Kudos to the public transit agency in New York for providing the clearest explanation of subway delays that we’ve ever seen. It’s this short video in the style of an old-school 8-bit video game:
Yes, the idea is that sometimes delaying a train can prevent further delays by not compounding the gap between trains. Anyone who has waited impatiently on a hot subway platform might find this concept counterintuitive, but transportation experts generally agree that that the evenness of service is as crucial as avoiding individual delays.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees public transportation in New York State, released the video as part of a new initiative to reduce subway delays in America’s most populous city. After declining in the recession, New York City subway ridership has returned to record levels at all hours of the day.
The agency said that 15 of its 20 subway lines are at peak capacity, in terms of passengers, and most of the maxed-out lines can’t take any additional trains to alleviate the problem—thus, the new measures to reduce the effect of existing problems on the rest of system. Crowding, police activity, and sick customers account for 40% of subway delays, with maintenance responsible another 48%.
Transportation nerds will enjoy the MTA’s full presentation on its plan to reduce delays, which includes an explanation of why evenness in service is so important: