Subway Delays and the Power of Shame

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Early last Monday, on the 19th day of the New York City subway system’s designated state of emergency, on a morning in which one’s prevailing hope was to arrive quickly at a polar-chilled office, a track fire erupted near the 145th Street station, on the A line.

The New York TImes
July 21, 2017
By Gina Bellafante

The system, now 113 years old, does not absorb these disruptions easily; service was halted on several other lines. Nine people were taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Many morning meetings, it was safe to assume, were sparsely attended.

Track fires are an enormous problem in an underground network that transports six million people nearly every day with ever-diminishing efficiency. In 2014, there were 614 fires; last year, that number climbed to 707. In nearly every instance, the cause was clear: an excess of trash strewn onto the tracks. Coffee cups, juice bottles, newspapers, wrappers — the detritus of the hustle. Two years ago, the city comptroller’s office conducted an audit that found the process by which subway tracks are cleaned to be “woefully inadequate.” Equipment regularly failed, and close to 90 percent of stations, as it happened, were cleaned fewer than eight times a year.

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