Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Responses to "Rights of Passage"

We have received some wonderful responses to my June 28 article about the impending changes in MTA regulations which, among other things, prohibits subway passengers from moving between cars while the train is in motion. Thanks to all who took the time to respond. We encourage everyone else to post their opinions as well.


  1. I agree absolutely. Especially with the warning about creating a "nanny state" which I see in a darker way as a "Big Brother" state with the nanny secondarily.

  2. Well said Starquest.

    Nanny State? We have already passed that. We live in an authoritarian society my dear fellow. Behold the MTA, a hyper gang of incompetents, monopolists, who can't run a transportation company, i. e., keep trains running on time when it's wet, hot cold, dry humid; or keep them clean; or free of fare busters and free-booting panhandlers. Yet they are, compulsively, taking it upon themselves to tell every citizen where to sit-sit there, do not move- in a common carrier. Just who are these stooges Starquest? From what mire have these wretches arise? Why are they abided and given credence?

    I was going to say, only in New York, except the Supremes are now serious competitors with the useful idiots who run this city and state.

    And by the way, did you see Mayor Mike giving mouth to mouth respiration to the head of Acorn, an outfit, to be charitable, in the same leagues as the Red Guards?

    Can you divine the meaning of this suction cupping smooch?

    Keep up the great work.

  3. Starquest -

    It is my understanding that moving between cars has been on the books for a long time. I recall a colleague being busted and given a ticket and/or summons by a police officer who was standing at a train stop and was able to "see" the infraction from that position. Needless to say, we beat that rap.

    How about and equally long piece on disaggreagted school data including the ugly statistic that less than 1 out of t0 African American and Latinos are
    awarded a Regents diploma; the male drop out rate approximating their rate of incarceration and who the recidivists are?

  4. This issue is going to go down in NYC history as more ass-backwards than Mayor Bloomberg's smoking ban, which has in its defense a broader public health concern not mere paternalism towards smokers.

    Riding to Wall Street today I advised tourists to walk through the cars to the front of the train so that when the train reached South Ferry they would not be caught in a car whose doors did not open. The impact of the new rule on tourists' perceptions of the management of the MTA was the one point you did not make.

    There is a paternalistic aspect to the new regulations, to be sure. I suspect that most straphangers are outraged by the "do-goodism" of the MTA Board in this respect. When they've done such a poor job of maintaining basic services by reducing the number of inspections while dressing up stations that could have been kept functional, using the money for refurbishment instead of keeping the trains running well, this latest effort to ingratiate themselves with riders is backasswards. It will merit all the scorn New Yorkers will justly give it.

    What is more, the rules about open coffee containers can be applied selectively: if I have a portocup, or styrofoam cup with a tab that permits me to drink and ride, am I violating the rule?

    I believe public reaction will be inflamed by this latest sally by the MTA not just because the regulation smacks of "We know what is good for you". The reason is that New Yorkers put up with a lot of inconvenience in return for the joys of living here: as a result New Yorkers are accustomed to doing for themselves, finding makeshift solutions to life's daily obstacles. (Illegitimum non carborundum should be New York City's official motto, although it is Harvard's unofficial one.)

    The MTA's new rules will be read as a smarty-pants effort to limit the freedom to cope New Yorkers pride themselves on and hold dear. I predict the MTA will pay dearly in a further loss of prestige as a public authority as a consequent. Public authorities are now under fire as the public awakes to their lack of accountability (Robert Moses, "Thank You"!): the MTA's blunders will make them come a cropper, I predict, and in the not too distant future.

  5. Anonymous12:13 PM

    If the MTA opposes having people move from car to car, why not just lock the doors?

    In an emergency, a conductor could open doors with a key, or (if and when conductors are elininated) a "break glass, get key" box could be installed.

    Why does the MTA object to changing cars anyway? Is it some silly "safety" fear?

  6. Commissioner,
    Thanks for testifying for New York citizens. The MTA, in this knee jerk action, has proven they are very removed from their customers & don't understand the circumstances we choose to live under. I think your "Nanny State" comment tells it all.
    It will be a long drawn out fight to put it back to where it was.
    Maybe it will be the motto for the new Liberal Party, common sense for NY.
    Thanks for all you do to keep the city livable.

  7. Anonymous12:16 PM

    Well spoken! Especially for the legless panhandler. You could have added the woman with the cat (whom I haven’t seen in awhile) and the Doo-Wop trio

  8. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Have to admit that this gave me a giggle. I guess you have to have been there.
    In any case, thanks for your testimony on an issue that should be a no brainer --
    and the opportunity to give law enforcement agents "discretion" has always been sticky at best.

  9. What is your point? Are you suggesting that there was a legal requirement to inform the public of the hearing in that manner? Or, if not, that such notice be required?

    You are likely aware that other trains have partitions which enclose the passageways between cars. Amtrak and NJ Transit come to mind. I'm sure there are others. It would seem that a possible solution to this "problem" might be similar enclosures on the NYC subways.

    Such concerns have been addressed in the past by making the trains safer to move through. You probably recall that the R40 cars were retrofitted as a result of concerns about passengers falling to the tracks when moving between cars.

  10. Another thought or two.

    Seems odd that some subway cars are designed in a manner that requires the doors to be locked because passing from car to car is deemed dangerous. Or that the new cars used on some of the IRT lines, e.g., Lex & 7th Ave., require two hands to open the doors between cars and that some door handles outside the cars don't permit fingers to go through, thereby preventing the passenger from holding on.

  11. Anonymous12:21 PM

    I was born in NYC 61 years ago and have always cherished the option to change subway cars for many of the reasons you cite. The proposed rule is ridiculous and extremely un-New York City like!

  12. Anonymous12:21 PM

    What is the MTA planning to do with passengers who want to get off at South Ferry on the 1 line? As anyone who has ever ridden there knows very well passengers must move to the first 2 cars in order to exit that station.

  13. Old Buck12:22 PM

    A more sensible rule for the MTA to improve passenger safety and convenience would be to bar all bicycles from subway cars and platforms during weekday rush hours -- 7-10 a.m and 4-7 p.m.

    A related rule would permit bikes only in the last two cars of any train with a limit of no more than two bikes to a car or four bikes per train. Of course, this rule would apply during nonrush hours and over weekends.

    Not sure whether or not the same rule should should also apply to tradesmen and porters who are toting goods and boxes on trolleys. Doesn't seem to be as serious a problem as bikes.

  14. voyager12:23 PM

    Really great column, Starquest. My first laugh of the day.

    How do you spell frivolous anyhow?

    Do we not think these folks should get a life?

  15. Anonymous12:24 PM

    I completely agree with your thoughts about moving between cars. I must object to your comments about trial lawyers. I am a lawyer, but I almost never have anything to do with negligence cases (you are really complaining about negligence lawyers, I try other civil and criminal cases, but not negligence) There are ridiculous cases resulting in large jury awards, but why are the lawyers blamed and not the jurors. These are jury verdicts not lawyers' verdicts. The jury awards money to people on the jury's finding defendant's conduct was negligent.

  16. Anonymous10:33 AM

    sadly i believe that the new regulations have nothing to do with improving our quality of life, rather it is another attempt to raise sorely needed funds from the public. thank you for being on hand to testify at the hearings. have a great day.

  17. Anonymous10:33 AM

    Henry: I agree. But, if someone does get done in when walking through, could the bereaved ones sue the MTA for big bucks asserting negligence in not having and enforcing a no pass rule? This is a variant on the attractive nuisance doctrine.

  18. Anonymous10:34 AM

    The rule to fine people who change cars on subways is unreasonable.

  19. Anonymous10:35 AM

    Dear Henry:
    With so many other hazards facing us, this one seems way overblown. Was there any reaction to your sensible arguments against this new
    restriction? Maybe people should sign a waiver when they swipe their
    Metrocards, saying that they will not sue if they get hurt in the process of going from car to car...

  20. Anonymous10:35 AM


  21. Anonymous10:37 AM

    Henry: In the "MTA Bars Car Hops" column you have written, you have gone beyond mere journalism and taken your place among the pantheon of satirists such as Alexander Pope! He was famous for his long satirical poem "The Rape of the Lock" that entertained readers in 1714 with the social and political consequences of a purloined ringlet of a damsel Belinda, epic tempests-in-a teapot, and a mock-heroic journey to the Cave of Spleen. Thanks for putting into the right context the Brobdingnagian problems that would follow from trying to change cars on the subway. You probably remember the gigantic Brobdingnagians in Jonathan Swift's highly satirical "Gulliver's Travels" (1726), in which Swift ridicules laws that defy common sense and reasonable policies by government. Maybe your column will stir the yearnings for common sense at the MTA.

  22. Anonymous10:38 AM

    I often want to write to you - most often with praise/agreement - but get too busy or otherwise let the moment slip by. Today, however, I must take the time to say: "Hooray for you!" The second I saw the new MTA rules, I started to make a mental list of all the reasons I would want to change cars while the train is in motion. I'm really happy to see you've covered them all. But, on second thought, enumerating the reasons shouldn't matter. Any reason should be adequate, as it actually is to the individual involved at the time of occurrence.

    Last year, the 100th anniversary of the subway, was also my 50th. (Omygod, I've been riding for half the system's existence! I began commuting from Manhattan to Brooklyn Tech in 1954.) I've seen the subway deteriorate, recover dramatically, and start to go downhill again. I have no quarrel with the other rules, as they may, in fact, enhance the commuting experience, but this one is surely silly. If a passenger wants to change cars, he/she should be allowed to, without let. It should not be up to the discretion of an officer, except under emergency circumstances. And it certainly shouldn't be subject to a fine.

    Keep plugging!

  23. Anonymous10:40 AM

    Hello StarQuest,

    Great column. I'm glad you were able to testify at the hearing, however briefly. I would so like to sentence the MTA Board and all of its senior management to ride the subways and buses for a full year every dang day. They would likely have very different perspectives at the end of that time.

    One question - most news reports prior to the hearings stated that the no changing cars rule would apply whether the train is moving or stationary. In other words, even if a train is stopped at a station, you cannot change cars inside; you must exit the train and enter the next car from the platform. Seeing as how one hardly has time to get on or off at a station, especially during rush hours, I wonder how they expect people to manage to change cars in this manner. Can you clarify?

  24. I LOVE your concept of a "nanny state". Hope others pick it up! Question: Are they planning to station officers on every car, handing out tickets to anyone putting his foot up on the plastic seat, or sipping a soda? How DO they plan to enforce these laws? Is it cost effective to assign bodies to give out tickets? Having extra security isn't a bad idea in itself, but can we afford that?

  25. Anonymous10:41 AM

    You will be interested to know that the MTA Board deferred voting on rules and regs until July to give Board Members an opportunity to ask questions about them.

  26. Anonymous10:41 AM

    Is there any thought being given to privately financing the no. 7 subway line? i.e., having a private company own that part of the subway?