NYC Subway Failed Because Someone Pushed the Wrong Button
(Bloomberg) -- New York’s subway shut down for five hours in August, stranding hundreds of passengers in tunnels and crippling transit across the city, because someone pushed the wrong button.
An unidentified worker pushed an “emergency power off” button on a power distribution unit within the system’s Rail Control Center, according to engineering firms HDR and WSP, hired by the state to investigate the Aug. 29 failure.
Although utility Consolidated Edison Inc. experienced a momentary power interruption to the subway system at 8:25 p.m. at the start of the incident, that interruption only lasted milliseconds and could not, by itself, explain the subway’s failure, according to the firms. The button was missing a protective plastic cover that was supposed to prevent accidental pushing.
HDR and WSP recommended installing redundant equipment to eliminate the possibility of similar failures in the future. They also called for improving organization of the Rail Control Center’s maintenance, whose lack of clear guidelines for restoration work contributed to the center being without power for 84 minutes.
“I am directing mitigation steps to ensure riders are not interrupted by these causes ever again,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Friday in a statement announcing the findings. “New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in a fully functioning subway system, and it is our job to restore that confidence.”
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