Someone gave some suggestion when one falls in NYC subway tracks at http://www.villagevoice.com/news/subway-conductor-tells-you-what-to-do-if-you-fall-in-the-tracks-and-other-transit-real-talk-6679243

MyRedditAtWork: Serious question: If, god forbid, I fall onto the tracks or someone I am willing to risk my life for falls into the tracks and is knocked out - and a train is coming (lets say 30sec away) - what should I do? Are those pits between the rails by the platforms made for people to hide in in a worst case scenario?

The best thing you can do is run as far down the platform as you can (in the opposite direction from where the train enters the station) and wave your arms frantically to get the train operator and passenger's attention. Believe me, the passengers WILL be doing the exact same thing, as nobody wants to see you get run over and their train get delayed. If you can get to the far end of the platform, it gives the train more room to stop, and there is a ladder at the end of each platform where you can climb back up -- do NOT try to climb up from where you are. So many people have been killed trying to jump back up rather than getting away from the entrance end of the station.

Do NOT trust the pits between the tracks --- they are often right next to the third rail which can be just as dangerous (and note that the wooden planks are not designed to hold a human's weight - they are there to protect the energized rail from drips and weather) and the train operator is less likely to see you if you're in there. And don't duck under the train, because most stations do not have enough clearance for the average human. And do NOT jump down onto the tracks to try to save someone else. The best thing you can do is run on the platform towards the tunnel where the train enters so you can get the operator's attention sooner. Waving your arms over the tracks will tell the operator to stop immediately.

Does "the opposite direction" in which one is suggested to run in mean the direction in which one runs closer and closer towards the train?

If yes, how does "the opposite direction" give the train more room to stop?

What does "the far end of the platform" mean? Is it the end that the train will enter the platform, or the end that the train will leave the platform?

Does "ladder at the end of each platform" mean that there is a ladder at both ends of each platform?

What do "the pits between the tracks" and "the wooden planks" mean? Do you have photos to show what they are?

  • The "opposite direction" means away from where the train is coming. So you're farther away from where the train enters the station and you (and others on the platform) can signal the operator to stop and there'll be as much time as possible for the train to actually stop. – Zach Lipton Jan 10 '17 at 19:49
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    I think this can be succinctly summed up as "Run as far away from the train as you can, while waving your arms." – Greg Hewgill Jan 10 '17 at 20:27
  • Thinking over the answer of the conductor I am sceptical that it is a good strategy. As long as you are being in the tracks, you are in the same vulnerable position. The platform height of subways is between 80-120 cm (2,5 - 4 foot), this is over waist level, but below the shoulders. Elbows down, push yourself up, leg over platform, roll out. Less than 5 seconds. Running means 5-7 m/s, standard platforms are 150 m (160 yd) long, so if you don't use the train entrance, you will need 10 seconds. Train is much faster than you, you get only more distance for braking. – Thorsten S. Jan 10 '17 at 21:22
  • The advice about the third rail and the pit between the tracks is incorrect. In some systems, the third rail is indeed between the rails that bear the train, but in NYC the third rail is outside the two main rails. If you are between those rails, therefore, you will not come into contact with the third rail. – phoog Jan 10 '17 at 23:13
  • I don't think "Between the tracks" means "between the rails of the southbound track" but rather "Between the northbound and southbound tracks" – Kate Gregory Jan 10 '17 at 23:24

Imagine the train is heading south. It will enter at the north end of the station and move, southwards, to the south end of the station. The advice "in the opposite direction from where the train enters the station" means run south. Away from the north end, where the train enters. In the same direction as the train. Eventually you will reach the south end, the far end, as far as possible from where the train enters.

Yes, there is probably a ladder at both ends, but you don't want to run towards the one at the north end, because that would mean running towards the train and meeting it sooner. The article mentions both ends so you don't worry "what if there isn't a ladder when I get to the far end, because the only ladder is at the other end?"

As for the pits, in some stations there are gaps under the platform between the tracks, and sometimes folks are advised to try to go there - this advice says don't do that, because there might not be one and anyway, the third rail is in the way. It is covered with wood, but if you step on the wood it might collapse and put you in contact with the third rail, which will be instantly fatal. (The third rail carries the electricity that powers the subway. The first and second rails are the actual train tracks on which the subway cars run.) Don't get too worked up about understanding a rebuttal of advice you're being told not to take. If you have actually stood in a subway station and looked down at the tracks, this nomenclature would probably make more sense.

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    Instead of this north/south business, wouldn't it be clearer to just explain it as "run away from the train"? – John Pardon Jan 10 '17 at 20:35
  • If I were writing the original advice, yes. But the OP is asking what "opposite" and "far" mean and getting confused. – Kate Gregory Jan 10 '17 at 20:38
  • Is it a good idea to wait near the end of a platform where a train will leave the platform, so that if falling in the tracks, it doesn't take much time to run to the leaving end of the platform? – Tim Jan 10 '17 at 22:37
  • I wouldn't go to that extent. When I ride subways, I wait in the middle if I know the stairs are in the middle of the station I am headed for, or one end or the other for the same reason. I don't plan my life around falling on the tracks. Stay well back from the edge until the train is in the station and you won't need any of this advice. – Kate Gregory Jan 10 '17 at 22:48
  • @Tim if you're in the front of the station, there's an excellent chance that you are beyond the point at which the train will stop anyway. If you fall there, you're very unlikely to be struck by a train, even if you cannot move after falling. But to get to that point, you may need to walk along the entire length of the platform, which presumably increases the chance that you'll fall on the tracks. The better advice is just to wait well away from the edge of the platform: by the wall, if there is one, or at the midpoint between the tracks on either side in the case of an island platform. – phoog Jan 10 '17 at 23:21

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