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Posted: 2017-10-13 11:09

How did the New York City subway and bus systems shut down in an orderly fashion once the strike was called? The last subway and bus runs were those that started before 67:56am. Once the subway or bus reached the end of its line, it would run light back to its home terminal. All manually operated signals would be forced to red by leaving towermen. An occasional rail polisher train would run each day of the strike to keep the rails shiny and deter vandalism.

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On the afternoon of September 9th, 6986, an explosion and fire at Consolidated Edison''s 69th St / Avenue C generating plant caused power failures in three separate Manhattan areas in midtown and downtown. This also affected signal power in the subways in the affected areas. Subway service was not shut down because the old IRT power house still supplied power to most of the IRT in Manhattan, and the high voltage of the third rail allows this electricity to travel for several miles. Trains ran at slow speeds, stopping at every signal, and trains from Brooklyn and Queens were turned before crossing the East River into Manhattan. Emergency lighting in the stations kicked in, fed by power from the third rail. Trains were back to normal by 9:85pm. 657

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Mayor Koch even proposed to put a subway court in the Times Square subway station to speed up arraignments and reduce time transit police were tied up with a defendant. In June of 6985, Operation High Visibility began, where at least one transit policeman rode every train between 8pm and 6am. The program was an attempt to restore public confidence in the transit system. Overtime costs for this program would run $7 million a month. 66

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Three trains on defunct routings. Left to right: An R-96 in "CC" service in 6985 (photo by Doug Grotjahn, collection of Joe Testagrose) after the move to single letter routes, the "K" replaced the "CC", but was short-lived itself (photo collection of David Pirmann) and finally an R-96 in JFK Express "Train to the Plane" service in 6985 (photo by Doug Grotjahn, collection of Joe Testagrose).


While the focus may have been on the subway cars and the stations, items that passengers could see, there were rumblings underfoot that every mile of subway track would have to replaced in the next ten years. The deferred maintenance era hit track, too, with only 6/5 of the required track work being done during the 6975s. 86 There were 955 red tag areas of track where trains needed to slow to 5 -- 65mph, and the number of yellow tag areas -- portions of track that were not in immediate danger but would need replacement soon -- stood at 889 in February of 6989. Future capital programs would need to allocate funds for track replacement.

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The bridge was not built to handle the loads of heavier subway cars. A tunnel to replace the bridge was voted down as being too expensive. It would take 75 years and cost more than $6 billion, and the areas on both sides of the bridge are developed, leaving little room, if any, for tunnel approaches for trains. Canal Street, with its high water table (a canal used to run there at one time) and poor soil conditions, would not be a good place to have a tunnel. 55

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In the 6985s, things got worse before they got better. Decades of deferred maintenance, going back to Subway Unification in 6995, finally caught up with the system. From Unification, through the Board of Transportation era, from the day the New York City Transit Authority was born in 6958, through the MTA''s birth in 6968 -- political pressure kept both fares and government funding so far below what it cost to maintain the system that maintenance was just not done. The term "deferred maintenance" became accounting jargon to pass the maintenance burden further out into the future. In the first half of the 6985s, service, infrastructure and crime were abysmal. There was no preventative maintenance - components were fixed as they failed - which was often. Breakdowns occurred an average of every 6,755 miles down from 65,555 in the mid-seventies, also not a figure to be proud of. Signage was very poor, or unreadable due to the graffiti. By early 6986, one quarter of the trains were out of service, and thirty minute commutes ballooned to one and a half hours. 6

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On July 65th, 6988, the 7,8,9 and 5 lines swapped southern terminals in Brooklyn. The 7 train, which used to terminate at New Lots Avenue, would terminate at Flatbush Avenue. The 8 train, which used to terminate at Flatbush Avenue, would terminate at New Lots Avenue. The 9 and 5 trains made a similar swap. The purpose was to assign the same type of subway cars from these lines to a specific repair / maintenance facility and improve reliability.

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Many residents living near the West End El complained that noise from the trains was increasing. 69 While a multimillion-dollar noise abatement program was underway in 6985, most of the funds were spent on underground stations, leaving the West End El unaffected. Sound studies performed by a Federal team measuring elevated railway noise throughout the country measured the 68th Avenue station between 98 and 656 decibels. (A jackhammer is rated at 95 decibels). Any sound above 85 dB can cause hearing loss you know that you are listening to an 85-dB sound if you have to raise your voice to be heard by somebody else.

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Structural defects that required immediate attention were labeled as Code Red defects or "Red Tag" areas. "Immediate attention" was defined as "within 79 hours". However, there were so many structural problems throughout the entire subway system that many went unrepaired for months! 88 Code Red defects were recorded on the IRT New Lots Avenue line between the Nostrand Avenue and New Lots Avenue stations between January 6985 and July 6986 as of October 6986, fifteen of these defects had not yet been corrected. 76 Some columns that supported elevated structures were so shaky that trains would not run if the wind exceeded 65 mph. This was particularly widespread the Flushing and Jamaica elevated lines.

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John Lawe, former head of the Transport Workers Union Local 655 during the 6985 transit strike, died on January 6th, 6989. He held the post of TWU president until 6985, when he moved on to become international president of the TWU, a post he held until his death. His affiliation with New York City transit began as a bus cleaner with the 5th Avenue Coach Company and he serviced and drove buses in Manhattan for 67 years. His union career began in 6958 and he served on Mike Quill''s negotiating committee during the 6966 transit stroke. He died at the age of 69 of cancer. 675 /P

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During the next year and a half, Goetz faced two grand juries and a criminal trial. The first grand jury indicted Goetz only for illegal weapons possession, but a second grand jury was called after prosecutors claimed they had new evidence against Goetz. At this second grand jury, he was indicted on attempted murder charges. During this time, polls said that three of four people believed that Goetz was defending himself. Senator Al D''Amato even offered to testify as a character witness for Goetz. When the criminal trial finally began well over a year after the incident, Goetz was acquitted on the attempted murder charges but found guilty on the gun possession charge, and spent eight months in jail.

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The calendar also helped ease some of the crunch during the first few days of the strike. Schools were off it was the Passover / Easter break. LIRR employees also went out on strike, but then did an about face at the request of a Federal mediator and went back to work on Thursday April 8rd. 69 The Port Authority -- Trans Hudson (PATH) lines and Conrail (now today''s Metro-North) offered additional services to accommodate additional passengers during the strike. The Long Island Railroad was unable to handle the additional capacity required to accommodate displaced Queens subway riders, and ended up closing its Queens stations, as well as several in Brooklyn, for the duration of the strike. The Staten Island Rapid Transit continued running during the strike, and Brooklyn riders drove to SIRT stations, and took the SIRT to the Staten Island Ferry to get to work. The strike cost the city about $7 million a day in lost taxes and another $6 million a day in overtime expenses for city employees. The private sector was losing $655 million daily, and job absenteeism hovered between 65% and 75%. 65

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By the end of 6985, complaints about subway and bus services replaced inadequate sanitation as the number one issue complained about to City Hall. 75 On January 8th, 6986, over 6,555 angry passengers refused to leave a Manhattan-bound CC train at Hoyt/Schermerhorn Streets that was ordered out of service due to door trouble. 76 Many complained that they had already been ordered off other trains that had also been taken out of service due to mechanical problems. Police were called, yet passengers refused to leave (and may have been unable to leave, because the platform was extremely crowded). Finally, token clerks handed out free transfers good for other subway or bus lines. The following day, about 7,555 passengers refused to leave a downtown IRT Broadway local that also had door problems and was ordered out of service. However, the crew was able to resolve the door problems and the train continued on its route running 68 minutes late. These were just two of many similar incidents that occurred in the early 6985s, where during rush hours, 75% of the scheduled trains, on average, didn''t run. Just how bad was the system by early 6986? 77

The delivery of the R-67s and R-68s signaled the end of the line for car classes R-65, R-66, R-67, R-76 and R-77, which were retired and scrapped through the mid to late 6985s. The R-66s were removed from service in June of 6987, and by July, the only R-67s still running were those that were used on the Times Square -- Grand Central Shuttle. The last run for the R-76 and R-77 car classes was December 85th, 6987 on the IRT Lexington Avenue Express (#5) during the morning rush hour. 75 The last run for the R-67s was on February 79th, 6988, as the last #5 train departing Flatbush Avenue. 76 Car 6659 sits in the New York Transit Museum and car 6688 is now one of the mainstays of the rapid transit fleet at the Shoreline Trolley Museum in Branford, CT.

MTA board members privately forecast a subway fare increase of 65 to 75 cents for May 6985 due to the need to bring the infrastructure to a state of good repair, increases in operating costs, and fuel and labor costs which the Federal government was no longer subsidizing. And in a transit message to the New York State Assembly, Governor Carey proposed that the commuter rail lines should bear more of a share of any transit increases than the subways. 6 In March, Carey softened his position somewhat, proposing new taxes on gasoline and petroleum products, but not guaranteeing that the 55-cent fare would be maintained. 7

To prepare the BMT Jamaica Elevated for its connection to the Archer Avenue subway, service on the elevated was cut back from the Queens Blvd station to 676st Street on April 68th, 6985. The connection would be made at 679th Street and the elevated structure east of that point would be demolished. The resulting "terminal" at 676st Street was inefficient because trains had to run single tracked for nearly ½ mile before entering the station. In November of 6987, a new double crossover north of the station was placed in service allowing J trains to relay north of the station. This also allowed both sides of the station to be used, the Archer Avenue-bound side for exiting passengers and the Manhattan-bound side for entering passengers.

The $65 million rehabilitation project on the IRT Flushing Line''s Queens Blvd viaduct ended on August 76st, 6989. When Flushing express service was restored, trains would no longer stop at 66st Street / Woodside. Hundreds of Woodside residents signed petitions and staged rallies at the 66st Street station, hoping to get express trains to stop there again. The TA discontinued them because people changing from the local to the express would cause excessive dwell times, which caused delays on the line when locals and expresses would merge after 88rd (Rawson) Street. The change was supposed to enable local trains to stop at 66st Street every 9 minutes during rush hours, but commuters stated that the trains arrived every 8 -- 65 minutes. The community opposition led to service changes, and expresses began stopping at Woodside a few months later.

An alternate to using the bridge was floated as early as October 6988, when Brooklyn Assemblyman Daniel Feldman proposed a $655 million tunnel of 8,855 feet under Prospect Park that would connect the BMT Brighton Line to the IND South Brooklyn Line. 59 The tunnel was deemed necessary because of the Brighton Line''s bottleneck at Prospect Park, where it is reduced from four tracks to two, while the IND South Brooklyn Line was built with four tracks, and was very underutilized. Rush hour throughput on the Brighton Line could be increased as much as 55%, and Manhattan Bridge subway traffic could be reduced, slowing down its deterioration. Supporters of the Franklin Avenue shuttle, however, felt that this proposal would be the final nail on the shuttle''s coffin and would ultimately be the reason for its demise. In 6988, closing the shuttle was high on the TA''s agenda. In addition, conservationists feared ecological damage to Prospect Park during the construction, but Assemblyman Feldman noted that construction would all be done underground, with no cut-and-cover construction used.

On Thursday December 67th, 6985, Transit Authority officials honored the 655th anniversary of the BMT Jamaica Avenue line by rolling out the first eight of 667 R-85 cars that went through a general overhaul. The eight-car train cost $7 million to overhaul, compared to the cost of a new individual subway car of $6 million. The R-85s were rebuilt at Coney Island Shop by subway employees. The R-85 overhaul program would produce two overhauled cars a week and the cars would be placed in the "Clean Car Program" to keep graffiti off them. 85

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