2005-02-10 / View From the Middle

Dear Mr. Reuter: Try Riding Our Computerized Train At 1:30 A.M. View From The Middle

By Charles Rogers

It’s amazing how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New York City Transit Authority (TA) is putting so much confidence into the computerization of the L line, which is scheduled to take place at the end of June. Lawrence Reuter, president of the MTA and TA says the Computerized Train Control System (CTCS) — that’s the official name — has an “outstanding” safety record in Washington, D.C., where it has been used for a few years now.

Outstanding, I’m sure.

Makes you wonder how many times Mr. Reuter used the train in Washington, and, of course, how often he’ll jump on the Canarsie Line at 14th Street and head to the Rockaway Parkway station — all with full knowledge that the train will be manned by, uh, one guy up front, ready to defend life, liberty and the pursuit of any bad guys who want to take a gold necklace or taunt a dating couple at 1:30 a.m. at Broadway Junction. But Mr. Reuter seems to think that safety on the train will be “outstanding,” Sorry, but, at this time, I don’t think so, even if Reuter’s riding the rails with six bodyguards right there at his side.

In an article in last Sunday’s Daily News, Reuter cited a number of plusses for the technologically advanced system, including how the line will be operated by computer from a central point and be kept, essentially, “in sight” at all times, with allow-ances made for speed restrictions at critical points, such as where people are working on tracks, etc. He says another benefit of the system will be that stations will be equipped with “audible public address systems and customer information screens that will provide real-time information.”

Ha! (I’m sorry. I couldn’t muffle that laugh!). This alone shows you what world Lawrence Reuter is living in.

Can you see it — or hear it? The train is delayed because, well, because there is a water main break in the street above the station at, say, Graham Avenue. Of course, the riders hear the announcement over the loudspeaker: “Creeeeek! Weash perrr delayed be crawk, spamek at Graham arrensquatz. However, don’t worry because rawker squeeek banek and your lone driver will be along to answer questions, hand out scuba gear and protect you. Squawwwk!”

Reuter also notes that, if a train has to be evacuated, the train operator will see to it that the Fire Department and Police Department are notified. Thanks, Lawrence. We all feel better already.

To get serious, I am an advocate for advancing everything we can. I side right along with our City Councilman Lew Fidler when it comes to being a “Trekkie” and for the exploration of space and the sea and scientific advances, no matter what mode of transportation. But he, too, opposes the computerization of our beloved L line, citing the trials in June will mean Canarsiens will be used as “guinea pigs.”

I guess it’s obvious that, somehow, I really don’t have a helluva lot of confidence in Reuter and Co., the people who tell us that the C train, after sustaining a fire in January that affected signal equipment, wouldn’t be able to operate again for five years and that it would take millions of dollars to do so. Then, about a week later, said, “Never mind,” and that their maintenance people were able to put things together with some gum and duct tape and, well, things are back to near-normal.

It’s easy to see that something’s wrong. We all know that the subway system is ancient and needs upgrading badly.

So why not put all that money they’re putting into computerizing things into fixing these other problems first. Then they can “go where no man has gone before...”

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