Accidents & Prevention

With two rail accidents and two airline incidents, the month of July has been frightful in the transportation world:

  • On July 6th, Asiana Flight 214 crashed in San Francisco International Airport killing 3 and injuring 168 of the 307 onboard. The flight originated in Shanghai and had a stopover in Seoul.
  • Also on July 6th, an unmanned train carrying oil derailed in Lac-Megantic in Quebec, Canada. The current death toll is at 35 and thousands have been forced to vacate the town.
  • On July 12th, an intercity train derailed in Bretigny-sur Orge, a suburb of Paris killing 6 people.
  • Also on July 12th, a fire started on an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Heathrow Airport. While there were no passengers on board, the aircraft suffered significant damage.

While all of these incidents are still under investigation, they point to a wide variety of safety issues in the transportation industry: training, maintenance and technology.

Transportation is one of the many issues we often take for granted until something goes awry. In light of the recent safety lapses, what can and should be done to prevent accidents in the future? How does this pertain to your day-to-day travel in the City?

One of the biggest issues is infrastructure investment. Without enough funding, very basic elements of the transportation infrastructure will begin falling apart with tragic results.

The America Society of Civil Engineers 2013 America’s Infrastructure Report Card gave the nation a D+ and calls for $3.6 trillion to be invested in our nation’s infrastructure by 2020.

Other issues facing the world of transportation include fatigued operators who work long shifts without a break (a factor in the 2009 Colgan Air crash in Buffalo, NY) and the application of new technology and techniques without sufficient research and evaluation (as seen with the battery issues in Boeing 787s). The word ‘preventative’ is most often applied to health, but it should be looked at in transportation as well.

The MTA is currently taking preventative measures to secure the subway system for both asset management and customer safety. The G and R trains are currently undergoing massive capital work to deal with the damage of Hurricane Sandy (tunnels were immersed in corrosive salt water for days) and ensure the 100+ year old system works safely. It is certainly an inconvenience, but to ensure people are not stranded underwater between boroughs (or worse), the ‘Fix & Fortify’ program is underway. G trains will not operate between Brooklyn and Queens for approximately 12 weekends, and the R train will not operate between Manhattan and Brooklyn for approximately 1 year beginning in August.

We as New Yorkers know just how vital transportation networks are.  Come to the next Transportation Committee meeting on Thursday, July 25th at 7PM in the MYD office to discuss safety, subways, Sandy, and more!