The MTA's largest union, TWU Local 100, will be operating without a new contract for a full year Wednesday and it looks like it is ready to play ball again. On the same day as former MTA CEO Joe Lhota announced he was officially running for mayor, the Daily News reports that TWU asking its train conductors to slow down. But for safety, of course.
Last Friday TWU Local 100 reportedly sent a handout telling motormen to slow down to roughly 10 MPH when entering stations while blowing horns so as to prevent hitting anyone who might be on the tracks. It did not go over well. Immediately after the handouts were put up, Christopher Johnson, vice president of Labor Relations in the NYC Transit division, reportedly "ordered union officials to 'cease posting these unauthorized notices,' warning they may be breaking the law." Slowdowns can be considered a job action, which in this case would be illegal.
This "slowdown" push—which the MTA brass says there is no actual evidence of—is not the first for the Union (which isn't really itching to strike after what happened last time). In fact, just last year TWU put up similar handouts just as contract negotiations began (a contract which reportedly includes better vacation for those who witness accidents). The difference is that after so many highly publicized subway deaths suddenly some New Yorkers (at least in our comments) seem okay with the idea of slower trains entering stations (or at least sliding doors). This even though the rough annual average of people hit by a subway, 140, has been steady for awhile. The idea of that many people being hit, with about a third of them dying, is quite disturbing. Sadly though it still keeps the subway way ahead of most other means of transport when it comes to safety statistics (and the MTA's is numbers are comparable to other major rail systems).
The problem is that those New Yorkers focusing on slowing trains aren't really thinking about the problems slower trains cause. Besides the fact that it slows everything down in the city, it also could make stations even more dangerous. As the MTA's interim president Thomas Prendergast explains, "slowing trains down could lead to other hazards. There would be longer gaps between trains and even more intense crowding on platforms. Dangers include riders falling between the side of a train and the platform."
So is the slowdown real? While the MTA insists it has "not seen any evidence" of a slowdown TWU's president says that "Train operators are beginning to exercise more caution going into the train stations. I think they are beginning to proceed into stations at a more cautious speed." Something to look forward to on the way home tonight?