If you’ve ever been on the subway in New York City, you know it can be a frustrating, overwhelming experience. It’s crowded, and hot, and the trains never seem to run on time. In fact, a recent study determined that, in July, 72,000 subway trains ran late. That’s a hefty 32 percent of all subway trains on the system.
Who’s to blame?
The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority says the subway riders themselves are one of the causes for the many delays. The apparent problem is that riders aren’t letting the trains leave on time. If passengers are rushing to the train and the doors are closing, they don’t wait politely for the next train. Instead, they shove their backpack or arm or leg into the gap, prevent the train doors from closing, and then when the doors open as a result they elbow their way into the already crowded cars.
In short, one of the problems is that . . . well, the vast majority of the NYC subway riders are pushy New Yorkers. They’ve been conditioned through years of experience to behave in precisely that way in public places, whether it’s in the subway or ignoring “Don’t Walk” signs and dodging traffic on gridlocked Manhattan streets or cutting in line and getting into arguments about it. And their pushy New Yorker conduct inevitably delays the trains, contributing to the crappy statistics for trains running on time.
The MTA is trying to deal with the problem by having train operators be less tolerant of the arm in the door practice and by having people in the stations as observers, in hopes that riders under the watchful eye of the MTA will behave more appropriately. A platform controller quoted in the article linked above says, however, that even with the watchers, more courteous rider behavior “is not really catching on.”
Who’d have predicted that New Yorkers would continue to act like New Yorkers? If the MTA really wants to have the trains run on time, it had better come up with a better solution than hoping that New Yorkers act politely in anonymous public places.