Why Is There An Operator In The Middle Of New York’s Subways?

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When you will take the subway in New York City, you will inevitably meet these operators who pass the head through the window at each station. Here's the reason why.

A New York subway operator at a station. (Photo by Didier Forray)

Unlike the metros of London, Paris, Lyon, Lausanne or Brussels, the New York metro is characterised by a small curiosity. On some lines, the trains are not driven by a single driver but by two people.
The driver is in charge of driving the train while an operator assists him from a box placed in the middle of the train.

His work? At each station, you will see this operator take the head out of the window to check if everything is fine on the platform. In particular, he ensures that no passengers are trapped between the doors and the platform, offering the guarantee of a visual inspection in addition to automatic alerts. And it is he who will give the driver the green light to confirm the subway’s departure.

Safety on the platform and traffic monitoring

Why this procedure? Some old stations are too narrow and do not allow good video surveillance, due to the pilasters that line the platform. Other stations built on curves also do not allow the driver to see the entire train set in the mirrors or on the control panels. The role of the operator is then essential for the safety of the train.
And that’s not all: the operator also makes the announcements in the train, allowing the driver to concentrate on driving. It is also the operator who is responsible for monitoring the state of traffic on the line, in conjunction with the MTA control centre, the metro control room. A new but essential work for the smooth running of the New York subway!

 

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