Rising Subway Door Surprise Openings Still Rare But Jarring

Rising Subway Door Surprise Openings Still Rare But Jarring

By Jose Martinez, THE CITY

The MTA last week pulled nearly 300 of its newest subway cars out of service after doors on a C train partially opened while on the move. But the new R179 subway cars are not the only models whose doors became unexpectedly ajar in recent years.

Internal documents obtained by THE CITY show at least 139 reports of doors opening while a train was in motion between 2017 and 2019. Some 64 of those incidents were recorded last year, a jump over the 37 reported in 2018 and 38 in 2017. An MTA spokesperson noted that not a single injury was reported because of a door-opening from 2017 through 2019. But when doors do pop open, riders react.

“Everybody in the train car was like, ‘What the hell was that?’” Rachelle Travis, 30, said of her  February 2017 ride, from which she tweeted to the MTA that a door “opened slightly” on an F train pulling into the Church Avenue stop in Brooklyn. “It was a unanimous moment of shock.”

There are more than 47,000 doorways on the MTA’s fleet of over 6,600 subway cars, and transit officials and workers say it’s extremely rare for them to open while a train is moving. All reports of a door unexpectedly opening require that trains to be taken out of service, pending an investigation.

“It definitely freaked me out,” said Edwin Santana, 46, who reported in July 2017 that three doorways on a Bronx-bound No. 6 train he was riding opened as it pulled into 103rd Street. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t right.’”

‘Doors Should Not Open’

After sidelining the new subway cars on the A, C, J and Z lines last Tuesday out of what he called “an abundance of caution,” New York City Transit President Andy Byford acknowledged, “Doors should not open en route, period.”

The 298 subway cars, part of a $600 million purchase from manufacturer Bombardier, remain out of service while they are being inspected following two incidents that, an MTA spokesperson said, “posed concern over the reliability of door-locking mechanisms.” In their place, the MTA has pressed some of its oldest cars into duty.

The internal documents obtained by THE CITY show that since 2017, subway cars in service since the 1980s and the 1960s have logged the most door-opening incidents.

But Andrei Berman, an MTA spokesperson, said a majority of reports proved to be “unfounded.”

“Train equipment manufactured prior to 2017 have a ‘push back’ feature that allows about 1½ inches of movement,” he said. “Some riders see a door move slightly and report the door opening en route, when it is operating properly and the door is, in fact, closed and locked.”

Cases in Point

Some of the instances, according to records, where train doors were reported to open en route included:

• On Dec. 23, 2019, a J train was taken out of service as it pulled out of Chambers Street after a train operator found a “wide open” door panel on one of its cars. It was then sent to a yard for further inspection.

• On June 25, 2018, a train operator on the No. 6 line discovered a door panel had opened “approximately four inches.” Riders told the operator that “No one had fallen or exited through the open door,” after it opened as the train left Hunts Points Avenue. The train’s conductor was then instructed to stand by the opening until riders could be discharged at Longwood Avenue.

• On Oct. 6, 2017, a J train was taken out of service at Broadway Junction during the evening rush after a customer said a door panel “opened six inches.” While the door operating system and indication circuits were found “to be working as intended,” the report says, the car was sent to a maintenance shop to be monitored for 30 days.

Eric Loegel, an official with Transport Workers Union Local 100, described door openings as “isolated incidents.” He pointed to vandalism and riders leaning against doors as contributing to wear and tear.

“It poses a hazard,” he said. “As I always say, ‘Stand clear of the closing doors’ is not a suggestion, it’s a warning.”

Sarah Feinberg, who heads the MTA board’s transit committee, agreed.

“It is inherently dangerous,” she said. “But the responsibility to ensure doors are safe and functioning is on us.”

This story was originally published on [January 14, 2020] by THE CITY.”

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