NYC Transit Marketing Campaign Addresses Sick Customers
May 14th, 2014
It’s Monday morning and you’re rolling downtown on your regular Lexington Avenue Local. The train pulls into 86 St and the doors slide open. They fail to close after a few minutes and then the conductor’s voice comes over the train’s public address system: “We are being delayed due to a sick customer onboard.”
That announcement is part of a process focused on getting immediate medical assistance to the sick customer, who depending on the illness may or may not be ambulatory. If the customer is riding with someone, can they make it safely out of the car and wait on the platform for medical assistance with their travel companion?
If alone, however, a public address announcement is issued requesting response from any Transit employee, Police or Fire Department personnel who may be onboard the train to wait with the customer for medical assistance. If no one is available, then the conductor must stay, which means the train must be discharged and then proceed empty. That scenario takes the train out of service and can lead to crowding conditions on the platform.
If the customer is unable to walk, the train crew is required to wait for the arrival of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and the train cannot be moved until the patient is transported. An unconscious rider will also require shuttling riders to the platform while the train crew waits for Police and EMS response. The first car of the train would then be moved partially out of the station, so the following train can gain partial access to the platform.
The category of Sick Customers often ranks high on the list of delays that disrupt subway train service. In January 2014, more than 2,600 trains were delayed due to sick customers. In recent years, sick customers have delayed about 10,000 trains annually. This accounts for about seven percent of total system wide delays.”
Sick customers don’t affect just one train but a number of trains behind it in a cascading effect that will delay thousands of customers,” said Joseph Leader, NYC Transit’s Senior Vice President Department of Subways. “While we have a ready set of protocols to address a sick customer situation, it is better if the situation doesn’t reach that point.”
During the morning rush period when time is measured in seconds, a response to a call of a sick customer can take several minutes. This is especially true when the train is on the lower level of a two level station. Response time for EMS averages about 15 minutes and along a busy corridor this can result in 50 late trains affecting as many as 100,000 customers.
NYC Transit has an on-going marketing campaign advising customers to avoid boarding a train if they feel ill. Aside from making it much easier for medical assistance to reach the rider, it allows train service to continue running smoothly.
The next installation of this campaign headlined “Feeling sick?” will begin appearing onboard train cars this week. The message advises subway customers to get off the train at the next station if they feel well enough, since help can reach them more quickly. If not, an ill customer should notify or have the train crew notified of their condition so that Transit staff or police can respond and remain with the sick passenger until they either feel better or are placed in the right hands.
It should also be noted that riders observing a sick customer onboard their train should not activate the emergency brakes while the train is in motion. “Stopping a train in the middle of a tunnel adds precious minutes to the time it takes to get medical help to the customer,” said Leader.
If you feel sick, it's best if you don't get on the train. Help can reach
you much faster if you stay in the station. So, if you feel sick go to the station agent or a police officer - they will help you.
If you become ill when you are on the train, notify the train crew. The train crew has the means to call for medical assistance or the police.
You will not be left alone if you become ill. Someone will stay with you until you are well enough to be on your way or until you are in the right hands.
Never pull the emergency brake. It will only delay the train and keep help from reaching you.
If customers happens to be caught in the midst of a fellow sick customer, or any other type of train delay, they can take advantage of the MTA’s on-line Delay Verification program here which allows customers to seek delay information going back 90 days simply by filling out an electronic request form.
To see the full poster, click here.