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14.05.2016
The graffiti epidemic displayed in full swing on this IRT train on the Dyre Avenue Line, September 1980. 1980 arrived and so did a twelve day transit strike - the second major transit strike in 14 years.
The 1980s could be summarized as the "Jekyll and Hyde" period of the New York Subway System. David Gunn took over as TA president and Richard Kiley took over as MTA Chairman after Ravitch retired from the MTA in 1984.
This is the story of the NYC Transit, then known as the Transit Authority, during the 1980s. During any election year, the transit fare always becomes a major political issue, and 1980 was no exception. It should be noted that $39.2 million of this deficit was tied directly to the problem-prone Rockwell International trucks ordered for the R-46s. In another effort to save money, the MTA also proposed to eliminate the special half fare program for the elderly during peak hours, and the Sunday half-fare program for all riders. MTA board members privately forecast a subway fare increase of 10 to 25 cents for May 1980 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. The transit contract with the Transport Workers Union Local 100 was due for renewal in April 1980. How did the New York City subway and bus systems shut down in an orderly fashion once the strike was called? Newspapers were filled with stories and pictures of the sea of humanity crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, with cheerleader Koch at the Manhattan end shouting "how'm I doin?". To offset the new labor agreement, and to make up for a huge operating deficit, the subway fare was raised to 60 cents on July 1st, 1980.
It didn't affect as many people as the subway strike, but Strike Fever spread to the PATH system, too. Many residents living near the West End El complained that noise from the trains was increasing.19 While a multimillion-dollar noise abatement program was underway in 1980, most of the funds were spent on underground stations, leaving the West End El unaffected. This B train of 1968 R-40 "Slant" cars on the Brighton line in 1988 is characteristic of the filthy conditions of the period. Infrastructure was not routinely inspected and few repairs were made until a failure occurred. The R-44s and R-46s, the newest cars in the system, consisted of 25% of the IND-BMT's 4,178 subway cars. The Transit Authority always claimed that lack of funding is what led to the deplorable condition of the subway in 1981.
In May of 1981, the TA, for the second time since 1977, wanted to close the Franklin Avenue Shuttle in Brooklyn.
On July 17th, 1981, the MTA board voted to close the Franklin Avenue Shuttle effective November 1st. Structural defects that required immediate attention were labeled as Code Red defects or "Red Tag" areas.
In 1981, the subway fleet was in such poor shape that many cars were leaving the repair yards with known defects, severe enough to cause even more breakdowns.
The federal government was not helping the TA overcome its bad image, and this is not a reference to inadequate funding. By early 1982, though, not much headway was made in stopping the deterioration of subway and bus service. The EDC's support was not effective in reversing the spiral of defective equipment and poor service. Photographer Jim Maurer captured this view of spruced-up R-10 cars on the Jamaica Bay crossing in 1986.
The number of trains that break down in service or never leave the yard due to a malfunction would be reduced to a handful in any given rush hour.
500 subway cars would be painted at the newly overhauled Coney Island shops, more than double the number painted in 1984. Lights, heat, air conditioning, and public address systems would work in 90% of all subway cars. A new double crossover would be installed on the Brighton Line south of the Brighton Beach station between the two express tracks. Yard expansions to store out of service trains would reduce the possibility of graffiti vandals tagging trains stored outside of yards. 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 East Side IRT was rated best for working doors, adequate lighting and properly labeled trains, largely because of the new R-62s running on the line. In 1986, a second $8 billion capital improvement program was passed, but this program did not include any funding for the Franklin Avenue Shuttle.
In February 1986, the Straphangers Campaign's "report card" of subway service revealed that the number of subway cars with better lighting, legible maps and correct signage was increasing -- a good trend -- but announcements, rush hour service and the number of cars with broken doors did not improve at all from the previous year.
Even without the R-46 truck problems, the TA's strategy of purchasing subway cars with new technologies seemed fine on paper, but it was a disaster in practice.
The TA was forced by federal law to accept the lowest bid for the bus contract, but because of the defects, they wanted to give the contract to General Motors (for the RTS-I). Staten Island express bus service was supplemented by approximately 100 MC8s leased from Greyhound. The MTA was considering paying Grumman the money outstanding on its contract in return for Grumman to make all necessary repairs to the 637 buses and not produce the remaining 200 buses in the contract.
In 1982, the MTA was exploring the purchase of new buses from the Hino Company of Japan and Renault of France. On February 7th, 1984, David Gunn, on his 5th day as the TA president, ordered all of the Model 870s grounded after one of them, an express bus from Brooklyn, burst into flames while it was being driven back to a garage in Manhattan.43 They never returned to service again. Despite the problems, New York City Transit has retained one Grumman Model 870 bus for the historical collection.
The A-frame problem was traced to poor engineering by Rohr, Flxible's previous parent before Grumman.
A citizen's survey revealed that, in 1980, the subway was in the worst condition of its 75-year history.45 The New York Public Interest Research Group and the Institute for Public Transportation concluded that the system's performance was very poor and its maintenance was even worse. This 1976 view of the 63rd Street Tunnel construction shows the connection from 63rd Street into the BMT Broadway line under Central Park.
During this entire time, work on the 63rd St and Archer Avenue subway lines continued, although the MTA considered stopping work on these projects in October of 1980, and spending the money instead on maintaining the existing system. Despite everyone in the field of transportation examining the tunnel project for monetary and project management defects, the MTA also hired a firm to re-examine the tunnel for structural and engineering defects.
In September of 1985, there was political pressure (again) placed on the TA to abandon the line, because the expected ridership would cover a very small amount of the line's operating costs.
In October of 1985, Construction Technology Laboratories found the 63rd Street tunnel structurally sound.
By the end of 1985, it was well known that the original intent of the 63rd Street subway, to run to eastern Queens, was never going to happen. Extending the 63rd Street line through the Sunnyside Yard and the LIRR to the Archer Avenue subway.
Extending the line to Sunnyside Yard in Queens and allow passengers to connect to a new LIRR service stopping in Rosedale and Queens Village.
It wasn't just the R-46s, the Grumman Flxibles and the 63rd Street Tunnel that were cracking up -- the Manhattan Bridge was showing signs of excessive wear and tear. An alternate to using the bridge was floated as early as October 1983, when Brooklyn Assemblyman Daniel Feldman proposed a $100 million tunnel of 3,800 feet under Prospect Park that would connect the BMT Brighton Line to the IND South Brooklyn Line.54 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.
The proposal never saw the light of day, but the Manhattan Bridge continued to deteriorate.
The Williamsburgh Bridge supposedly was immune to the disease that plagued the Manhattan Bridge.
The bridge was closed to train traffic on April 11th, 1988, when a painter on the bridge noticed a hole in a girder.
When the Williamsburg Bridge was built, it replaced the Broadway ferry that stopped near the foot of the bridge. The Federal government was reluctant to provide money to rehabilitate the J and M lines in the late 1980s because of doubts about the structural integrity of the Williamsburgh Bridge. February 13th, 1980 marked the 1st anniversary of the "Guardian Angels", a group of (at that time) 220 "tough kids" who patrolled the subways and buses in an attempt to deter crime.57 During a City Council meeting where members of safety and transportation committees met jointly to discuss transit crime, the founder of the Guardian Angels, Curtis Sliwa, night manager of a McDonalds on East Fordham Road in the Bronx, appeared to be more in tune with the level of crime than Transit Police Chief James Meehan. Philadelphia police officers suggested that a good way to combat crime on the New York subway was to use police dogs. An epidemic of subway car window bashing broke out on the Pelham Line in 1980, causing $2 million in damages.
On January 20th, 1982, MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch spoke during a breakfast meeting of the Association for a Better New York, a business group. To counteract a 60% jump in crime in 1982, a plan to have uniformed police officers ride the subway between 8pm and 4am was instituted. Meanwhile, enterprising criminals would steal bus transfers from bus drivers, and sell the transfers on the street for 50 cents. 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. The 1980s made a very indelible impression on potential passengers of the subway: use the subway and you're guaranteed to be a crime victim. There were many shootings on the subway, though not as many as there were above on the streets of New York City. On December 22nd, 1984, Bernhard Goetz, until that point in time just another typical passenger on the subway, boarded a southbound IRT 7th Avenue express at his home station of 14th Street.
The coverage of the case by the news media took on the same aura as that of the OJ Simpson case in the 1990s. In the civil trial, newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin testified that Cabey had told him about a year after the shooting that he and the other three young men on the train intended to rob Goetz because "he looked like easy bait." In fact, all of the youths had committed serious crimes since the original incident, except for Cabey, who remains paralyzed in a wheelchair. Even though Goetz left New York City after the civil trial, he returned and actually ran for mayor of New York City in 2002. The TA considered buying 63-foot subway cars to replace 260 50-foot IRT cars, even though these longer cars were never tried anywhere on the IRT.
Even so, the TA fell behind its timetable for the design and purchase of 540 new subway cars that was authorized by the November 1979 bond issue.69 The first shipment of 260 subway cars was due to be on the IRT by the summer of 1982, and all shipments were due to be completed by 1983.
In late 1980, the IRT Diamond Jubilee special of vintage Lo-V cars returned to the Lexington Avenue local for a week. The IRT "Diamond Jubilee" special of restored Low-V cars, number 5443 in the lead, poses in City Hall Station in September 1979.
A rush hour T train would run from Bay Parkway on the West End Line to the financial district. A K train would run from Canarsie to midtown Manhattan through the Chrystie Street connection. A proposal for non-stop express service between 59th Street and the World Trade Center was found to be unworkable due to existing lines running at capacity and the inclusion of the JFK express on the 8th Avenue line south of West 4th Street. In 1981, the Transit Authority began installing welded rail on some underground portions of the system. By March of 1982, the MTA was close to a deal to purchase 325 new IRT subway cars from Kawasaki Heavy Industries of Japan.
Brand new R-62A from Bombardier runs in test service on the Flushing line, seen here at Grand Central in 1985. During the 30-day acceptance test period for the R-62s, they were run on the Flushing Line. One of the first Kawasaki R-62 cars being offloaded from the ship which carried it from Japan. In October of 1982, a consortium of French engineering companies, called FrancoRail, was selected by the MTA to build 225 subway cars, which eventually became known as the R-68s.
The option for 200 additional R-68s was given to Kawasaki and the car class became known at the R-68A.
The delivery of the R-62s and R-68s signaled the end of the line for car classes R-10, R-16, R-17, R-21 and R-22, which were retired and scrapped through the mid to late 1980s.
In 1982, the Transport Workers Union was given the opportunity to bid on the overhaul of 300 R-36 subway cars, and in return, they abandoned repair quotas.
In 1982, the first "graffiti control train" of ghostly white IRT cars debuted on the IRT Flushing Line.
In an effort to raise additional money for the subways and buses, the MTA sold the East Side Airlines Terminal in February of 1984, and the New York Coliseum in 1986.
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 121st Street on April 13th, 1985. High quality Art prints, Posters, Bags and other gift ideas for your beloved ones, and for you. Please register to participate in our discussions with 1.5 million other members - it's free and quick! As you can see the NYC area's rail system is very big and I left out Airtrain JFK, AirTrain Newark, Newark City subway, among others . I was actually just at a Metro training facility today practicing for fires or special rescues with the Metro.
And though it isn't a rail line, it should be noted that Staten Island does have a public transit ferry operated by the same agency running to and from Manhattan.
The public transportation of New York is suitable if you stay for a week or more in the city.
The subway and local buses will help you to get to different points of interest in New York and its boroughs.
Most of the subway lines run North to South and most of the bus lines in Manhattan go East to West. The same subway lines with same colors have the same route in a large part of Manhattan, but are divided into sections for the boroughs of NYC (Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Harlem). You must take those trains if you want to go faster from the North to the South of Manhattan for example.
This MetroCard allows an unlimited number of subway and bus rides for a fixed price during 7 days. If you decide to purchase a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard, you can buy as many rides as you want, from $5 to $100 (if you purchase it at a Vending Machine). At a Subway Station Booth, you may also purchase your MetroCard, but they only accept cash. In some subway stations you won’t find any Vending Machine or booth, look at the signs when going in the subway station! If you want to use your debit card, not from a US Bank, the machine asks for a ZIP Code (a local zip code). They are two different means of transportation and they don’t offer the same possibilities. When it was settled, a large operating deficit was forecast and the threat of a fare increase was raised to pay for it.
As the decade began, it had the filthiest trains, the craziest graffiti, the noisiest wheels, and the weirdest passengers. Decades of deferred maintenance, going back to Subway Unification in 1940, finally caught up with the system. In 1981 through 1982, he was able to secure $8.1 billion in funding for the first capital improvement program. While they may have received the most accolades for improving the subway so much in the late 1980s, it was Ravitch who started the capital improvement programs and got the funding to turn the poor state of affairs around. This document will examine the state of the Transit Authority and its subway system in the 1980s. Governor Hugh Carey made an "iron clad" promise to keep the subway fare at 50 cents through 1981, and considered charging New York metropolitan area owners of automobiles and other vehicles "user fees" that would be used to offset the rising costs of mass transit.3 These fees would cover a proposed deficit of $200 million for 1980. Hundreds protested this proposal.5 The MTA planned to save $44 million with the elimination of these fare programs. Contract negotiations started on February 4th, with the TWU's opening demands including a 30% wage hike and a new holiday to celebrate the union's founding president, Michael J. 34,000 members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 walked off their jobs during the early morning hours of April 1st, 1980. His position was that Chairman Ravitch was the chief negotiator for the MTA, not him, and Koch would therefore keep himself a low profile in transit matters. Primary roadways and river crossings were limited to two or three passengers per vehicle in the morning rush.
The TWU won a contract calling for a 9% raise in the first year and 8% in the second year along with a cost of living adjustment (expected to be at about 20%). On June 12th, 1980, 177 members of the Brotherhood of Railway Car Men went on strike, which lasted for months. Sound studies performed by a Federal team measuring elevated railway noise throughout the country measured the 18th Avenue station between 98 and 106 decibels. Police were called, yet passengers refused to leave (and may have been unable to leave, because the platform was extremely crowded).
Yet they were the most prone to breakdowns: the R-44s because of sophisticated technology installed in anticipation of operating on a fully automated Second Avenue Line and the R-46s due to their cracked trucks. The TA cited its deplorable condition and lack of ridership as its reasons for closing the line. The Shuttle line would be allowed to deteriorate throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s (where it would appear much more decrepit), til finally being overhauled 1998-1999. The shuttle had been closed for a two-week period ending May 7th due to demolition of a building adjacent to the tracks.
In 1981, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report based on a yearlong study that revealed that safety regulations for mass transit systems, including New York's, were inadequate and left the potential for disaster.28 Transit staff was generally inadequately trained to evacuate subway tunnels in an emergency. The Economic Development Council, a business group headed by David Rockefeller that originated in 1965, ran an executive-lending program for businesses to address issues. In an interview with the Daily News published on October 21st, 1984, TA president David Gunn stated that 4,000 of the TA's 6,400 cars needed "a lot of work", and that it wasn't the age of the subway cars that necessitated the work -- it was "poor everyday maintenance and a lack of a major overhaul program" that caused the problems.29 Gunn instituted an overhaul program in 1984 where 200 cars per year would be completely overhauled, and the first cars to go through this program were the R-36s that ran on the IRT Flushing Line.
TA President David Gunn wanted to improve service before instituting a fare hike, because service was not at "acceptable" levels.
The GG line had the most poorly lit and mislabeled trains, while the LL had the most missing maps and the J and M lines had the most defective doors.


For the third time, it was again on the chopping block, this time requiring restoration at an estimated cost of $40 - $70 million. The rate of cracks found on the trucks nearly doubled, from 889 cracks logged in February 1979 to 1,700 in March 1980.35 The R-46s had to be inspected several times a week at the TA's expense, and the TA and New York City filed suit against Rockwell, Pullman Standard and four other subcontractors for $192 million.
The R-44s and R-46s had enough technology in them to make Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott of the USS Enterprise smile with glee, but they were barely able to make it through their runs. In 1971, the Federal government mandated an "ideal" bus design called "Transbus" which was very lightweight, contained sealed windows, air conditioning, a small engine and low ground clearance. The bus was not subjected to the proper testing to see if the design would hold up, and when Grumman purchased Flxible, they thought the 870 design was good to go and began building the bus immediately.
In the late 1970s, the MTA purchased a number of new double-decker buses to run down 5th Avenue. Senator Alfonse D'Amato asked the Senate to investigate the tunnel project and the use of federal funds to ensure they were being spent appropriately. Based on the results of this study, a decision would be made whether to finish completing the line. One girder in particular, "G-4", was scrutinized because of the lack of train clearance underneath it; 13 inches of the girder were shaved off and its structural integrity was questioned. It was also known that the current terminus of the line, at 21st Street in Queensbridge, was useless; 220 passengers an hour were the usage projections in 1984.
It was the cheapest and fastest alternative to complete -- it would be done in 1993 at a cost of $222 million. It would cost $594 million and be completed by 1997, but residents along the proposed route objected to this option. The route of the new LIRR service would be the Montauk branch, used mostly for freight service. The bridge, designed and built by Gustav Lindenthal in 1903, had a major design flaw: the subway tracks were placed on the outside of the bridge deck instead of inside near the center, as on the Williamsburgh Bridge.
Rush hour throughput on the Brighton Line could be increased as much as 50%, and Manhattan Bridge subway traffic could be reduced, slowing down its deterioration. In May of 1982, a routine inspection revealed a cracked beam above the north side subway tracks near the Manhattan tower, forcing emergency rerouting of B and D trains.
In 1985, the north side of the Manhattan Bridge was closed for the summer for emergency repairs. Vehicular traffic was suspended two days later because other beams were found to be corroded.
It was seriously thought that the bridge would have to be replaced, or an extremely difficult cable-replacement project, without engineering precedent, would need to be performed on the bridge to keep it structurally viable. While Meehan testified that he could provide sufficient protection to straphangers with the 2,300 members of his police force, Sliwa was advocating additional policemen to patrol the subways. A TA spokesman said that the use of police dogs was studied several times over the past 30 years (to 1950), and was never tried, though the idea was never ruled out, either. TA shop employees on the late shift were often used to replace broken glass in subway car windows. In June of 1985, Operation High Visibility began, where at least one transit policeman rode every train between 8pm and 6am. Perception became the reality; there are people to this day who still think that the subway is the crime-ridden hellhole it was described as in the 1980s -- and this perception is totally incorrect. But one shooting in particular stood out and struck a responsive chord in many New Yorkers, and this shooting took place on the subway. He happened to sit near four teenage boys in the car -- Barry Allen, Troy Canty, James Ramseur and Darrell Cabey -- and there were about twenty other passengers in the same subway car. 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.
The jury found that Goetz had acted recklessly and deliberately inflicted emotional distress on Cabey.
The $650,000 study funded primarily by the Federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration was completed during the summer of 1980 and it recommended specific bus route changes to better serve Brooklyn riders. The cars would be purchased using $190 million from the Transportation Bond Act voters approved in November 1979. 280 IND-BMT cars were due to be reconditioned with new motors, air conditioning and new interiors. Service ran between 59th Street and Brooklyn Bridge, and allowed passengers to remain on the train as it rounded the City Hall Loop.
This car and its three mates were still running in museum service at the 100th Anniversary of the subway in 2004.
It would be the first purchase of foreign-made subway cars that ever ran on the New York subway system.71 Other candidates for this order included Bombardier and the Budd Company. On March 19th, 1984, the first R-62 trainset ran through the Steinway tunnel, and an air line bracket damaged four guard lights. Many people, transit enthusiasts notwithstanding, claim that the Budd-built R-32s are some the finest subway cars ever built, and they are in better shape that those built for contracts R-38 through R-46. In August of 1985, all R-62As were removed from service (about 40 cars) because Bombardier failed to remove bracket welds used while shipping the cars to New York.74 These welds reduced the flexibility of the couplers and could have caused derailments on sharp curves, such as at South Ferry. FrancoRail was chosen over bids from the Budd Company of Troy, Michigan and Sumitomo of Japan.
The first R-68A cars were delivered to New York on April 12th, 1988 and transferred to the TA the following day. The R-16s were removed from service in June of 1987, and by July, the only R-17s still running were those that were used on the Times Square -- Grand Central Shuttle. The TWU was interested in this contract because it was losing a growing number of repair jobs to outside contractors, and job security was being threatened.77 The MTA had planned to farm out this work, too. The original intent of the white train was to send it out on different routes during the day and determine on which of those routes the subway train was most likely to be "tagged".
The 2 train, which used to terminate at New Lots Avenue, would terminate at Flatbush Avenue. These cars were known to old-time IRT employees as the "Queens Cars" because they debuted in Queens on the Flushing Line. The connection would be made at 129th Street and the elevated structure east of that point would be demolished. A 4?-year long project to overhaul the IRT Flushing Line was begun, and it meant single tracking much of the line on weekends, and the complete elimination of express service for the duration of the project. If you’re going to the wrong direction, you will have to wait 18 minutes before re-using your Metrocard. The doors do not open from outside so someone has to go through the turnstile with your MetroCard and then open the emergency exit door.
Usually, you can save about 5-10 minutes with the taxi, but during peak hours the metro is much faster. They are everywhere, you can take a ride wherever you want and mostly if you don’t want to walk. By the end of the decade, it had cleaner trains, no graffiti, quieter wheels -- and the weirdest passengers. From Unification, through the Board of Transportation era, from the day the New York City Transit Authority was born in 1953, through the MTA's birth in 1968 -- political pressure kept both fares and government funding so far below what it cost to maintain the system that maintenance was just not done. In 1982, the first year of the program, the MTA signed contracts for nearly $3 billion in improvements -- more than what it spent in the entire period between 1970 and 1980.2 Reconstruction work at the major yards at 207th Street and Coney Island began. It will wrap up with a list of incidents and accidents that were newsworthy during the 1980s, and list some "odds and ends" that didn't fit "nicely" in the text below.
The fee would be collected when motorists registered their vehicles, though no specific fee was suggested. Unlike the threatened strikes in 1998 and 2002, where City Hall was very noisy and threatened legal action and astronomical fines, it was relatively quiet in the early days of the 1980 strike. Once the subway or bus reached the end of its line, it would run light back to its home terminal.
Police Officers acted as car pool coordinators at tunnel crossings; pedestrians who showed up were usually able to find room in someone else's car or truck for the trip into Manhattan. 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 3rd.14 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 union was looking for a 36.3% salary increase over the next 38 months, but the Port Authority was offering 30% over the next 42 months. One example cited was $300 million spent on subway cars only to find out that they didn't fit properly in the repair shops.
Dean Street was still open in 1981, but its condition at that time was beyond words -- a sagging canopy, light poles broken at the base, and platform railings intended to prevent passengers from falling over the side of the platform were ready to collapse under their own weight. The fight over the Franklin Avenue Shuttle became political, when Brooklyn state lawmakers vowed not to vote for future MTA money requests until they were assured that the shuttle would stay open. However, there were so many structural problems throughout the entire subway system that many went unrepaired for months! The subway system was in such bad shape that the State Legislature declared a "transportation emergency" and passed an $8 billion program to rehabilitate the system.27 The MTA received most of this financing, and this funding became the first 5-year capital improvement program, originally announced in 1980.
Transit equipment, using a new generation of plastics, increased the fatality risk in the event of a fire. The EDC offered a plan to start resolving the issues, offering to recruit 20 business executives to do so.
Simpson concentrated on car maintenance, and was able to improve service and get on-time performance back to 90%. When the work was completed, the cars would take on the paint scheme now known as the "Redbird", and the interior would also be painted.
As of March 1980, 62 R-46s were out of service due to cracks and 112 were out of service for other reasons.
They were so complex that repairs that should have been "simple" took weeks to make, and the Department of Car Equipment was not provided the required education to be able to handle these issues in a timely manner. On November 19th, 1980, they were ordered off the streets because cracks had been discovered in 39 bus frames during routine inspections. If Grumman were unwilling to give the contract to GM, the TA would have to prove that the buses were poorly built and unsafe.
By all indications, Grumman Flxible solved the A-frame problem and these buses went on to run for years in a number of cities, but the 870 had become a political liability in New York City after 1980. Progress of the Archer Avenue subway tunnel stopped in March 1982, when on March 5th, part of the tunnel caved in around the vicinity of Archer Avenue and 138th Street.
He also asked the US Attorney's Office to launch a grand jury investigation of the tunnel.49 Many probes did take place -- by the FBI (for criminal wrongdoing), the TA's inspector general and the Department of Transportation (because 80% of the money spent on the tunnel was federal funds). Construction Technology Laboratories of Skokie, IL, was hired to assess the structural integrity of the tunnel, and report back to the MTA within 90 days with a recommendation to keep the project going or stop work and abandon the project.51 The Federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration announced on July 22nd, 1985, that it would suspend federal funding pending the outcomes of the investigations. But critics complained that it would do the least to relieve overcrowding on the E and F lines in Queens, the most crowded lines in the system.
It would cost $488 million and be completed by 1995, but like the proposal above, Queens residents along the proposed route objected to it.
As a result, every time trains crossed the bridge, the structure would flex, sometimes as much as eight feet. 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. By the fall, the north side reopened, and later that year, the south side of the Bridge would be shut down, with the expectation for service to return in 1988.
It would take 20 years and cost more than $1 billion, and the areas on both sides of the bridge are developed, leaving little room, if any, for tunnel approaches for trains.
In March of 1984, BMT Eastern Division trains across the bridge were significantly curtained during non-rush hours for a two-year period so repairs could be made. While the bridge was closed, subway cars running on the BMT Eastern Division were isolated from the rest of the subway system, so arrangements were made to transfer cars to Coney Island using diesel locomotives running over the LIRR Bay Ridge freight line and the South Brooklyn Railway. A makeshift dock was erected and ferry service using two of the smaller Staten Island ferryboats began service on April 18th, 1988.
Reasons against the use of police dogs ranged from expense to crowding making the dogs nervous.60 However, canine patrols did begin on the subway on December 15th, 1980. When the broken windows were discovered in trains that were still in service, they were taken out of service, causing additional delays. Between January 27th and February 2nd, 1985, 1,129 pieces of glass were replaced on subway cars that used the IRT Broadway Local, the IRT Lexington Avenue Local, and the IND 8th Avenue Local.64 In May of 1984, even the Nostalgia Train IND cars were hit by vandals. The boys were generally not behaving well, and two of them approached Goetz, supposedly using screwdrivers as weapons, and asked him for five dollars. The spread of graffiti all over the subways became permanently linked to the poor condition of the equipment, the delayed arrivals, the poor service and all the breakdowns that occurred on the subway on a daily basis. Drawbacks identified for these cars included not lining up with the movable platforms at 14th Street, and not fitting tight curves, such as at South Ferry. Part of the reconditioning delay was that the TA had not decided whether to subcontract the work out or perform it in-house. The federal "buy American" laws in place at the time did not apply to this purchase because no federal funds were being used. The track at this location was out of alignment and caused the R-62 to sway and hit the air bracket.
The Budd Company was still manufacturing transit vehicles, but the MTA didn't want to negotiate the contract with Budd alone. Budd was considered an American company at the time (though it really was owned by Thyssen A.G. Half of the work on the subway cars would be done in the US, with assembly taking place in New York State. The first train of R-68As began service on May 18th, 1988 on the IND Concourse Line as part of its 30-day acceptance test.
Checks would also be done to see how much damage was done to the train while being stored in a transit yard at night. Prolific graffiti painter "SEEN" has tagged the train in the bottom photo in October, 1982. The 3 train, which used to terminate at Flatbush Avenue, would terminate at New Lots Avenue. The resulting "terminal" at 121st Street was inefficient because trains had to run single tracked for nearly ? mile before entering the station.
The TA advertised this change by putting leaflets in the New York Times, the Staten Island Advance, the Daily News and Newsday.
The term "deferred maintenance" became accounting jargon to pass the maintenance burden further out into the future.
The IRT Redbirds, from class R-26 up, went through a general overhaul program (GOH) and were retrofitted with new components, a new paint job, and air conditioning. Richard Ravitch, the chairman of the MTA at that time, opposed this user fee, preferring an "inflation sensitive" gasoline tax, which Governor Carey opposed. TWU president John Lawe justified the 30% increase, explaining that the cost of living had gone up over 53% since March 1974, and transit workers required pay raises of 25 -- 31% just to maintain the same purchasing power that they had back then.9 Ravitch indicated that these demands could not be met, and if they were, subway and bus fares would need to double.
For every day of the strike, the Taylor Law would collect two days pay from each striking worker, and severe fines and penalties could still be levied. Your author recalls bicycling to high school in Brooklyn, marveling that the leisurely bike trip took about ? hour, or half the time it normally took transferring between the B-5 (Kings Highway), B-68 (Coney Island Avenue) and B-35 (Church Avenue) buses to get to school.
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. 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. The following day, about 2,000 passengers refused to leave a downtown IRT Broadway local that also had door problems and was ordered out of service. Millions more were spent on spare parts that were stored in leaky warehouses and forgotten, while maintainers lacked the necessary spare parts to keep subway cars running.24 The subway car shortage became so acute at one point that vacations were cancelled and overtime for car maintainers shot through the roof. A section of over 100 feet of concrete retaining wall shifted over a foot near Bergen Street in February of 1980, and was buttressed by a makeshift brace of heavy timbers that probably lasted until the Shuttle was closed for repairs in the 1990s. Some people compared the shuttle with The Train to the Plane, which ran with a deficit similar to the shuttle -- why close the shuttle if the Train to the Plane would remain running? The EDC's report cited duplication of duties across different organizations in the TA and severe procurement problems.
He also negotiated the use of Washington (DC) Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) buses when the Grumman Flxibles were grounded. The TA also reconsidered the renovation of some subway stations so that more subway cars would be overhauled.
While the line still remained open, it seemed that it would either close because of an MTA decision to do so, or because it would fall apart as a result of no repairs being made to it.
While the inspections caught many cracks before they became unfixable problems, on September 27th, two cracks of a type not before seen were found on the trucks.36 As a result, the TA cut the R-46 usage rate in half, and they would run only during weekday rush hours. It was this scenario that caused the TA to do an about-face with the R-62 and R-68 contracts, which were all "back to basics", and it wasn't until the 1990s that the TA decided to "risk" getting involved with new technologies with the R-110A and R-110B experimental "new technology" trains. At the time, these buses represented about 14% of the City's bus fleet.39 Many of these buses hadn't seen 3 months of service. If the TA succeeded in doing that, Grumman Flxible would be barred from bidding for any future bus contracts in the US. Three manufacturers built prototypes of the bus, then indicated they would never build another. The TA sued Grumman for $324 million in damages citing fraud; Grumman countersued for $1 billion citing poor maintenance as the reason for the Flxible's failures. The 1984 fire that engulfed the 870 on 57th Street and resulted in Gunn removing the entire fleet from service was not due to any Flxible design defect, but was caused by poor TA maintenance practices.
According to a five-year study by the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee in 1981, the frequency of subway breakdowns was causing passengers to find alternate means of getting to and from work.
The line would leave two-thirds of the available capacity of this line unused and probably make any future expansion of this line unlikely. This flexing, called torsion, caused already weak steel to crack, and these cracks caused more serious failures. J and M trains ran no further than Marcy Avenue, and passengers were advised to transfer at Broadway Junction for A,C and L trains, or to use a temporary ferry setup at the foot of the bridge. Canine patrols also started at the Corona Yard in August of 1981 in an effort to prevent vandalism. 775 vandalism-related delays of more than four minutes were reported in August 1980.61 Crime was such a problem that senior City Hall and transit officials considered raising the subway fare from 60 to 65 cents to fund additional transit police officers.


Between the Goetz case and the uncontrollable graffiti, the subway became a symbol of New York City's inability to control crime. During this time, polls said that three of four people believed that Goetz was defending himself. Many of the Brooklyn bus routes in effect when the survey was taken were still following routes of former trolley lines that were discontinued in the 1940s and 1950s. A reason for purchasing the foreign cars was the Reagan Administration's budget reductions for mass transit aid.
When the damage was discovered, bags of flour were attached to the exterior of another train that was also sent through the tunnel.
Other problems included lights that would go out for approximately ten seconds, though Bombardier officials said that happened only when crossing long third rail gaps. In November of 1987, a new double crossover north of the station was placed in service allowing J trains to relay north of the station. Subway station renovation would start late due to disagreements on making stations accessible to the handicapped, but the renovations did get going. This set the tone for labor negotiations over the next two months, which were primarily confrontational in nature.
An occasional rail polisher train would run each day of the strike to keep the rails shiny and deter vandalism. 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 lasted nearly the entire summer, ending finally on August 27th, and service resumed on September 1st.
However, the crew was able to resolve the door problems and the train continued on its route running 18 minutes late. In addition, responsibility for fighting graffiti and vandalism was divided between two departments, and it wasn't clear which department was responsible for subway stations. Many of the buses returned to service, but were again removed from service around December 13th. Much of this convoy was recently returned from a stint in Philadelphia, where officials indicated that numerous breakdowns occurred. 230 Grumman Model 870s were also removed from the streets of Los Angeles due to the same defect. The federal government, realizing that their good intentions for an ideal bus would never see the light of day, accepted the Model 870 and the RTS-I as compromises. The MTA had to repay the federal government the funding it provided - $56 million -- by July 1st, 1984 because the federal UMTA wanted the MTA to put the buses back in service. Early in the investigations, documentation regarding the project's major expenses was found to be inadequate. The water leakage problem, internal infighting, faulty record keeping, time-consuming attempts to obtain funding for repair work and the fiscal crisis of 1975 led to the situation. If you were to stand on the span as a train rumbled by, you could see the span dip and rise with the train's passing. 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.
Extensive corrosion was found in new areas as repairs to other identified areas occurred, severely hampering the progress to complete the repairs. October 1982 saw the lowest ridership on the New York Subway since 1917, mostly due to fears about transit crime, poor subway performance and some economic factors.63 Consider that in 1917, the IND didn't even exist! Interpreting the "request" for five dollars as an attempt to mug him again, Goetz grabbed his gun and shot each of the boys once. Some viewed Goetz as a hero for standing up to his attackers and defending himself in an environment where the police were increasingly viewed as unable to effectively combat crime. Learning from the R-46 purchase, the R-62 contract would contain clauses for strict guarantees. The decision to award Bombardier this contract ended up having national implications during a time when it was legislated to "buy American", and clearly, awarding the contract to Budd would have been buying American. Acceptance tests would start and stop because additional defects in the propulsion system were found. The cars were delayed when cracks developed in over 40 undercar frames as they were welded. 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. There was no preventative maintenance - components were fixed as they failed - which was often. Ravitch laid the groundwork for the system's turnaround, but would retire in 1984, just as the fruits of his work were appearing on the vine.
The R-30s were given a light overhaul, but did not receive air conditioning, because they would have become too heavy. Since the MTA is a state agency, the responsibility for finding the money to pay for a transit settlement fell on Governor Carey, who pledged to hold the 50-cent fare. Talk then focused on 7% for the first year, 7% for the second year and a cost of living adjustment. The strike cost the city about $2 million a day in lost taxes and another $1 million a day in overtime expenses for city employees. The new contract would run for 42 months, grant a pay increase of nearly 30% and contain additions to the pension plan. These were just two of many similar incidents that occurred in the early 1980s, where during rush hours, 25% of the scheduled trains, on average, didn't run.
This collapse started as a crack that had been known about for months, but nothing was done about it until this near-disaster occurred. This overhaul program would eventually be expanded to increase the number of rebuilt cars per year.
Shuffling the R-46s in and out of the yards was causing delays throughout all the IND-BMT lines. Nearly 150 MTA employees were flown to Washington, then bused to WMATA's New Carrollton and Landover, MD shops to pick up the buses.
The Feds left it up to the manufacturers to choose the materials they would use to meet the Transbus requirements. Grumman later agreed to buy the buses back, refurbished them a bit and then resold the buses at bargain prices. Much of the subway's track would need replacement within a few years, and some needed immediate replacement. While all tunnels leak to some extent, excessive leakage has to be taken care of; the TA knew about this in 1974 but didn't do anything about the problem. For the majority of the Manhattan Bridge's life, subway trains used the north side of the bridge far more often than the south side, and the bridge developed a permanent "tilt" with the north side being somewhat lower than the south side.
Full BMT service across the bridge was a distant memory to a generation of Brooklyn subway riders. Pigeon droppings slowly eroded portions of the bridge's main cables, because the cables were strung using ungalvanized steel. Even the JFK Express was affected by the bridge closing; the extra fare was not collected weekdays, the trains were lengthened to eight cars, and the train made express stops on the IND Fulton Street line between Howard Beach and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets. In a one-year period between March 1979 and March 1980, felonies per day dropped from 261 to 154.58 While these figures were still at very unacceptable levels, at least the trend was in the right direction. While Mayor Koch was endeared to this idea, and hoped it would spread to other yards, the TA cited high costs for this program. Crime continued to be an issue; for example, on November 9th, 1982, a robbery gang robbed, beat and pistol-whipped five people in three subway stations within a half hour. It is not certain if Goetz fired all five shots in rapid succession, or if he paused after shooting Cabey once and said "you seem to be all right; here's another" and shot him again. 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. Klauder and Associates was hired by the TA at $894,312 to evaluate the merits of the 63-foot car.68 Part of what the consultant would do was determine how many stations might need realignment for the new cars, and if the realignment costs exceeded the cost of the cars, the plans would be dropped. In addition, the State passed legislation in 1981 allowing the MTA to negotiate contracts with suppliers, instead of just accepting the lowest bid.
The areas where the bags broke were discovered -- flour residue was found on the tunnel walls.
MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch testified before the Senate Finance Committee and said that Budd was not willing to extend the same amount of credit to the MTA that the foreign competitors were, that Budd intended to manufacture the cars' undercarriages in Brazil using an unproven company (the MTA didn't want to have another R-46 or Flxible crack ever again); if the design failed, a switch to the American source of the undercarriages would have added thousands of dollars to the cost of each car, and that Bombardier was willing to use the Kawasaki design -- a proven design that was very reliable.
Finally, TA president David Gunn threatened to cancel the contract if electrical defects on these cars weren't fixed in short order.
This problem was corrected by using the same type of steel used on the R-62 car underframes. The extensive security system implemented at Corona Yard (dual fences about 10 feet apart topped with razor wire and dogs patrolling this 10-foot space) appeared to keep graffiti "artists" at bay. Breakdowns occurred an average of every 6,200 miles; down from 15,000 in the mid-seventies, also not a figure to be proud of. The MTA embarked on the first of what became many capital plans in November of 1982, bringing the subway to a state of good repair. The TA felt that bus service could adequately serve the needs of these riders for a fraction of the cost of maintaining the shuttle. Ravitch engineered the first capital improvement program, which helped begin the long process of getting the subway into a state of good repair. Some cars, such as the R-10s, would not be overhauled because of their age; they would be "spruced up". Governor Mario Cuomo was hoping to get the funding issues resolved by the spring of 1986, but Republicans preferred to wait until after the November 1986 election. In an effort to reduce the mileage that the R-46s ran, 144 of them were moved to the Brighton Line, but complaints from Brighton Beach residents about excessive vibration forced the TA to move them to the A and CC lines.37 Ironically, R-46s were run at all times during an acute equipment shortage during December 1980 and January 1981, due to very cold weather.
Initially, Grumman rejected the ideas that the cracks were a design defect, but as the number of cracked frames increased, Grumman agreed to pay for repairs.
The first WMATA bus to debut on a revenue run in New York City ran on the M106 crosstown run down 42nd Street heading east from 12th Avenue.
New Jersey Transit bought 120 of them and recognizing a great deal, bought 500 more of them.
42% of subway cars needed heavy work, but there was no plan in place to perform this work.46 There were more than 5,000 fires on the subway by the end of 1984, so many in fact, that the National Transportation Safety Board was sent in to investigate causes and recommend solutions47. As early as 1953, the Board of Transportation had a permanent solution -- a new river runnel at the cost of $90 million -- but it never received the funding. The Williamsburgh Bridge was the only major bridge ever built of ungalvanized steel, a cost saving measure at the time it was built. The dogs could not patrol the mainline tracks where many of the cars were stored when they were not in use. After this incident, Goetz got off the train and drove to New Hampshire, and as word spread, he became known as the "subway vigilante", defending himself from crime. Since Goetz was white and the four youths were black, others focused on the racial aspects of the incident and the public reaction that followed. The R-62s, at a cost of $844,500 each, proved themselves very reliable immediately upon delivery. Enter Bombardier, a Canadian company best known for the manufacturing of snowmobiles, Francorail, a consortium of six French companies, and Budd, competing for the largest contract for subway cars in the United States until the R-142 order in 2001. Similarities in design would also allow standardization of parts, which would reduce inventory expenses.
By September 19th, all the R-62As delivered (60 by then) were out of service due to persistent electrical problems. The R-68 contract was further delayed by the R-62A problems because the propulsion packages in both sets of cars were similar. The white paint scheme was expanded on the Flushing Line to become known as "graffiti resistant white" and the security system implemented at Corona Yard was applied to the other transit storage facilities as well.78 By January of 1983, the entire Flushing Line fleet was painted white, with black anti-climbers, pantograph gates and body sills.
Mean distance between failures (MDBF) measurements began to improve markedly, and continue to improve to this day. The mediators recommended 8% for the first year, 8% in the second year, and other items, but that, too, was not agreed upon.13 The union was looking to make up lost ground from the 1976 settlement, reached during New York City's fiscal crisis, where increases were negligible. The long-standing policy of placing the least reliable cars -- and some of the newest - on the longest runs on the system was finally questioned.
Even the JFK Express was affected -- there were times in early 1981 where R-10s were making up the service! In order for cities to obtain 80% in federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) grants, they were forced to purchase either the Model 870 or the RTS -- any other bus would not be federally funded.
Other major cities' subway systems had very few fires in the same period, though some TA sources felt that these cities were not as diligent in reporting fires as the TA was. Train traffic resumed over the Williamsburg Bridge on June 12th, 1988, and the temporary ferry ceased operating. On December 31st, 1984, Goetz surrendered to police in Concord, New Hampshire and was brought back to New York City. The first R-62 (car 1304) was delivered on August 18th, 1983, and a "welcoming" ceremony at Brooklyn's Red Hook Marine Terminal took place.
Ravitch also questioned Budd's reliability, pointing out that the firm was a year behind in deliveries of subway cars to Baltimore and Miami.73 The committee ended up upholding the decision to use Bombardier.
When delivery of the first R-68 was made on February 4th, 1986, it failed to negotiate a sharp curve on South Brooklyn Railway trackage on 38th Street in Brooklyn.
Graffiti was finally eradicated from all subway cars by the end of the decade (though it has been replaced by "scratchitti" in the 1990s).
When this MTA counteroffer was made, the first transit strike since 1966 would be only hours away. The City, on the other hand, just beginning to recover from the fiscal crisis, was thinking very conservatively and was not looking to give away the store as was done in the 1966 transit strike. Kiley's previous job was the head of Boston's Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).
The overhaul program began to improve the MDBF of all the lines as the overhauled cars went back into service. All of the R-16s, the cars the R-46s were intended to replace, were put back into service while the R-46 problems were sorted out. On December 8th, 1980, the TA told Grumman to stop producing the last 200 buses in the initial 837-bus contract.
When GM and Flxible bid for the MTA's bus contract, Flxible was the lower bidder, and the MTA was mandated by law to accept the lowest bid. The 620 buses that went to NJ Transit performed very well and the last of them were retired in 2000. Your author could have made a great deal of money in 1984 by recommending to the TA that they clean up tons of garbage left by uncaring riders, and by launching a no-litter advertising campaign!
The acid from the pigeon droppings, rust forming when it rained, salt being dropped during the winter, and poor drainage allowed corrosion to eat away at the unprotected cables and the bridge deck. The first train of R-62s went into service on November 29th, 1983 as an IRT Lexington Avenue express out of Woodlawn. Because Bombardier had a conservative approach to their railroad car business -- they wouldn't manufacture a car that wasn't already designed and tested somewhere else - the MTA set a condition for the Kawasaki contract that Bombardier would receive a license to manufacture the Japanese-designed cars themselves. The curve had to be rebuilt and the radius eased somewhat; delivery finally occurred on February 26th, 1986.
Nevertheless encouraged by the results, the fleet that made up the Lexington Avenue local was also painted with this same paint scheme.
The problems were, besides the cracked trucks, heaters and wiring that posed fire hazards, faulty lighting and door controls.
The following day, the TA stopped paying Grumman for the current contract, and took steps to dissolve a $65 million follow-up order. Mayor Ed Koch and Chairman Robert Kiley (only on the job for a day) rode the new train to Brooklyn Bridge. Some R-17s, R-26s, R-28s, R-29s and R-33s were painted, but didn't fare as well, because Westchester Yard could not store all these trains when they weren't needed for service; taggers had a field day when these cars were stored on the middle track of the Pelham Line. Gunn's previous job was head of Philadelphia's Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). Yet there was even a TA proposal to remove the cross seats from the R-46s and replace them with side facing seats, as found in the R-27s through R-42s. The first R-62A car, car number 1653, was delivered to Coney Island Yard on October 10th, 1984, and the first R-62A test train ran on December 14th, 1984. The first regular R-68 train went into revenue service in Brighton Beach on June 20th, 1986, after passing a successful 30-day test.
The next set of cars to be painted in the white scheme were those that served the #4 Lexington Avenue Express.79 By April of 1984, the TA decided it had enough of the white paint scheme and decided to repaint them red with silver roofs, and the body sills, anti-climbers, safety gates and marker light areas were painted black.
In late December of 1981, the TA won $72 million in damages from Rockwell International, but the City Department of Investigation indicted seven high-ranking transit officials in connection with the planning, purchase, inspection and acceptance of the R-46 subway cars. Gaping holes in concrete caused chunks of it to fall on maintenance walkways beneath the road deck.
The dawn of the Redbird era was established, and the first train to run in this scheme debuted on May 7th, 1984. In March of 1981, after several corrections to the Model 870s were made, they returned to service. On March 8th, 1982, Rockwell paid New York City $80 million for damages that resulted from the faulty trucks.
Even so, the Model 870s would be grounded and partially replaced by mothballed buses that were due for scrapping, but these mothballed buses were far from meeting service requirements. Wires were starting to break in the southernmost anchorage, too, and in April of 1988, no cause for these breaks was discovered. Computers monitored the bridge's wires around the clock for stress being placed on the cables; levels too high would cause state DOT commissioners to halt traffic on the bridge.



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