These Horrifying Subway Images Exposes a Much Larger Problem

June 6th 2017

Kyle Fitzpatrick

The last thing any subway rider wants is to get stuck underground on a hot day without air conditioning.

Unfortunately, for some New Yorkers, that nightmare came true after a power loss left riders stranded in awful conditions.

During evening rush hour, the train in question stopped mid-commute for 45 minutes. Riders on the packed train were left literally in the dark, without air conditioning or an explanation for the delay.

As Fox 5 in New York noted, the train included pregnant women and elderly persons. Riders were taking off their clothes and stripping down to nothing to keep cool. Some reported feeling faint, exhaustion, claustrophobia, and panic.

This is a serious incident and, unfortunately, it’s nothing new in New York City. But transit struggles aren’t isolated with just this one city: it represents a national failure in infrastructure.

Trains breaking down are not uncommon. The issue arises when trains as old as Baby Boomers remain on the tracks as a result of funding.

As the New York Times reports, these older trains average 33,527 miles between each break down. Compare this with the average subway car — which average 400,000 miles between break downs — and the newest subway cars, which average over 750,000 miles before break downs.

TransitCenter, a foundation that supports transit reform, shared a statement on the subject with ATTN:

"The regular subway breakdowns currently plaguing NYC subway riders are not likely solely a problem of funding...The MTA has failed to communicate about why problems are increasing, which leads to questions about whether funding is being directed to the right priorities and whether management is nimble and effective enough to respond to escalating system failures. The line of accountability leads to Governor Cuomo, who appoints the MTA leadership and who generally takes credit when the MTA completes projects or launches new initiatives."

The issue of old trains and shoddy transportation systems represents America’s failure to invest in infrastructure despite their saving energy and helping the environment.

The American Society Of Civil Engineers (ASCE) put it best in their quadrennial Infrastructure Report Card for 2017: America has a D+ rating as it relates to conditions surrounding America’s infrastructures like bridges, dams, aviation, water, and transit.

Failures in this part of society have real effects. The ASCE estimates that infrastructure failures like poor transit and deteriorating roads cost families $3,400 a year. Jobs and businesses take larger losses leading to a national GDP hit of $3.9 trillion by 2025.

Public transportation has specifically been neglected despite best efforts.

The problem of a stalled train also represents how New York City trains are over capacity. This problem is unique to that area but every city has it's own set of problems. For example: Boston, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., find themselves underfunded and mismanaged, respectively.

The vehicles themselves articulate this, too, as it's estimated 40 percent of buses and 25 percent of rail transit are in marginal or poor condition. Former President Barack Obama hoped to fix these infrastructure problems with 2015’s FAST Act, a measure to repair, research, and increase transportation programs through 2020.

Leaders in the industry have been calling for fixes for years, but, unfortunately, the current White House is mishandling something that typically pleases both parties.

From the president and CEO of the American Public Transit Association (APTA) to the chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority Board, many have appealed to President Donald Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to take the matter seriously.

Unfortunately, there seems to be little listening: Trump’s 2018 budget proposal cuts transportation funding by 13 percent, leading to the stalling of new public transit programs and a favoring of highway funding over greener options.

In APTA’s analysis of the cuts, this would result in 800,000 jobs at risk and a loss of $90 billion in economic output.

A stalled train in New York City is a problem — but it’s anything but local.

The failure of one train on a hot day in the city is anything but an isolated incident: it is a symbol of a growing problem.

And, when paired with the U.S. backing out of the Paris Agreement, you can see that the nightmare of one train getting stuck for almost an hour will bloat into a national infrastructure problem that affects everything from the economy to the environment.