The New York City subway system is one of the most expansive in the entire world. But when it has mechanical issues and delays, an MTA train car can become a dangerous place very quickly.
New Yorkers were heading home on the F line to Brooklyn Monday night when the train suddenly broke down in the middle of a tunnel. According to one passenger, Michael Sciaraffo, the entire train’s engine shut down, and the lights and air conditioning turned off throughout all the subway cars. Passengers were stuck for approximately 45 minutes in the tunnel, in temperatures that “felt like 120 degree heat.”
“First, we were told it was train traffic ahead of us (we all know that lie all too well). As we waited with no further communication, people started getting very worried,” Sciaraffo wrote on Facebook. “Beads of sweat began rolling down people’s faces. We started to tell everyone to open the side windows and open the doors the three inches we could pry it open to, with books, to get the cross ventilation from the passing trains.”
With the train quickly heating up, passengers were forced to strip off layers of clothing in order to prevent themselves from overheating. Some people took off shirts, others took off pants, and one lady was forced to strip down to the point where passengers covered her with a jacket to preserve her privacy.
“Some people started getting faint, and we started to try and see if we could identify any elderly people or pregnant women on the car who were standing or needed water to see if they needed to sit and drink,” Sciaraffo explained. “Claustrophobia, panic and heat exhaustion began to set in for many folks. At this point, the windows started getting steamed up.”
Eventually, subway workers revealed that train traffic wasn’t causing the shut down. Rather, there was a “severe maintenance malfunction,” forcing the train to sit still in the tunnel. Eventually, another train arrived to physically push the F train into the next station.
“Once we pulled into the station, a mob of people had filled the platform waiting for our train, which left no room to get us off. We had to wait another 10 minutes, sweating, in the dark, before we could get off, while the people on the platform took pictures of us dripping sweat through the windows while we were trying to pry the doors open, as it was getting dangerously hot in the train car,” Sciaraffo wrote. “Finally, they had cleared people off the platform and opened the doors for us to get off. The feeling of remotely cooler air felt amazing compared to how it felt on the train. I never enjoyed the dank, smelly aroma of a train station more in my life.”
Photos and videos taken from outside the train reveal just how hot the train car became. Steam fogged up the windows as the car rolled into the station, with passengers looking visibly dishelveled, sweaty, and upset.
“There was no air. When you breathed it was dense. People were sweating everywhere and sitting on the floor,” Muuto account manager Samantha Mushnick told Gothamist.
Subway malfunctions and delays are common problems across the MTA system. In recent months, such delays have caused journalists, activists, and passengers alike to harshly criticize the New York state government, blaming Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the subway system failing to receive the state funding it deserves.
“The consequences of years of disinvestment have been severe: Riders now have to contend with more than 70,000 delays a month (well over a delay every minute) and record levels of overcrowding on trains,” Riders Alliance Deputy Director Nick Sifuentes wrote for the New York Times last month. “New Yorkers don’t need a politician. We need a leader like those who had the foresight to build this sprawling, messy, utterly essential system and sustain it for over a century. If we want to keep public transit running for another century, Governor Cuomo must make necessary investments now.”