coast around the curve, then two points past all the timers. When the last one clears, wrap it up again and come into 96 St.

1429 -- No timers between here and 72 St; just wrap it up and hold it to about one car lenght before 72 St (gets up to about 42MPH), knock it off, grab about 30# of brake and stop with the 10 car marker in my window (Note to Todd Glickman: you were right, it just takes some practice to get rid of those lurchy stops) (Note to everyone else: Todd rode my train the first time I had a redbird to myself - the stop at 72 St was pretty nasty).

Opposite 50 St -- Another one of those fast spots : just as you get into the low 40's, somebody puts a speed restriction there. This one is 35 plus a warning of the timers coming up just around the curve. Start slowing down, you'll be doing 15 to clear the last one. Times Square is crowded and the holding lights are on as we come in the station. Sure enough, here it comes: "Train on 2 Track, call letters for the tower." "That's the 1416 Mott on 2, Square, looking to go home." "16 Mott, we'll cross you over at Chambers. Discharge at Chambers and run around the loop to the Green." "Copy that Square: express to Chambers, discharge and cross the loop.""You have a good trip and thanks for visiting."

While 5 trains on the West Side are not completely common, the looks as I pull into some of these stations would make you think I just landed an SST at MacArthur Airport: some are completely bewildered, while others come running up to tell me that either a.- I have the wrong signs on the train or b. - I'm lost. If I'm getting this up here I can just imagine what my CR is getting back in the middle. At 14 St, a 1 pulls up across the platform and even he asks if I'm lost. He doesn't know it yet, but he'll get his: he'll have to wait while I discharge at Chambers and then deal with all the upset people I leave behind.

Timers from Franklin into Chambers, except this time I get to miss the last three because 30 Ball is already set to cross me over to 1 Track.

1446 -- Chambers St - The CR has been saying 'Chambers St will be the last stop' since Times Sq. It seems that no one has heard him until now. Possibly their hearing works now because I'm flashing the lights on and off. Take my reverser, lock the cab and start walking back to empty out the train. New Yorkers are always at their most pleasant when being asked to leave a train, so you can imagine the abuse I'm subject to here. Get to the middle, close the doors and walk back up, only to find someone on the train. They just don't get it! "But I just came down the stairs and ran onto the train!" "Sir, didn't you think it a little odd that the train was empty and the platform was really crowded?" "NO, a**hole!" And the riding public thinks WE have an attitude problem - they should meet themselves some day. Key the idiot off the train, but only because I want to go home tonight.

Call Times Sq to let them know I'm leaving Chambers and to have Nevins Tower give me the line-up at the Ferry. Throw my reverser forward, make sure my CR is on the train and leave all the happy, cheerful people behind.

1455 -- Bypassing South Ferry - The confusion - a redbird at the Ferry, a train that doesn't stop just as the 2:30 Staten Island Ferry empties out. Luckily, 92 Ball is set with a bottom Yellow, so I don't need to stop and wait for a line-up. Cross over the switch to the inner loop track and pull into Bowling Green at 1500. All that grief and I'm still on time.

Fulton St -- Someday I'd like to find out why a timer was installed in the middle of this station. Right now, it isn't too bad, but during the rush hours, it just seems that someone is going to fall in front of the train waiting for it to creep in.

1516 -- Left Grand Central, rounded the curve, topped the hill and found a line of red automatics. I can see the rear end of a redbird, signed as a 4, sitting at 59 St. The signals clear on station time, letting me pull to within a car lenght of the train ahead (Can't you just hear the guy in the window - "He's gonna hit him." Oh, for a nice transverse cab.). The radio has been quiet, but I hate sitting in ignorance. "Grand Tower, are we having a problem on 3 track? The 1502 Green is looking at a line of red signals." All of a sudden the radio comes alive. "Control, come into the 1438 Atlantic CR" "1438 Atlantic, what's your location and problem?" "Control, the 1438 Atlantic is at 59 St with a half car out of the station." "38 Atl, were you leaving the station?" "No Control, the TO overran the platform." Great. A simple problem that no one really needed to know about has just become a major disaster. These guys should have had this cleared up - or at least on the air - long before I got here. " Ladies and Gentlemen, due to a train with mechanical problems ahead of us, we are being delayed here. We are sorry for the delay and ask that you please be patient."

"Grand Tower, due to a station overrun at 59 St, we need to re-route express service. Is there anything behind the 38 Atlantic?" "There's two commited to the express. We can re-route starting with the 1522 Bowling Green." "38 Atlantic TO come into Control." "Control, the brakes failed coming into the station." "38 Atlantic, discharge that train.""Control, the 22 Green is going up the local track."

1535 -- Still waiting. "38 Atlantic, are you moving yet?" No response. Control repeats the question, but still no answer. The train starts moving out. When it has cleared the station and I can proceed, I call in," Control the 38 Atlantic is on the move. This is the 1502 Green, coming into 59 St." "Thanks 02. Be careful entering the station."

1538 -- Finally on the move out of 59 St. This will be a fun ride up.

1547 -- Arrive at 125 St. Sitting on the local track is a 5 train. In front of me is a red over red on 430 ball. They're going to send the 22 Green out ahead of me. Unbelievable.

1600 -- I'm supposed to arrive at Dyre in 5 minutes. I'm only at Mott. After they let the 22 out of 125, I got held in the Mott Ave approach for a 2 train. I'll be following him up to the East. As luck would have it, he turns out to be a slow 2 train. The signals pretty much keep me one station behind him all the way up to East 180 St.

1620 -- "East Tower, this is the 1502 Green to Dyre leaving E. Tremont."

1622 -- The tower must have heard me, because the line-up is already set on X12R (one less punch to hit). The trip is almost done - only another 11 minutes (knock wood).

Approaching Dyre Ave -- "Dyre, your next arrival is the 1502 Green." "1502 Green, where did you lose your time?" "We were stuck behind a 4 that went out of service at 59 St and a slow moving deuce." I don't believe these idiots actually asked me that.

1633 -- Dump the train, get my stuff together, head up to the dispatcher's office, gathering my CR along the way. The Dispatcher actually apologizes for the silly question - she says that no one told them about the problem with the 4 at 59 St and since the 22 showed up on time, she wasn't going to worry about me; figured that eventually someone would let her know what happened. Say goodnight and get on the next departure. If luck is with me - and I haven't had much of it today - I'll make the 5:45 Ferry just barely. Now for a nice relaxing ride home - chatting with my CR, comparing stories, hearing about his version of today and being able to laugh at it all while the other passengers sit there, trying to look like they're not listening.

1720 -- 59 St - We're being held here. Whilee those around me just start complaining, I'm trying to listen to the TO's radio. All I can hear is "...smoke...59 St...". Step onto the platform - everyone is mobbing the CR for info; I just ask the TO who says there is a smoke condition upstairs on the local south of 59 St. he then advises me not to wait if I can go some other way - there is also a smoke condition at Borough Hall and no one knows how long that will interfere with service ( you all remember this day now? That 'condition' took several hours to fix.) Head on upstairs to take the N/R down to Whitehall, but keep getting stopped to be asked how long the train will be sitting there. My response of 'I don't know' just elicits more nasty responses about stupid TA workers ( I knew I should've taken off my uniform shirt). Upstairs, it seems the N & R have just gotten over their own delays. By the time I finally make to Whitehall, I just miss the 6:00PM boat - the next one's in 15 minutes.

1845 -- St George Ferry Terminal - Waiting for the boat to dock, I counted out $1.50 in change, just in case. For those of you paying attention to the time, I theoretically left Mott 13 minutes ago and can't possibly be here now. As a result, I can't swipe my pass to get on the bus ( the TA can track these things, if they want. I'd rather not have to explain how I pulled off this trick). With any kind of luck ( I know, why bother wishing for the impossible?) the Bus Operator will accept a view of my pass while I'm in uniform. If he won't, I have to pay.

And there goes the buck fifty.

1900 -- Another day done. I make it home just in time for Jeopardy and the eternal what's-for-dinner debate. Now I can look forward to two days off.

A Train Conductor

By Alex LaBianca

0430: The start of another day. Shower, shave, get dressed, grab the bag and get out of the house. Get in the car and hope there're no problems on the road this morning - it's a 45 minute drive from Staten Island to Van Cortlandt and I've only got an hour before I sign in.

0634: Made it with 5 minutes to spare. Sign onto the payroll - black ink only - get my TO's name, copy down the schedule for the job (Damn, its got a put-in. There goes all my free time) and get a new battery for the radio and then head out to the yard.

VC - SFSF - ChamCham - VC
0804 - 08570859 - 09040905 - 0952
1010 - 11051109 - 11141116 - 1204
1241 - 13351339 - 13441346 - 1434
Reports at 0639Clears at 1434Works 7h55m Pays 8h

The train is on 14 Track and like most put-ins from 240th Yard needs to be signed as a 9. Unfortunately, it seems to be a 1. Since I don't like crossing the tracks on the structure (240th is an elevated yard and the only one not built on a platform - you can see the parking lot below) I'll walk through the barn to the back of the yard and get on from there. Sure enough, the train IS signed as a 1 - climb on, open the bulkhead panel and change the sign to a 9. Then -- check all the breakers in the cab are on, change the two side signs, watch for graffitti and litter, check the breakers in the other cab, repeat for all 10 cars. Finally meet my TO and chat a little (he's just out of school car. Yippee!), then head back to the middle, pop open all the doors, check the IC & PA and walk to the rear to see that the doors are open. When I get to the back, I tell the TO to close the doors when he gets to the middle. Now we sit and wait until it's time to go. This first trip will be the hardest because of rush hour.

0750: We finally start to move down to our "pre-departure" spot - North of 238 St on the lead. A 1 passes, then a 9 and another 1, then us for an 0804 out of 231 St.

"This is _______. The next stop on this 9 to South Ferry is ________. Stand clear of the closing doors, please." The CR mantra - know it well. On the 1, you say it 37 times each way. So far, the platforms are crowded but everyone is getting on without a problem.

168 St.: Doors being held for the "imaginary" travelling companion. No one to be seen, but everyone can hear, "Hold the f***ing doors, a**hole", so someone feels obligated to do so.

137 St.: Always crowded in the morning, mostly kids going to school, making this one of the worst stations along the line (people spit, throw things, try to hit you and these columns let them hide).

125 St./103 St.; Crowded for the first trip and a great place to lose time from the door holders.

96 St.: First transfer across the platform. Lots get off, lots get on and the entrances are at either end of the station where I can just barely see. Schedule says 24 from VC, my watch says 26; might make it up by the Ferry, but just to cover ourselves, "Control, this is the 0804 from 231, reporting heavy ridership 137 - 96."

86 St./72 St.: More people getting on and holding the doors. Break the rules and use the "Veg-o-matic" routine to get the doors shut.

66 St.: First of five stops in a row where more people get off than on. 2 high schools, Juilliard, Fordham, Lincoln Center. The only time it gets worse than this is when the matinees get out at Lincoln Center.

59 St.: Big transfer point, all up in the front. Luckily, the monitors help. A little.

50 St.: Everyone off - or at least that's what it seems like.

42 St.: What a mess! Construction has cut down on standing room, but not on the crowds. Times Sq. Mainline is looking for our lost time; the TO answers while I try to close down. That one staircase at the north end of the station is a pain. Finally get the doors closed when TSM gives us a skip. As we pull out, make the announcement, " Ladies and gentlemen, due to a schedule adjustment, this train will be making express stops. After 34 St, the next stop will be 14 followed by Houston and Chambers. The next train will make all stops."

Open the doors at 34 St, repeat the announcement a couple of times, tell the whining door-holder from 137 he's the reason for this happening (a TA no-no, but it works - now everyone's pissed at him, not me), shut the doors and get out of there. Repeat same basic message at 14 St and Houston.

Chambers St.: The last big influx. The folk in the back go to the WTC and those in the front go to the Ferry. Start making the move to the first five cars for South Ferry announcement. And again after Cortlandt and Rector.

South Ferry: Amazing how many people are still in the back - mostly tourists (who occasionally admit that they don't know where the front of the train is). The 5 finally lights up, so I can open only the front section doors. It's 0858 - the Staten Island ferry has just arrived and is scheduled to depart at 0900. This makes for a nightmare -- people on the train run up the single exit to catch the boat (next one is in 15 minutes) while people on the ferry run down the same staircase to catch the train (next one is in 5 minutes). Thankfully this is the only arrival like this today; my next two trips get here 5 minutes after the ferry leaves.

From Chambers St Northbound we make our scheduled 0905. It's a fairly uneventful trip: good morning to the newsstand guy at Franklin; Times Sq is still a zoo as is 59 St; skeletonized track at 72 St means we come in at 10MPH - the riders think we do it on purpose so that they miss the express, but if we came in faster and the rails spread, they would probably complain even more.

96 St.: Last transfer from the express, so the platform is crowded and the silly questioners are here - "Does this stop at 125 St?" "125 St and where?" "I don't know, they said take the red line to 125 St." "Okay. Get on."

125 St.: You guessed it, didn't you? The silly one wanted 125 St and Lenox (he knew it was supposed to be inside, not way over Manhattan Valley), so I have to withstand a barrage of curses while I close down.

137 St.: Skip-stop uptown (Why?). While I say next stop 145 followed by 168, they keep asking will it stop at 145 or 157. Invariably, someone gets on who shouldn't.

191 St.: "Next stop 207 St, followed by 225 and 231. for Dyckman and 215 wait here for a 1."

231 St.: A long buzz from the TO. that means that VC is backed up and we're gonna sit here for a while. It also means my time at VC is getting shorter.

Van Cortlandt: We finally arrive 6 minutes late. As a result I've got just enough time to get upstairs, hit the bathroom, go back down and do it all again. It's not 'til I'm down on the platform that I find the crews are one behind, which means I make a 15 instead of a 10 (and that my lunch just shrunk by 5 minutes).

1015: Two buzzes to the TO and off we go. Track crews on the structure hold us up some, but we can make up the time further down at the mostly empty stations - open, announce, close, leave. 42 St - TSM is holding us to time - we made up our earlier losses and then some.

34 St.: A genius! This fool wearing a white linen suit tried to hold open the doors with his coffee cup. Apparently, the doors are stronger than the cup - it exploded and he's wearing his coffe now. As I go past him, I laugh ( I know, he doesn't think it's funny, but really, a PAPER cup to hold the doors?).

Lots more tourists getting on, so I start making the South Ferry announcement from 14 St. Not that it will make any difference. We're held at Chambers St for a connection, so I tell them again to move forward. It's great fun watching them pop out to see where they are, then jumping forward (or back - they really DON'T know from the front of the train).

South Ferry: We're here on time (1110), which gives everyone 4 minutes to get off the train. 1114 - Close down, give the TO his indication, start moving into the tunnel CHOW The train goes into emergency! Kiss lunch goodbye. Check with TO that he didn't do it. Leave him to call Control while I walk to the back to find the cord-puller (it's South Ferry in tourist season - it has to be a cord in the last car). Sure enough, there's a group of people in the ninth car that pulled the cord as they passed the station. While I reset the cord, I explain to them the concept of an EMERGENCY and that missing their stop is not one. Head back to my position and give the TO two long buzzes so we can get out of here. Elapsed time: about 5 minutes. Inform Control of what happened and how the problem was overcome.

1116: Leave Chambers St to head back uptown. The first wiseass is going to get his head handed to him.

1214: Arrive at VC. The only hitch coming up was at 42 St. Seems nobody told TSM about our BIE, so they wanted to know where we lost our time. 27 minutes before we leave again - run downstairs, grab a slice and a Coke, run upstairs, stuff my face, use the john and head back to the platform.

1241: Time for the last trip. Let's see if it can be done without any problems.

181 St.: To illustrate the concept of timing, Control informs us that the elevators here are "temporarily out of service, bypass 181 St" right after I open the doors.

1335: Made it down to the Ferry without a problem - amazing, considering the day so far. The TO is pretty good - fast out of the stations, not bothered by the BIE - for someone 3 days out of school car.

1350: Spoke too soon. We came into Houston St, I'm ready to point at the board and it just kept going. When the train stopped, the board was two cars behind me. (I need this?) No long buzz from the TO, no response over the IC either. Oh well! Pull the cord in my cab. Call Control and inform them that the 1346 Chambers overran the station at Houston St. Open the rear section. Control says to discharge the train and pick up a TSS enroute. Key open doors in the front section that are on the platform. The TO is very apologetic. Says the brakes let go and the train shot out of the station. When he stopped in the tunnel, he froze, figuring he had just lost the job.

42 St.: Pick up a TSS. Luckily, he's one of the better ones - more inclined to be helpful instead of writing people up at the drop of a hat. He operates while he interviews first the TO then me. Deciding our stories are close enough that we're telling the truth, and that we both acted correctly (remember, we had a few minutes to get our act together before he showed up. Of course I pulled the cord as soon as the board passed me), he gives the train back to the TO and tells us to write our G2s and send them to the Line Superintendent. We are now "the original 1346 Chambers, running light."

Van Cortlandt: We get in right behind the 1341 Chambers. Write our G2s, hand them to the ATD, put in for the overtime (an hour for writing a G2; we only get 55 minutes because of the 5 minutes boost time built into the job) and leave.

Walk back to the Yard, get into the car and head home - another day done, but is the grief really worth the money? The Deegan is crowded, the approach to the GWB is crowded and I know that Exit 12 from the Turnpike will be a mess, so I take 14A to the Bayonne Bridge and back to Staten Island. Step into the house 12 hours after I left. Pick up my daughter from day camp. Dinner. TV (CatDog, Jeopardy and Rugrats - even she knows the drill). Browse SubTalk for a while and then go to bed myself. Tomorrow it's up at 4:00AM to go to White Plains. Redbirds in the summer. Yech!

A Station Agent

By Peggy Darlington

Here is a day in the life of a station agent. Some details have been changed for security concerns.

I arrive at the booth and identify myself to the satisfaction of the person(s) already in the booth. I test the alarm system and take the token pail, turnstile keys and portable alarm transmitter and empty the turnstiles. In transit talk this is called "pulling the wheels". I then return to the booth and count the tokens using a counter ("run the tokens"). I set the bag of tokens aside and check the previous agent's paperwork to see how much money, tokens, and MetroCards should be in the booth.

I then count the $15, $6, $17 and $63 MetroCards and tokens to make sure they are all present. I count the money to see that it is all there. I might be over; if so, it is farecard money. A check of the computer will show the farecard money; if it is the same, good! I insert my card into the computer and sign on.

Next we check the keys; all there? Good! Lastly, we sign the paperwork and watch the money being deposited into a locked safe. The previous shift is now done for the day and they will go home.

I now settle back for the night. I start my own paperwork and sell tokens and cards. A customer runs up to the booth, saying "someone fell down the stairs, call the police." We hit the alarm and call the police. The police arrive and call EMS. We get badge numbers from police and EMS and ask EMS where the person is going (which hospital). Supervisor arrives and we write a statement reporting the events.

Tonight, a General Order (scheduled service disruption/reroute) is in effect, so we tape off the platform and announce there is no uptown service. "Excuse me- where is the uptown train." We explain the choices and they ask where they can call to complain. We tell them we understand. Some understand and some just gripe!

Later, another customer tells us "there's a track fire", so we hit the alarm again. Police and fire come and we take down the badge numbers and FDNY battalion numbers.

The Supervisor calls and asks for number of cards, tokens, senior citizen tickets, disabled tickerts, etc.

While on the phone a train goes BIE (Brakes in Emergency) in the station and customers start pouring into the mezzanine asking for refunds. Out come the block tickets and start shoving them through the slot. After the crisis is over we call the field office and tell them how many we issued.

We then settle down again for what we hope will be a quiet rest of the night and there are three or four people at the door to the booth. Revenue is delivering tokens and MetroCards and empties the safe. We have to stop waiting on customers and deal with Revenue.

Revenue leaves and we return to the booth and customers decide they won't pay. "Pay your fare" we respond and the cops will bring the suspect to the booth and make them pay or eject the violator or possibly arrest them. We challenge customers disobeying the rules such as "No bike riding on the platform" and the police will take action when they are on the station.

Peace at last? No. The supervisor decides to do a random booth audit and verifies that we are on the up and up.

We pass the audit and finally it is time to do our end of the shift (end of tour) paperwork. We count the money for our deposit and seal the bag. We then count the money in the booth ("The Board") and continue to sell until our relief comes. A customer steps up to the booth- they show a pass. Glory--it is our relif and we can go home after they check us out!

Wait!! More block tickets. A police action at another station has no trains at my station and the customers start streaming towards the booth.

Our cleaner comes to the booth. We have a flood on part of the station. Again we hit the alarm. Meanwhile an impatient customer screams because we did not give them their tokens or MetroCard yet; and yes, they pay with all dimes and nickels or $17 in singles and gripe when we count their money. Finally our funds check, we sign off the computer and we go home--guess what: someone falls on the tile floor and we go back to the booth. "A customer fell..." Supervisor comes and again we give statements. Or "Excuse me- How do I get to the Airport?" I tell them "Take the downtown A train..." and they respond with "What do you mean take the downtown A train--I want to go to the airport." You explain and finally they see the light or they cuss you and walk away.

A Surface Line Dispatcher

By Fernando Perez

In the New York City Transit Department of Busses the duties and responsibilities of surface line dispatchers are varied and extensive. From working inside depots as a crew dispatcher ensuring all work is filled, to working the yard making sure all pullouts are on schedule and timely, to working 19A making sure bus operators are in compliance with New York State driving laws we are an important facet to the operation.

In 1995 a separate division was created known as Road Control. Each Borough has a Road control division responsible for timely operation of buses, accident investigation, investigating customer complaints and operator compliance to rules and regulations of NYC transit Department of buses. The road control dispatcher is the most visible of all dispatchers usually being seen by the public booking buses in a tally book or riding around in a patrol car.

The majority of posts in Manhattan are two man posts split in two shifts. 7AM-3PM and 3PM-11PM. When I report for work at my post, at 146 St. and Lenox Av. I first find the dispatcher I am going to relief and check with him as to how the road is running. Are there any open runs, diversions or blockages, late swings(lunch periods given to bus operators), etc. Then I call in on my radio to East New York command center to sign on. From 3 PM to about 7 PM is the afternoon rush, the busiest time of my day. This is where I must ensure on time performance of buses and regular service. I am empowered by NYC transit to do what I feel to attain those goals.

From sending a bus dark (not in service), to giving a short sign (turning a bus short from its scheduled destination) to even pushing a bus up (having the operator run ahead of schedule) I will have to try my best not to inconvenience the public and still run a good scheduled service for them. A big responsibility when you think of how unforgiving Manhattan traffic is!

About 8PM I take my meal and catch up on any paper work including my day sheet that describes all the actions I took on my post that day and any major gaps in service. (A gap is a scheduled headway plus 15 minutes). After 9PM my day slows down and I can give operator's safety tips for safe operation of their bus and check for uniform compliance by checking for badges, neckties being properly worn properly and reinstructing any operators who are in non-compliance.

The best time then arrives which is 11 PM when I call in to command to sign out, and call in any adjustments I made for the evening and then I return the radio to the depot to its charger and it's another day over with. A time to review in my mind if I made good decisions and where I can improve for the next day's service.

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