Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Is New York City prepared for a subway "incident?"

Considering that the news outlets here buried the story on the back page and got many details wrong, those who live outside NYC might not have heard about the track fire near the West 4th Street station in Manhattan on Sunday evening. Apparently someone threw a piece of metal onto the tracks, striking the electrified third rail and sparking a fire. The trains stopped in the tunnels and as you can read in two accounts here and here, it took over an hour before passengers got out of the subway system to the streets above. While they waited on the train, they heard announcements from the train operator that the fire and police departments were "on the way." I can understand the need for caution when you're dealing with track problems, but if this had been some kind of terrorist attack, how long would the MTA have waited to get people out of the trains? I take the subway to work each and every day, and I do this fully aware that if there's any kind of mischief in the works by anyone with a grudge, I might not survive the trip. I put that fear out of my mind, reminding myself that I'm more likely to get hit by a drunk driver while walking down the street to the subway entrance than I am to become a casualty of a terrorist attack. Still, the risk is there, and the MTA's response to Sunday night's incident (coupled with the news organizations' quiet coverage) makes me wonder just how bad the odds are against me if something terrible happens on my daily commute.

Now it's time for me to take the subway home. Hopefully I'll blog at you later.

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