off track

Repeatedly Stuck Switches in Brooklyn Drive Subway Commuters to Despair

Delays roiled the Sixth Avenue line in Manhattan during the Wednesday evening commute, Nov. 13, 2019.
Delays roiled the Sixth Avenue line in Manhattan during the Wednesday evening commute, Nov. 13, 2019. Photo: Jose Martinez/THE CITY

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The Brooklyn subway equipment failure that brought this week’s Wednesday-evening commute to a crawl on multiple lines has been a persistent problem for months, MTA records show.

A switch along the Coney Island-bound tracks just south of the Prospect Park stop on the B and Q lines, malfunctioned — jamming platforms and delaying and rerouting thousands of commuters on eight lines in Brooklyn and beyond.

Internal MTA incident reports obtained by THE CITY show that switch glitches near the Prospect Park station have slowed more than 250 trains since the start of the year, amid frequent weekend and night work to repair or replace buggy equipment.

The stretch from Atlantic Avenue to Kings Highway is scheduled to close again this weekend, with service also suspended weeknights. Riders must make do with shuttle buses.

“I haven’t been leaving my home much on weekends, and if I do, I don’t take the trains because it’s such a headache,” said Ally Minoux, 26, a B and Q train rider who had to ride a B103 bus home Wednesday after being caught in extensive subway delays. “It absolutely is a recurring problem.”

Switches Hit

Reports show that the Wednesday switch meltdown affected at least 158 trains on the B, D, F, G, M, N, Q and R lines once the problems started just after 4 p.m.

It came a day after switch and signal problems in the same area slowed and rerouted morning-rush trains on the B, D and Q lines for more than two hours.

“The reliability of the switches is an issue, which is why we’re looking to replace them,” Sally Librera, head of subways at New York City Transit, told THE CITY.

The switches at the Prospect Park station, where the B express merges with and diverges from Q local service, also acted up on Halloween as well as in August, June and at several other times earlier this year, according to incident reports obtained by THE CITY.

Librera acknowledged the area has repeatedly been a problem. But she couldn’t say if the latest switch failures are tied to others this year, noting the recent incidents are still under investigation.

“We’re making targeted investments in switch replacements in areas where we know we have performance issues and in areas where we have lots of opportunity for reliability improvements,” she said.

Slow Going

The switch-replacement work has led to a slow-speed order that is limiting B and Q trains north of the Prospect Park station to 10 miles per hour until at least Nov. 25, according to an order issued to all train operators.

“I’ve noticed that the trains are going much slower in some spots, so much so that it adds another 10 to 15 minutes to my commute,” Minoux said.

On Wednesday evening, Minoux added an hour to what she said is optimally a 30-minute trip from the Broadway-Lafayette station in Manhattan to Flatbush. Her commute included an extended stay on the Manhattan Bridge that forced her to cancel a pizza order.

“I got off at DeKalb and called the pizza place and was like, ‘Oh sorry, guys, I just cannot get there,” she said.

Another Brooklyn commuter, Anika Ades, said her Q train went out of service at Atlantic Avenue–Barclays Center as she tried to get home.

“You were waiting to get from the train to go onto the platform, and then it was about 15 minutes to get off the platform,” Ades said. “It was scary, because people were yelling and I was afraid they were going to fall onto the tracks.”

Ades, 26, said, she completed her 90-minute commute via an an app-based electric moped service after exiting the subway.

“Transport is spotty even at off-hours,” she said. “I’ve sort of reworked my schedule so I can go in at off-hours and hopefully avoid the problems.”

Librera said New York City Transit has posted workers near the faulty switches to troubleshoot potential problems, as it’s had to do with other pesky interlockings.

“It was a very disruptive incident, one that we certainly want to avoid in the future,” she said.

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