2005-09-29 / Other News

Conductors Back At Work On Off-Peak Hour ‘L’ Trains

By Neil S. Friedman

After operating the Canarsie L line weekends and overnight without conductors since last June, New York Transit returned them to duty earlier this week in compliance with an arbitrator’s ruling last month.

Conductors resumed work beginning with Monday’s midnight shift, but the TA issued a statement that said “the action has no effect on (its) legal challenge to the validity of the arbitration award…”

TA spokesperson Deidre Parker told the Canarsie Courier the TA “still has the option to appeal” the ruling, which, by law, it can do up until Nov-ember 28.

The L line, which operates along an 11-mile route between Rockaway Park-way in Brooklyn and Eighth Ave-nue and West 14th Street in Manhat-tan, had been running its off-peak hour trains without conductors since June — but not without controversy.

City Councilman Lew Fidler, who had vociferously objected to removing conductors from the Canarsie subway line, said Monday after they were back on the job, “I felt all along that not only was this the right thing to do, but I was mandated.” He then added, “It would be nice if the MTA now revisited its plans for the Robotrain and save the taxpayers millions of dollars.”

One local resident who occasionally rides the L train, told the Courier on Monday, “I didn’t feel too safe riding the train with one person at the controls. I’m glad that for the time being there will be someone else to assist riders when and if an emergency situation occurs.”

Hearings began several months ago when the Transit Workers Union filed a complaint that the one-person trains violated the collective bargaining agree-ment the union had with the agency. Union representatives, elected officials and commuters also cited safety concerns over the conductor-less opera-tion.

In August, the arbiter said the decision was based on the contract agreement that allows the agency to operate one-person trains of less than 300 feet. The length of the typical eight-car L train is 480 feet.

Removing conductors is part of the New York City Transit Authority’s $300 million renovation, highlighted by its OPTO (one-person train operation), which the debt-ridden agency says is a long-term cost-saving measure. The upgrade is part of the agency’s plan to make the L line fully computerized and capable of running by com-puters and without conductors.

The TA previously assured critics that the motorman can override the automated system in case of an emergency and has a video monitor to determine that passengers board and get off trains safely when conductors are not used.

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