Subway Bandit Can't Stop, Won't Stop Pulling Emergency Brake At Rush Hour

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WHO DID THIS?? Jason Andra's Flickr

A stealthy subway brake bandit has bedeviled the MTA with an insidious game of cat and mouse: He sneaks onto subway cars and pulls the emergency brake at rush hour, grinding whole lines to a screeching halt and sowing delays throughout the transit system before disappearing into the darkness.

What kind of a monster would deliberately disrupt what the MTA estimates as "thousands of commutes," many of them on their way home after a long day of content creation or something admirable, by trapping them inside airless cars and causing them to claw at the windows like a bunch of caged rats? As a palpably disgruntled MTA employee described the suspect to Jalopnik's Aaron Gordon, "This is a nutcase who is addicted to fucking with the trains." A real mad man; a bad seed bent on manufacturing chaos and seething frustration; a mundane sort of comic book villain who just wants to watch the world burn or—failing that—just wants to watch you weep into the neighboring stranger's armpit.

This "disgusting and cowardly" (to borrow MTA chairman Pat Foye's parlance) rapscallion has allegedly reserved most of his mischief for the 2 and 3 lines, but has also hit the 4, 5, and 6 over the past few months. He had a particularly fruitful day on April 19th, Gordon reports, having halted (and/or interfered with) traffic at Fulton Street, 14th Street-Union Square, 23rd Street, Grand Central, and further up the line. His strikes came one after another, every incident occurring within minutes of the previous one. His methods are simple, but effective, Jalopnik reports:

The suspect disrupts service primarily on the 2 and 5 lines from Flatbush Avenue in central Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan. He climbs aboard the rear of the train as it departs a station, unlocks the safety chains, somehow gets into the rear cab, and triggers the emergency brakes. Then, he disappears, most likely through the subway tunnels and out an emergency exit.

Whenever someone activates an emergency brake, it sets into motion an exasperating series of events that typically take 5 to 15 minutes to resolve, according to the NY Times. When you pull the emergency cord, "compressed-air brakes" swing into action. The unscheduled stop obligates a conductor to not only let the train traffic controllers know, but in the cases described above, disembark and investigate the situation on the tracks. The train crew also has to reset the braking system before the cars can get rolling again. All told, it's an elaborate production that you should avoid instigating.

According to Gordon's account, the most anyone has ever seen of our "unruly customer" was a "surfer," clad all in black except for white sneakers, clinging to the back of the train or sprinting across the tracks. The authorities (the MTA and the NYPD, to which the case has reportedly been referred) believe the suspect to be young and male, but have no leads. As Foye reportedly explained at an MTA board meeting on Wednesday, they've been reluctant to alert the public to the subway bandit's activity—which he said "may have been happening for years," who knows—for fear of inspiring "copycats."

I myself find this information riveting, not least because of the possible plot twist Foye tossed in at the end: What if all the impromptu stops—all the minutes spent waiting in a stuffy tunnel, without coherent explanation, for a stalled train to lurch to life again—were not the fault of crumbling subway infrastructure, but of a faceless rogue getting in there and tripping the brakes? What if the MTA has nobly guarded this secret all these weeks, months, years, quietly sacrificing its reputation for our own good? What if the real culprit behind all the subway problems was not the transit authority but a fellow straphanger, a traitor in our midst????

Haaaaaa hahahaha nah. Not a goddamn chance.

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