The Sick Passenger and The MTA’s Failure to Communicate

Yesterday evening I experienced an extreme case of poor communication — from the MTA. I went to the subway station on Lexington and 63rd Street as I do every evening and went down the long stairs to the platform to await the F train to take me home. I noticed that there were more people than usual, but that didn’t phase me at all — there are sometimes more people waiting for a train at a quarter past five in the evening.

Five minutes passed. Ten minutes passed. Still no train? I looked at my phone and saw how long I had been waiting and started getting a bit irritated. People kept on streaming in, making the narrow platform even more crowded — they have been overhauling the station for quite some time, in conjunction with the construction of the long delayed second avenue subway line that has been in the planning for so long that they even made a joke about it on the television show Mad Men (set in the 1960’s — the joke being that an apartment was appraised as having great potential value once the Second Avenue line would be complete… fifty years later and we are still waiting…)

When it got to be thirty five minutes, I heard someone saying that they had been waiting for forty-five minutes and I just gave up and headed up stairs and out the door, where I sent a message to my wife and roommate that I was going to have to take another train home since the F never came. I switched to a transit app I use and immediately saw that there was a service alert for the F line — that someone had gotten sick on the train and therefore there were “delays” on the line near where I was. The alert was twenty-four minutes old but I knew that the incident must have occurred far earlier than that if people had already been waiting for awhile when I had arrived.

As I exited I noticed people yelling at an MTA employee — they asked what was going on and he said that he did not know as he had just gotten there. What I do not understand is how communication could have possibly been so poor between the MTA and the people waiting for the train. I understand that they have not quite reached the point of installing those beautiful message boards that many stations have that flash information as well as estimated times for arrival. What should have happened when the person got sick on the train as soon as the MTA was alerted was that someone at Lexington and 63rd should have been informed, and the people waiting for the train should have been next to get the information — via one of the people at the station, if necessary. Hand written signs, if they didn’t have a printer, should have gone up at the stairs to warn people about the delay. I can only hope that next time around, someone (preferably someone working for the MTA) makes the effort to LET US KNOW — I am glad that I have an unlimited metro card and could easily walk to 53rd and Lexington to take the E train.

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