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STOP THE TRAIN!!!
January 31, 2010 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Many visitors and residents of New York City have long been befuddled by the emergency brake hanging in each NYC subway car. Signs indicate that one should not use the emergency brake during many emergencies- Fire, medical problem or need for police. But then, when should we use the emergency brake? (vimeo)
posted by brevator (109 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fun Fact: New York is the only city on the planet with emergency brakes accessible to subway passengers.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:25 AM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


With great power comes unclear responsibility.
posted by DU at 7:33 AM on January 31, 2010 [41 favorites]


People are confused about when to use that break? Really? I thought it was obvious you only use it when someone is caught in the doors, like you see done in old movies. It stops the train, that's all it does. In a dramatic gritty urban fashion so popular in late 70s films.
posted by dabitch at 7:34 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


hmmm... If someone were caught in the doors, and you were about to have the opportunity to see them dragged miles down a subway tunnel, perhaps get their arm ripped off, and then maybe roll under the wheels of the train... this is an opportunity you may never have again in your lifetime... This could easily become the fodder for a great short story, a wonderful movie, a sequel, fame, and fortune.

why would you stop that train?
posted by HuronBob at 7:37 AM on January 31, 2010


The reason people are befuddled by the brake is the constant, not-too-loud alarm a lot of them make because the little access door is loose on the hinges and has swung slightly open. A firm tap on the door will shut it, silencing the alarm, and confirming you to the rest of the car as a Real New Yorker.
posted by Sk4n at 7:41 AM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


There was a great .... gawker? gothamist? thread on this a couple of weeks ago with people posting their experiences of how other passengers (over)react when someone goes for the brake.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:44 AM on January 31, 2010


Fun Fact: New York is the only city on the planet with emergency brakes accessible to subway passengers.

Every Toronto Transit Commission subway car I've been on has had a red emergency brake handle at each end. With a sign that says something like "never, under any circumstances, pull this forbidden red emergency brake handle of mystery" or something equally enticing.
posted by FishBike at 7:47 AM on January 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


I live in NYC, and I've never given it much thought. I don't ever want the subway to stop; I want it to go. What we need is an emergency turbo boost button.
posted by bingo at 7:57 AM on January 31, 2010 [41 favorites]


Fun Fact: New York is the only city on the planet with emergency brakes accessible to subway passengers.
Um yeah our rail transit system in Salt Lake has red emergency stop buttons over every doorway. Someone decided it would be fun to push the other day I was riding into work and we had to wait 5 minutes for the electrical capacitors to recharge. Also apparently some of the doors are a bit loose on our trains, so when people load their bicycles in and push them against the door it triggers an emergency stop. That was a fun one....
posted by msbutah at 7:58 AM on January 31, 2010


My favorite part is where they suggest that you contact a subway employee instead of pulling the brake. Apparently some subway cars have intercoms but not the line that I take daily. How does one contact the conductor while in motion, underground, or stopped in a tunnel?
posted by sciencegeek at 7:59 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Watch out, the emergency stop pulleys are actually connected to the train driver's hair! That's how they work!
posted by fuq at 8:02 AM on January 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


Fun Fact: New York is the only city on the planet with emergency brakes accessible to subway passengers.

Neither fun or a fact, actually.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:08 AM on January 31, 2010 [23 favorites]


I heard if you pull it then lots of candy comes out of the ceiling and a parade happens
posted by Greg Nog at 8:08 AM on January 31, 2010 [36 favorites]


I started taking the train regularly in high school and, not having realized the dragging thing, wondered "how the hell would stopping the train help in an emergency" and then immediately my brain refused to continue contemplating the use of the emergency brake.

...but yeah, I think making any sort of reaching motions toward it would get you beaten to death by a surprisingly diverse mob (even the ancient Chinese women with their six-dozen-a-piece orange shopping bags would get in on the action.)
posted by griphus at 8:09 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]



DON'T PULL THE RED, SHINY, CANDY-LIKE SWITCH!
posted by The Whelk at 8:14 AM on January 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


The explanation, transit officials say, is simple. If someone gets caught between the train’s closing doors, or between subway cars, and is about to be dragged to an unenviable fate, pull the cord. The train will stop, possibly saving a life.
Uh, that actually is pretty clear.
posted by delmoi at 8:14 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favorite part is where they suggest that you contact a subway employee instead of pulling the brake. Apparently some subway cars have intercoms but not the line that I take daily. How does one contact the conductor while in motion, underground, or stopped in a tunnel?

Do they not have some version of the "passenger assistance alarm" strip that you can press to summon help?1

1: Usually, help in the form of a grumpy transit system employee who expects it to be yet another false alarm, but who will say "oh, shit!" and call in the cavalry in the rare event of an actual emergency.
posted by FishBike at 8:15 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another acceptable use of the emergency brake:
Draw your brakes brother I just can't take it
'Cause the girl has really gone
Stop that train I want to get on
And the girl is gone for true
Goodness gracious!

posted by Meatbomb at 8:18 AM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fun Fact: New York is the only city on the planet with emergency brakes accessible to subway passengers.

Montreal's Metro has these as well, with the added bonus of shakily bilingual signs. In English they warn of the penalties for passengers using the brakes "uselessly" (as in, I suppose, "The brakes, they do nothing!")

On the other hand, in French they warn against using the brakes sans motif serieux -- literally "without a serious motive", but I enjoy reading it as "without a serious motif." If someone is trapped in the doors, I usually try to make my use of the emergency stop reflect the use of duality in Kubrick films.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:19 AM on January 31, 2010 [39 favorites]


Here's how it works on the London Underground:

When the emergency brake is activated by a passenger, one of two things happen:

- If any part of the train is still at a platform, the train stops immediately.
- Else the train continues to the next station and stops there.

It would seem to me that this system fulfils the same safety needs as how the NYC subway would like things to be done, without the problem of people stopping the trains in the tunnels between stations.
posted by brokkr at 8:20 AM on January 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


I found these set of emergency instructions for when not to pull the cord. For those of us who don't live in New York and don't see these things every day:

Emergency Instructions

posted by deacon_blues at 8:22 AM on January 31, 2010


Starts printing T-shirts with "sans motif serieux"
posted by dabitch at 8:24 AM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Usually, help in the form of a grumpy transit system employee who expects it to be yet another false alarm, but who will say "oh, shit!" and call in the cavalry in the rare event of an actual emergency.

I've only used an emergency intercom once, in a case where a driver opened the doors on the wrong side.
Driver: Go ahead.
Me: You opened the doors on the wrong side.
I don't think he heard me properly for some reason because then this happened:
Driver: *sounding very annoyed* Please go ahead with your EMERGENCY MESSAGE.
Me: You opened the doors on the WRONG SIDE. The platform is on the LEFT.
The doors closed and then reopened, and the driver came back on the intercom.
Driver: Thank you.
I know people must use the intercom inappropriately but I was somewhat irritated at his initial response, because someone could have gotten hurt or he could have been suspended because of that.
posted by grouse at 8:24 AM on January 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


At the end of the movie the steps in his diagram are labeled "1 2 3 4 6". I think he saved step 5 for the sequel?
posted by idiopath at 8:29 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fun Fact: New York is the only city on the planet with subway trains that can fly.
posted by Elmore at 8:32 AM on January 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fun Fact: New York is the only city on the planet with emergency brakes accessible to subway passengers.

I'm pretty sure this is a variety of snark.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:33 AM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fun Fact: New York Is the only city on the planet where the trains are made of marzipan thanks to a large donation by the Associated Staten Island Candyworks back in the 1890s in order to provide transportation for their growing elven workforce.
posted by The Whelk at 8:40 AM on January 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


New York is the place where people first wore pants.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:40 AM on January 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


Before then, pants where largely seen as a foreign affectation - suitable only for monkeys and other such entertaining beasts. The fad spread from vaudeville's "Baggy-pants" comics upward.
posted by The Whelk at 8:42 AM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


It is for this reason that every year we celebrate how far we've come with a reminder of how things used to be.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:49 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Else the train continues to the next station and stops there.

What if you need the train to stop now, regardless of where it is? Is there a way to do that? For instance, a person on the tracks in the tunnel (a worker who has fallen), or a train on the tracks ahead, as happened in Toronto 15 years ago?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:53 AM on January 31, 2010


The Emergency Brake's Dirty Little Secret.
posted by chillmost at 8:57 AM on January 31, 2010


It did porn in the 70s?
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


pants where largely seen as a foreign affectation

Before then, most Americans bound clowders of live cats to their legs. Unsurprisingly, the elites of the day often sported perfectly matched groups of luxuriously-furred purebreds, while the lower orders had to made do with motley collections of stray and feral mutt-cats, often with horrific or at best uncomfortable results. "Nice moggies!" was a commonly heard cry of derision heard on the streets of a young nation.

Thanks, New York!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:02 AM on January 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


The relic of this practice survives among the aging orders of New York Society as a penchant for long flowing fur dresses made of finest Persian.
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 AM on January 31, 2010


In old black and white movies the emergency brake is pulled when a person discovers that someone has disappeared from the train under mysterious circumstances. I suppose that is less likely to happen on a subway car.
posted by eye of newt at 9:12 AM on January 31, 2010


This thing with people getting caught in the doors, does that actually happen? Wouldn't it be easier to design the doors to bounce open in case they hit an impediment, the way every other automatic door does?

I have this image now of subway cars as slavering beasts STICK YOUR HAND IN GRAAAR I DARE YOU. In which case maybe the more efficient solution is for the doors to shut HARDER, thereby cleanly severing the body part in question, so no one gets dragged down the tracks.
posted by ErikaB at 9:12 AM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


starting at about 4:00
posted by eye of newt at 9:16 AM on January 31, 2010


Usually when people get stuck in doors it's an article of clothing that's thin enough not to make the doors open again.

Of course, it doesn't happen very often - the doors are pretty sensitive* - as anyone who's had to put up with multiple almost closing/sudden snap openings on cars can attest


* The doors were enchanted during the the 90s to recoil at the touch of human flesh as part of the MTA's broad Master Magic Plan.
posted by The Whelk at 9:18 AM on January 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


When I lived in NYC, and saw said brake and read said sign, I was befuddled as to why its even there as there is seemingly no circumstance it should be used.
posted by MrLint at 9:19 AM on January 31, 2010


What if you need the train to stop now, regardless of where it is? Is there a way to do that? For instance, a person on the tracks in the tunnel (a worker who has fallen), or a train on the tracks ahead, as happened in Toronto 15 years ago?

How are you going to see that as a passenger?
posted by empath at 9:19 AM on January 31, 2010


How are you going to see that as a passenger?

By looking out the window, if you are in the first car.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:23 AM on January 31, 2010


"For instance, a person on the tracks in the tunnel (a worker who has fallen), or a train on the tracks ahead, as happened in Toronto 15 years ago?"

That's what you have a driver for. I think the plausibility of having both an obstructed track and an incapacitated driver is quite low, although it has happened. It is very doubtful that a passenger activating an emergency brake would have been able to avert that particular accident, though.

In the case of driverless metros (Copenhagen is the one I'm familiar with) there are other safety systems apart from emergency brakes. I must admit to not knowing how the emergency brakes in Copenhagen metro trains operate, but there are additional sensors installed to detect the presence of objects on the tracks and stop the train automatically in that case. These can be triggered by something as small as a cap that is dropped onto the tracks ... which can be a problem in itself. Most stations have a glass wall between the platform and the tracks as an additional safety measure (this is also seen in subways as old as the one in Saint Petersburg).

(If there are workers on the tracks in Copenhagen, all trains passing the section of track must be on manual operation, and the workers must acknowledge the driver before he is allowed to pass.)
posted by brokkr at 9:34 AM on January 31, 2010


How are you going to see that as a passenger?

On some trains, passengers can see out the front of the train. That's because there's no difference between any of the cars, it's just that the front car is where the engineer sits. You can see in the top picture on this wiki page that there's a door with a window at the front of the train. It's pretty cool, actually, to ride in the front car and to be able to see the track and all the access tunnels and staircases, junk along the side of the tracks, etc.

On preview, yeah, what ricochet biscuit also said.
posted by dammitjim at 9:34 AM on January 31, 2010


Wouldn't it be easier to design the doors to bounce open in case they hit an impediment, the way every other automatic door does?

This is what DC's metro does. Followed by a recorded female voice that says "Doors are closing. Please stand clear of the doors," in a tone of voice where you can almost literally hear the unspoken "...asshole" at the end.
posted by Naberius at 9:36 AM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


People are confused about when to use that break? Really? I thought it was obvious you only use it when someone is caught in the doors, like you see done in old movies. It stops the train, that's all it does. In a dramatic gritty urban fashion so popular in late 70s films.

I think the NY Times article pointed out quite well how in an emergency, not all of us are cool, calm and collected, and we can sometimes without thinking do something counter-intuitive and liable to make the situation work, like pulling an emergency brake because you're panicked brain is thinking -- HOLY F**KING SHIT!!! an emergency!!! and then pull the cord even before you reason why it isn't a good idea.

A good case study of user interface design, I suppose.

Somewhat off-topic but allow me to snark on how on newer subway trains, the doors between cars are locked. As a subway veteran back in the 80s, those doors were easy emergency egress to another car should a psycho break out a piece. If you take an express, say an A from 125th to 59th street. That is a good ten minutes with a potential armed psychopath to wail on everyone else in the care where you are basically trapped.

I understand the MTA's fear of a kid or an idiot falling to the tracks, but how often has that happened?
posted by xetere at 9:39 AM on January 31, 2010


Whoops, in the case of the R46 model, the one I linked to, there are different cars - A cars that have cabs and B cars without cabs. But the A cars have doors and windows on each end like the rest of the cars do.

Also, regarding the doors closing on people and such: this is the job of the conductor to deal with, not the engineer, right? The conductor has little lights that show whether the doors to both halves of the train have closed properly, and leans out their window, looking up and down the train, to check that nothing looks amiss. Then they signal the engineer somehow that it's safe to go.
posted by dammitjim at 9:40 AM on January 31, 2010


There are conductors on US subways? Never seen that anywhere in Europe.
posted by brokkr at 9:44 AM on January 31, 2010


Did anybody else notice that in the video they forgot number 5?
posted by litleozy at 9:46 AM on January 31, 2010


Do they not have some version of the "passenger assistance alarm" strip that you can press to summon help?1

The newer subway cars have a working passenger assistance intercom. They're not on every line, though.

Post-9/11, I was on several subway trains whose emergency brakes were yanked by passengers over-reacting to "abandoned" bags. I witnessed it happen 2 or 3 times. The scenario was pretty consistent. Someone sees a bag of dogfood without an obvious owenr and stridently demands to know whose it is from neighboring passengers. Most passengers shake their heads, shrug, indicate they don't speak English or just plain ignore the increasingly panicky inquisitor, who then lunges for the emergency cord yelling, "IT COULD BE A BOMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Sane passengers then scream "NOOOOOoooooOOOOOOOoooooo!!!!!!!!!!!" and try to stop him (or her.)

YANK!

Train screeches to a halt. Passengers go flying. Many screams. Pandemonium ensues.

And in the cab of the first car, the driver is no doubt thinking, "Again!? Fuckers!"

Which coincidentally is what the rest of us were thinking, too.
posted by zarq at 9:47 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


The conductors are in the middle of the train, and they're the ones operating the doors and (on the lines where there's no automated system), making station announcements over the PA. The operators (not engineers) are in the front, and don't appear to interact with anyone on the train except the operator.
posted by dammitjim at 9:50 AM on January 31, 2010


Argh, except the conductor.
posted by dammitjim at 9:51 AM on January 31, 2010


I understand the MTA's fear of a kid or an idiot falling to the tracks, but how often has that happened?

They're also afraid of idiots deciding to climb up and ride on top of the train.
posted by zarq at 9:52 AM on January 31, 2010


On an express Queens-bound F train I observed a father leading his daughter out between the cars and holding her shoulders as she peed onto the track below. It must have been a Bathroom Situation at that point, and I was astonished that no terrible accident happened.

Although I am glad he didn't pull the emergency cord first.
posted by amicamentis at 10:12 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


>Fun Fact: New York is the only city on the planet with emergency brakes accessible to subway passengers.

Neither fun or a fact, actually.


No, no. Only in New York, man! Only in New York! Philistine, cow-tending, booger-eating resident of Nowheresville, this is unique to New York. No other city is wonderfully cosmopolitan enough to have such devices. I don't think other cities even have subways, and if they do they are nowhere nearly as interesting and populated by interesting characters as the ones in New York City.

(Jesus H. Christ. Is that unsubtle enough? Probably not. So let me state this literally: "The post is framed as though the emergency brakes in subway cars are unique to New York. They are not, and the suggestion that something mundane is unique to New York City is a common theme in the musing of people who have moved to New York City.")
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:29 AM on January 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


Else the train continues to the next station and stops there.

What if you need the train to stop now, regardless of where it is? Is there a way to do that? For instance, a person on the tracks in the tunnel (a worker who has fallen), or a train on the tracks ahead, as happened in Toronto 15 years ago?


KEEP
CALM
AND
CARRY
ON
posted by oneirodynia at 10:37 AM on January 31, 2010


That's what you have a driver for.

You've obviously never been on Toronto Transit. Our drivers are known for eating lunch, talking on their cell phones, playing with their iPhones, or playing Soduku while driving busses. Sometimes TTC employees even nap in plain view. Their superiors than blame the people who catch them in the act.

The post is framed as though the emergency brakes in subway cars are unique to New York.

No, actually. It isn't. You just inferred that because you seem to be flaccid for NYC or its residence.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:40 AM on January 31, 2010


"booger-eating resident of Nowheresville"

I need this on a t-shirt.
posted by ErikaB at 10:43 AM on January 31, 2010


It looks like the OP lives in Albany, though.
posted by bingo at 10:51 AM on January 31, 2010


I've seen someone fall into the gap between a train and platform. If I hadn't been on another platform, I would have gone and pulled the emergency brake on the train. As it was, someone else saw what happened and started yelling, the engineer was alerted and a bunch of people came and pulled the guy out. He was really stuck and I suspect if the train had moved, he might have lost his leg. This was in Philly.

Learning how to make the high pitched alarm sound stop was the highlight of my month a few months ago. And yes, people do flinch when you move toward the metal box enclosing the emergency brake.

Does this make me a real New Yorker? nah.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:54 AM on January 31, 2010


The scenario was pretty consistent. Someone sees a bag of dogfood without an obvious owenr and stridently demands to know whose it is from neighboring passengers. Most passengers shake their heads, shrug, indicate they don't speak English or just plain ignore the increasingly panicky inquisitor, who then lunges for the emergency cord yelling, "IT COULD BE A BOMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Sane passengers then scream "NOOOOOoooooOOOOOOOoooooo!!!!!!!!!!!" and try to stop him (or her.)


I can assure you, times have changed. On the 2/3 two years ago, a guy wearing MC Hammer pants and wrap-around sunglasses gazed to his right, and then paused from eating his McDonald's soft-serve ice cream to get up and say something into the intercom. I then realized he'd seen what appeared to be an abandoned backpack on the seat next to him. I had what I recognized as a classic New York reaction, which was Please Motherfucker Why Did You Have to Do That Before My Stop, as the prospect of continuing my day uninterrupted was suddenly cast into doubt. I looked around for people to scream and run in terror but everyone looked bored, tired, or annoyed, which is the usual gamut of emotions seen on the NYC subway system. Not to fear -- at the next stop, two fat cops came on, looked at the backpack, and took it away. No panic, no bomb-destroying robot, no "24"-style background music, no nothing.

If you say something, see something.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:06 AM on January 31, 2010


On BART, a real San Franciscan doesn't use the emergency intercom -- they just tweet @SFBART. The Foursquare mayor for the nearest station is then notified via SMS, and can then use discretion as to whether or not to use the Emergency Brake app for their iPhone to stop the train. Alas, the train is unlikely to actually stop, since AT&T's network sucks.
posted by eschatfische at 11:12 AM on January 31, 2010 [32 favorites]


I always thought it was in case a team of international criminals hijack the subway car, demanding a fantastic reward from the mayor in exchange for the lives of all the passengers, and then, in a cunning gambit, attempt to escape by rigging the 'dead-man's switch' and then jumping off the train, leaving all the passengers on a train that is otherwise unstoppably accelerating.

I furthermore always thought it would've made a lot more sense just to put Walter Matthau on every subway train, but that wouldn't really be cost-effective.
posted by koeselitz at 11:13 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


On preview, damn you Koeselitz

I'm guessing it's the result of a movie. I haven't seen the original Pelam 123, but imagine some politician watching the recent one saying "We got to keep that from happening in real life, let's give the passengers power to stop the train." I understand why the NYTA doesn't want to use the word hijack or runaway train when speaking to the New York Times.

But I got a lot of theories, they're not all correct.
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 11:24 AM on January 31, 2010


I was on the green line in Boston and a lady fainted, fell to the ground, and everyone around her panicked. Someone did pull the emergency brake and was promptly chastised by the conductor. The lady was fine, but clearly embarrassed about the whole thing.
posted by emd3737 at 11:24 AM on January 31, 2010


brokkr: “There are conductors on US subways? Never seen that anywhere in Europe.”

Yes. We've actually found they're quite necessary. We got by without them okay for a while; but with all the low rumbling and clattering down there, the flutes and the cellos keep ending up dreadfully out of syncopation with each other.
posted by koeselitz at 11:25 AM on January 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


I triggered one of these in France, when a girl sitting opposite me and was looking very, very worse for wear chucked up.

Driver: Yes, what is it?
Me: This, um, girl here looks very unwell. I think she needs a doctor. She's just puked everywhere.
Driver [Irritatedly]: Some gets drunk and pukes every day on this train.
Me [somewhat defensively] But not on *my* trousers.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:25 AM on January 31, 2010


idiopath: "At the end of the movie the steps in his diagram are labeled "1 2 3 4 6". I think he saved step 5 for the sequel?"

litleozy: "Did anybody else notice that in the video they forgot number 5?"

I knew I shouldn't have worn my blue shirt today. It's like I'm invisible on here.
posted by idiopath at 11:57 AM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


The post is framed as though the emergency brakes in subway cars are unique to New York.

No it isn't. The obvious point of the post and the video is that the signs on the New York subway seem to rule out all the circumstances in which most people would think to use the emergency brake. This is mildly amusing.

Even more comical than the solipsistic self-importance of New Yorkers is when non-New Yorkers, driven by an inferiority complex, think they detect it when actually they don't...
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:02 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fun Fact: New York is the only city on the planet with emergency brake covers that even the slightest train movement can jostle open, causing a loud, piercing shriek to emanate from one end of the car, and you think you can take it because it's only five more stops until you get home, but then the train starts moving at a glacial pace and you're going to need a couple of ibuprofen when you get home because the beeping just isn't stopping, and WHAM now isn't that better?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:13 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thing with people getting caught in the doors, does that actually happen?

Most subway systems I've been on in the US have pretty unforgiving doors. Not like elevators, although I assume they have mechanisms in them for signaling incomplete closure.

The DC Metro's doors, for instance, do not automatically reopen, although many people have the perception that they do. (If the driver, who looks down the side of the train either using a mirror or by sticking their head out, sees someone or something sticking out of a door, they'll stop them from closing. If they don't, the doors attempt to close on whatever is protruding, with a not-insignificant amount of force.) One of the many ways you can spot tourists on the Metro is that -- aside from failing to walk left / stand right on the escalators -- they're the people trying to stop the doors from closing with a gentle hand push, as though they were in an elevator. It doesn't work, and they'll continue to try to close, unless you make it obvious to the operator (by, say, frantically waving and shouting in the direction of the front of the train) that they shouldn't close the doors.

And yeah, every time they attempt to close the doors, they'll play the snarky recorded message. (There was actually a competition back in 2005 or so to record a new, more forceful message, to replace the old one that was thought to be too laid back.) When people are lollygagging, I've seen operators sometimes partially-close and then reopen the doors a few times, along with repeating the message, to get the point across.

Everyone I know has at least one story involving a time they saw somebody get a limb or a bag stuck in a Metro door, only to have the doors reopen at the last minute. I think this happens because the operators can tell, after they give the command for the doors to close, whether they have actually latched. When they haven't -- due to an unnoticed hand, foot, or (more typically) errant piece of luggage getting stuck -- they'll open and close them a few times, presumably before investigating further if the door still doesn't close.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:22 PM on January 31, 2010


Philistine, cow-tending, booger-eating resident of Nowheresville

You could have just said "Staten Islander."
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:22 PM on January 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey hey hey now, he didn't say cocaine-addled mob-involved resident of Nowheresville.
posted by The Whelk at 12:33 PM on January 31, 2010


I guess the authorities just made the error of thinking that the label "Emergency Brake" would be simple enough for most people to understand without needing to add "Only pull the brake if stopping the train will improve the situation!"
posted by team lowkey at 12:43 PM on January 31, 2010


Whelk, can it with the cheap insults and crude dismissal of a whole segment of the population, eh? It's not nice, and it's not friendly. The cocaine-addled and the mob-involved have got enough problems already without being associated with Staten Island.
posted by koeselitz at 12:45 PM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ce n'est pas un breake.
posted by Splunge at 1:00 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


In Frankfurt (Germany), the emergency brakes are located in the actual stations, not inside the cars.
posted by carmel at 1:04 PM on January 31, 2010


What if you need the train to stop now, regardless of where it is? Is there a way to do that? For instance, a person on the tracks in the tunnel (a worker who has fallen), or a train on the tracks ahead, as happened in Toronto 15 years ago?

Or as nearly happened (again) earlier this month in DC. Yeah, good question.

Naberius: This is what DC's metro does.

No. Kadin's right: there's actually a recording highlighting that Metro doors don't behave like elevator doors. I'm sort of torn because on the one hand I hear the safety messages ALL THE TIME and they're SO DAMN LOUD it's ridiculous, but on the other hand I see a steady stream of people getting themselves wedged in the doors and doing other colossally stupid/dangerous things on the Metro because they don't know or don't care how the system works.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:13 PM on January 31, 2010


"Jesus H. Christ. Is that unsubtle enough? Probably not. So let me state this literally: 'The post is framed as though the emergency brakes in subway cars are unique to New York. They are not, and the suggestion that something mundane is unique to New York City is a common theme in the musing of people who have moved to New York City.'"

Minus the swearing that would have been a much better comment than Frist Post!! snarkyness.
posted by Mitheral at 1:42 PM on January 31, 2010


When I moved to NYC, one of the things that surprised me the most was how hard the subway doors close. I had never encountered an electric door in a public place that will actually cause human beings pain if they get in its way.

I have to say that I like that, though. If the doors didn't shut hard, then they would never shut. There are so many doors, so many people, and so many stops, that there needs to be a constant sense of pressure (real and figurative) to move the situation forward.

One time, I was inside the subway, and a guy on the platform put his hand between the closing doors. The doors closed anyway, and he kept his hand there, unhurt because of the rubber barrier, expecting the conductor to open the doors again and let him on the train. The conductor, who obviously saw this happening out his window, apparently decided to wait it out. So the train stood there, repeatedly beeping, and the guy stood there on the platform, his hand in between the doors, with a goofy smile on his face.

I looked around at my fellow passengers to see if this guy had any allies already on the train. He clearly didn't. I was with a date, but she was a fairly impatient, misanthropic person.

I made a fist, and punched the guy's fingers were they were protruding from between the doors. He withdrew his hand in pain, and the train departed.
posted by bingo at 1:57 PM on January 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


Epilogue: I looked around the car to see if anyone was alarmed by what I had done, and was met with the same ambivalence as before from everyone, including my date, who just seemed to be happy that we were leaving the station.
posted by bingo at 2:13 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


In Frankfurt (Germany), the emergency brakes are located in the actual stations, not inside the cars.

We have those in Toronto, too (on the platforms), in addition to the onboard ones.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:46 PM on January 31, 2010


We have those in Toronto, too

We do? Where they at?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 3:07 PM on January 31, 2010


At the end of the platform, under a blue light. They're not actually brakes, they just cut the power to the tracks.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:18 PM on January 31, 2010


The things on the Toronto subway platforms are emergency power cut switches. Check out the 3rd bullet point on their what to do in an emergency page. The picture of the panel isn't wonderful there. Just look for the panel with the bright blue light on it.
posted by FishBike at 3:18 PM on January 31, 2010


I made a fist, and punched the guy's fingers were they were protruding from between the doors. He withdrew his hand in pain, and the train departed.

That was you?!? You bastard -- that really hurt!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:31 PM on January 31, 2010


Fun Fact: New York is the only city on the planet with subway trains that can fly.

Fun Fact: New York subway trains have more flies than any other subway trains on the planet.
posted by The Bellman at 3:31 PM on January 31, 2010


bingo: I made a fist, and punched the guy's fingers were they were protruding from between the doors. He withdrew his hand in pain, and the train departed.

ricochet biscuit: That was you?!? You bastard -- that really hurt!

Take it Craig's List, you two.
posted by The Bellman at 3:33 PM on January 31, 2010


You pull it if John Travolta gets on the train.

And not because he's playing the bad guy in a bad remake.
posted by bwg at 3:40 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thing with people getting caught in the doors, does that actually happen?

Reportedly about 27 times a year (0:45sec)
posted by fshgrl at 4:49 PM on January 31, 2010


Fun Fact: New York invented Ancient Greece. Also the waffle, and the first-person narrative (e.g. "I'm walkin' here!")
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:20 PM on January 31, 2010


"They're also afraid of idiots deciding to climb up and ride on top of the train."

Even more reason to put Wesley Snipes behind bars, where he belongs.
posted by Toby Dammit X at 5:37 PM on January 31, 2010


I can assure you, times have changed.

Good to see that we're back to being our usual hard-to-impress selves. :)
posted by zarq at 6:28 PM on January 31, 2010


Waffles were orginally used as weapons by gangs and the various police forces in a manner simular to a boomerang. It wasn't until an enterprising chef in Little Belgium replaced the oat-barley mix with flour during the shortages following the draft riots that the edible nature of the waffle made to light.
posted by The Whelk at 6:46 PM on January 31, 2010


Fun Fact: New York subway trains have more flies than any other subway trains on the planet.

Fun pop quiz*: Who wrote Sacred Locomotive Flies?


*Made completely pointless by Google
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:46 PM on January 31, 2010


Saint Francis Of Autoengine, duh.
posted by The Whelk at 6:50 PM on January 31, 2010


Fun Fact: New York City's Subway is one of only three 24-hour subway systems in the world.

NYC (including the PATH), a couple of parts of the Chicago L, and a couple of PATCO lines that run between Philly and Camden (at least, according to Wikipedia) are it. Which is rather disappointing. I mean, come on. London? Tokyo? How hard would that be, guys? But no.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:13 PM on January 31, 2010


Oh god London. Having to decide if you go home early or stay up all night. I put up with a lot from the MTA cause they run all night and make having non-9-5 jobs and fun so much easier.

Like, say you're a performer and you're supposed to go on at 10 but you get pushed to 12:30 and then you want to stay for the rest of the show and you don't have to think about how you're getting home! So. Nice.
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 PM on January 31, 2010


Civil_Disobedient, I would suggest that your examples (if correct) show that NYC is the only 24-hour subway system. By which I mean, I can't think of any station other than the Aqueduct Racetrack which you cannot enter 24/7 to access at least some train. (Forgoing snark about service changes and whatnot, of course.)
posted by thejoshu at 9:35 PM on January 31, 2010


London? Tokyo? How hard would that be, guys? But no.

Don't know about Tokyo, but from what I know, it'd be pretty impossible in London. Something is going on in the Tube 24 hours a day, but for six of those it's not in revenue service. Instead, it is being maintained by a swarm of workers all over the system.
posted by grouse at 10:02 PM on January 31, 2010


Fun fact: In New York the streets will make you feel BRAND new, big lights will inSPIRE you.
posted by kittyprecious at 5:26 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would suggest that your examples (if correct) show that NYC is the only 24-hour subway system

I concur; I actually had to check because I was originally under the impression that it was actually the only 24-hour subway on the planet. I thought it was a bit lame of the wikipedia article to accept a few 24/7 running lines as suitable for inclusion, to which I say PSHAW.

Still, I was surprised to see the Philly/Camden line running 24/7. I mean… CAMDEN!? The most dangerous city in the country that no one outside the tri-state area has ever heard of? Weird.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:04 AM on February 1, 2010


Saint Francis Of Autoengine, duh.

BZZZT
I'm sorry, that is not the correct answer.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:05 AM on February 1, 2010


but from what I know, it'd be pretty impossible in London. Something is going on in the Tube 24 hours a day, but for six of those it's not in revenue service. Instead, it is being maintained by a swarm of workers all over the system.

But that would be for every system, would it not? In New York they do that too, and who amongst us drunken New Yorkers on the platform in the middle of the night, hasn't had the joys of watching a money train, a garbage train, or one of those big diesel trains (very noisy!) pull through your station. The logistics are more difficult but it is doable.
posted by xetere at 8:40 AM on February 1, 2010


The New York system has lots of double-track sections and crossovers which make it possible to work on some tracks while others are still running. I wish there were more systems like that, but there aren't.
posted by grouse at 9:18 AM on February 1, 2010


>The explanation, transit officials say, is simple. If someone gets caught between the train’s closing doors, or between subway cars, and is about to be dragged to an unenviable fate, pull the cord. The train will stop, possibly saving a life.


Uh, that actually is pretty clear.


No, that's not the unclear part.

The unclear part is when NOT to pull the brake -- for instance, if someone on the car goes completely insane and starts stabbing people, that's arguably also an emergency situation, but pulling the brake would be a REALLY, REALLY BAD IDEA. That's where the confusion is coming in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:30 AM on February 1, 2010


Wouldn't it follow that you don't pull it when nobody's caught in the door? That doesn't seem all that confusing.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:47 AM on February 1, 2010


For people who don't know what the emergency brake does necessarily (hey, I've lived here 20 years and I've never been on a car when someone pulled the brake -- and I'm sure I"m not alone), or how hard it is to get a train going again once it's been pulled, it isn't all that obvious that "not all emergencies are the same."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:50 AM on February 1, 2010


As a daily commuter - I just want to say damn I love the MTA.
posted by RajahKing at 11:58 AM on February 1, 2010


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