This article has a lot of text before getting to describing the problem.
Summary: Train wreck 1995 and a installation of a safety-first, CYA response that slows down the trains and does not increase safety.
Longer Summary: Train wreck in 1995. Maybe driver was asleep. Start installing new signals that not only automatically stop the trains when there is a train ahead (good idea and already in place), but also when going over 45mph. Trains used to go up to 55mph with no systemic problems. Drivers go even slower than 45mph because the train is automatically stopped when going faster (as you would want to do if there was a train ahead) instead of just giving a warning and letting the train keep going.
As more of the system gets these new signals, more of the system has slower trains. Thus the increase of delays that are labeled generically as "insufficient capacity, excess dwell, unknown" from about 20% of delays in 2012 to about 60% in 2017.
This would not be the first time that the MTA has willfully deceived the public by maintaining two sets of facts - the private set which reflects the truth and another set of facts that are used in discussion with the public.
15 years ago the MTA was caught maintaining two different sets of books - one internal that showed the agency had a surplus of cash and another set of books for the public which showed the agency as being "cash strapped" and needing to raise fares as a result. See:
The culture of this agency is rotten and its corruption endemic. It's hard to believe it's capable of producing anything other than it's current broken state.
We, collectively, seem to accept car accidents because we think we can avoid them with good driving skills. Train accidents leave us helpless, and we can’t cope with that.
The whole concept of ”bad things happen to good people for no reason” is extremely hard to bear. Somehow this reminds me of people who believe the right diet will protect them from cancer, the right prenatal care from birth defects, etc.
But there is one type of delay that’s gotten exponentially worse during that time: a catchall category blandly titled “insufficient capacity, excess dwell, unknown,” which captures every delay without an obvious cause.
This smacks of corruption or of elements of society deciding that systems aren't going to simply work anymore. The population of New York City when I lived in Queens was 7.3 million when I lived there in 1989. The subways pretty much worked back then. The figure for population of New York City in 2017 I found was 8.5 million. Population increase can't account for the difference. There must have been considerable systemic decay.
There's an attempt to make this all sound like a conspiracy, but it all makes sense to me.
There were accidents. They slowed the train to improve safety.
The train is about as safe as ever. Why? Many, many more people are using than the trains than before. It's harder to keep that many people safe, so more caution is warranted.
The only problem I see, if it's true, is that they classified delays stemming from maintenance under the wrong heading. And so far as I can tell, there's no real proof of that.
Risking asking the obvious: What is stopping us from having autonomous subways, considering we are almost gonna have autonomous cars?
I spent 5 years taking the Toronto subway (Yonge line, North York Center to Union) every day. I noticed this interesting pattern.
During rush hour, any small delay on one train will almost certain impact every train down the line- there's little time buffer between trains. The bigger the delay, the more trains effected by it. The more passengers per train, the more likely that train will have a delay- loading and unloading taking too long, sure, that can cause a small delay. But consider events like heart attacks, seizures, a fight breaking out- all kinds of major-delay-causing-events that are roughly speaking a linear function from 'time passenger is on the train' to 'likelihood of major delay event'.
If you have twice as many passengers, you have twice the odds of a major delay. If a passenger spends twice a long on a train, you have twice the odds of them causing a major a delay. Delays cause more passengers per train and cause longer time-on-train for each passenger.
It's all non-linear. Any one tiny delay can spark a total breakdown and the longer that delay is the more likely it will cause more in turn.
How on earth does the system ever work at all?
Single shot timers? Exclusion locks on fixed sections of the track?
Modern control systems such as ETCS3 can allocate virtual track segments (moving blocks) to individual trains and adjust the reserved length based on the current speed.
But the 2014 study — the first time the authority had attempted to analyze the impact of any of the revamped signals, using its improved data system — found 2,851 lost total passenger hours per weekday could be attributed to thirteen modified signals alone.
That's 84 person-years per year, just considering the weekday impact of those thirteen signals. Over a lifetime a year, to save (speculatively) one life per decade? Call me callous, but I don't think it's worth it.
In Minneapolis, the mob bought and dismantled a fully functioning streetcar system.
Same forces seem alive and well today. They just chose to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into building a new stadium.
I think the topic of a declining/slowly collapsing society needs serious research. How do you definitively measure if a society is progressing or regressing? If you measure by infrastructure the US probably hit its peak in the 60s and has been declining since then.
they must have installed one of these single-shot timers on the uptown A between 50th and 59th. it always crawls through 50th, stops in the tunnel, then crawls into 59th. didn't used to until a couple years ago.
Does anyone know of a source that competently compares costs across different metro systems? Total operating cost per mile, per passenger-mile, et cetera.
Guys like this will be running the self driving automobile infrastructure in 50 years.
the abysmal state of their technology is completely to blame. problems described point to an inability to monitor trains or operators in ways that don't create massive slowdowns as knock-on effects.
wouldn't trains be the easiest transport system to add self driving to? all it would need is throttle, and if they have access to the position of other trains too that's a major advantage.
could it be that more time spent inside a train increases profit? maybe they just want passengers looking at advertising. they are a captive audience.
I live in NYC. For a couple of years I'd be reading NYTimes articles about the system is having problems from overcrowding, yet you'd see articles that more people took subways in the 1950's - 1960's.
Within the past few months there was a NYTimes article that stated that after an accident in the mid 1990s (?) that they slowed the system down. Thus, the problem wasn't overcrowding, but slowing the system down.
The system has been underfunded for maintenance. When the city went broke in the 1970s (?), the financing was transferred to the state from the city. NY State taxes the city but does not returned the taxed funds to the city for the MTA. Transferring management of the MTA back to the city would help with holding the Mayor accountable, something to think about if they want to be re-elected.