The collision between two subway trains that injured dozens of people in Manhattan last week began with what has become a routine problem in New York City’s mass transit system — pranksters pulling emergency brakes.
All New York City subway cars are equipped with emergency brakes, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said, which means that most riders can suddenly stop a train as long as they can reach and yank the mechanism — often a dangling cord or handle.
Emergency brake vandalism has been on the rise for the past five years. For every time the brakes are used in response to a legitimate emergency, there are more than 50 instances where they are needlessly deployed, adding up to thousands of subway delays a year, according to data from the M.T.A., which operates New York City’s transit system.
In 2023, the agency counted 1,748 unjustified cases of pulled emergency brakes, which rippled through the subway system causing 7,365 delays. Only 30 uses were justified, the authority said. The number was down from 2022 but more than double the 2019 number, even as ridership has slumped because of the pandemic.
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