by Mike Masnick

Will Striking Transit Workers Speed Up NYC Subway Automation?

from the people?--we-don't-need-no-stinkin'-people dept

As a fan of the NYC subway system it's tough to imagine how the city is functioning with all their transit workers on strike. However, it's leading some to ask the very reasonable question about what it would take to automate the subway system in New York. It's not a new question. In fact, earlier this year, NYC Transit opened up one automated line and have suggested that over the next twenty years or so, they expect to automate the entire system. Automated systems aren't that rare, as the articles note. Here in San Francisco, the BART system is apparently automated. The difficulty appears to be less in building an automated train system, but in retrofitting such a large, old and complex system as the massive NYC subway system. Still, after a day or two of no subways at all, it's not difficult to see plenty of people scrambling for ways to speed up that conversion process.

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  1. identicon
    David, 20 Dec 2005 @ 12:40pm

    Automated Trains

    An important next step, after automating the trains, is to break them up. Instead of one 4 car train every 20 minutes, there should be 1 car trains every 5 minutes. Same capacity, same hardware cost, less waiting. My understanding is that the historical reason for multi-car trains is to keep piloting costs down.
    They also need to look at providing automated mechanical barriers in the stations, and interlocking them with the trains, akin to elevator operations. Elevators have not been manned in decades, and have proven to be very safe and reliable. Think of subways as horizontal elevators.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Frederick, 20 Dec 2005 @ 1:00pm

    NYC Subway Automation

    In my opinion, as a New Yorker, is that in this era automation of the subway system is not in a case of "if", but in a case of "when". This striking situation in the trasportation of NYC will just give it the push it needs in order to offer the sooner than possible availability of this automated system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Bob Jonkman (profile), 20 Dec 2005 @ 1:29pm

    Labor disputes will shut transit down, regardless

    If there was a labor dispute in the transit system, the operation would be shut down even if the subway was running automated trains. The current shutdown is a people problem, not a technical one.

    --Commutative Bob.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    grins, 20 Dec 2005 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Labor disputes will shut transit down, regardl

    The people are rightfully complaining about their working conditions. If you give them a job without the stressful conditions, such as an environment with warm and clean air, where they're simply monitoring train functionality remotely, there wouldnt be a people problem. It's always a technical problem because better technology is usually the solution to having people work in crappy situations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Blbpaws, 20 Dec 2005 @ 2:33pm

    Re: Automated Trains

    And when's the last time you saw more than one elevator operating in the same shaft?

    Your understanding is flawed; in order to prevent crashes--something that I, as a NYC subway commuter, are very happy they are doing--they don't run one train right up against the back of the one in front of it, even during rush hour. In fact, when the trains get close, it's common practice for the lagging train to slow down or completely stop in the tunnel to avert any possibility of a crash.

    In addition, during rush hour, there are trains along the busy lines at a very fast rate--more than one every five minutes--and they still are packed. Using 1 car trains every five minutes would stall the city during rush hours and turn a half hour commute into a hour and a half ordeal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Murray Muffin ex NY'er in GA, 20 Dec 2005 @ 2:33pm

    Re: Labor disputes will shut transit down, regardl

    If you got rid of the union labor and had automated trains (Hartsfeild airport in Atlanta has them -and they work very well) there would be no strikes. Only union eployees who think that they work for the union rather then their employer strike. They are very overpaid for a simple job. I guess years ago people thought elevators actually needed an operator....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Murray Muffin, 20 Dec 2005 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Automated Trains

    Hello -- Hartsfield Airport here in Atlanta operates more then one train per tube. They have sensors that actually prevent them from crashing into each other! The sensors don't drink, call in sick, fall asleep or pee in a bottle. And teh cost is cheap enough to have redundant systems!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    GeorgeGiraffe, 20 Dec 2005 @ 3:09pm

    Re: Automated Trains

    Yeah, but then we lose every cool subway-car-hoppin' chase scene from now till the end of time!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Craig, 20 Dec 2005 @ 3:16pm

    No Subject Given

    Whos gunna chase kids over the stahls then ???

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Daren, 20 Dec 2005 @ 5:45pm

    BART automated?

    While I no longer live in the Bay Area I recall that BART has operators.... and they strike too from time to time

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Murray Muffin, 22 Dec 2005 @ 2:52pm

    Re: BART automated?

    Like the air traffic controllers -- fire em all!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    eddy, 28 Mar 2006 @ 6:26pm

    I think they should always have operators is stupid to call a train a horizontal elevator—if it is, then what isn’t?. Computers can take the job of almost everyone.......not just train operators. Secretaries- already happening, there are more, and now there are programs which actually DESIGN AND Produce a product based on a few requirements/parameters. However, if everything is regulated by computers, everything is “perfect”, what will be the point of life? Human error makes life what it is, and I don’t want to lose it. There is a bigger picture to this. Slowly all of the middle to lower class people will be jobless with the CEOs feeding paper to a computer. Maybe a bit far fetched, but unfortunately, I cannot disregard it as an outcome for workers, it seems possible to me. Truth: what is Sci-Fi now will only be so for a while; we make what we dream, and if super thinking robots have a profitable market, they WILL be made, I assure you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    gy, 16 Apr 2006 @ 10:21am

    think about being in a crowded subway car under the east river with a automated system and the power shuts down.then what ? wait for help to arrive? no one to help passengers off the train and guide them out. just wait for help to reach you.i want humans operating the subways especially with the terrorist threat the city is under.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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