In the wake of this week's awful and well-documented fatal subway shoving many New Yorkers have been wondering what, exactly, they should do if they suddenly were to find themselves lying in the subway tracks. Because not every conductor can stop in time. And sadly, there is no one answer.
Because every station is different the MTA refrains from giving any tips on what to do if you fall off the platform. "What we do say officially is that customers should stand well back from the edge of the platform when waiting for the train," a spokesman tells us. "Also, if a customer drops something onto the tracks they should contact a transit employee who will call personnel to retrieve the item."
And the MTA's advice is sound. But also doesn't really help. Luckily, earlier this year an MTA conductor offered his take on the eternal question during a Reddit AMA. His response?
If, god forbid, I fall onto the tracks or someone I am willing to risk my life for falls into the tracks and is knocked out - and a train is coming (lets say 30sec away) - what should I do? Are those pits between the rails by the platforms made for people to hide in in a worst case scenario?
The best thing you can do is run as far down the platform as you can (in the opposite direction from where the train enters the station) and wave your arms frantically to get the train operator and passenger's attention. Believe me, the passengers WILL be doing the exact same thing, as nobody wants to see you get run over and their train get delayed.
If you can get to the far end of the platform, it gives the train more room to stop, and there is a ladder at the end of each platform where you can climb back up -- do NOT try to climb up from where you are. So many people have been killed trying to jump back up rather than getting away from the entrance end of the station.
Do NOT trust the pits between the tracks --- they are often right next to the third rail which can be just as dangerous (and note that the wooden planks are not designed to hold a human's weight - they are there to protect the energized rail from drips and weather) and the train operator is less likely to see you if you're in there. And don't duck under the train, because most stations do not have enough clearance for the average human.
And do NOT jump down onto the tracks to try to save someone else. The best thing you can do is run on the platform towards the tunnel where the train enters so you can get the operator's attention sooner. Waving your arms over the tracks will tell the operator to stop immediately.
So really the best thing you can do? Try and stay well clear of the edge of the platform until your train is in the station. But if you do end up in the tracks, getting as far from where the train enters on is a good start.