Today’s Headlines

  • In de Blasio’s Alternate Reality NYC, Motorists Are Poor and Turnstile Jumpers Are Flush (Politico)
  • Alon Levy: Land Use Has Concentrated Subway Ridership, But the System Isn’t Maxed Out
  • Paul White: NYC Would Be More Affordable Without Moses-Era Parking Requirements (Crain’s)
  • More Coverage of RPA’s Report Diagnosing High MTA Construction Costs (AMNY, Curbed, NY1)
  • Melinda Katz and Francisco Moya Will Lead Revived Willets Point Development Project (NYT)
  • Penn Station Bound Acela Train Decouples At Speed (Post)
  • NTSB: Sleep Apnea Is Causing Train Crashes; Trump: So What? (NYT, WNYC)
  • MTA Can’t Keep Subway Platforms Clear of Slippery Schmutz (NYT)
  • Unlicensed Driver Critically Injures Senior on White Plains Road in Parkchester (Bx Times)
  • New York City Is Mismanaging Curb Space, Example Infinity + 1 (Post)
  • That Time Tom Wrobleski Made the Case for Congestion Pricing (Advance)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Larry Littlefield

    “NTSB: Sleep Apnea Is Causing Train Crashes; Trump: So What?”

    It it’s causing train crashes, it is also causing motor vehicle crashes.

  • Alon Levy

    I disagree, for several reasons:

    1. Car drivers who are drowsy are in a better position to not take the trip than commercial drivers (bus, truck, and train drivers), since many car trips are discretionary, especially on local streets, which have the most accidents.

    2. Car drivers spend 60-90 minutes a day on average behind the wheel. Commercial drivers spend a full day of work; 3 hours is a light load, available only to senior train drivers with a good union and management that dgaf about productivity.

    3. Car drivers own their own car and can customize it to be more comfortable for them. Train drivers, I’m told by dispatchers, have to deal with uncomfortable seats, diesel fumes, and unreliable heating in winter. Bus drivers get unique back problems coming from where they’re positioned relative to the vehicle; the MBTA pays bus drivers $80,000/year + benefits and there’s still a lot of turnover, with bus drivers trying to get laterally promoted to subway train operator.

    4. Commercial drivers are especially likely to work changing shifts, which makes their sleep schedules more erratic.

    5. Because commercial drivers have such poor work conditions, they’re especially likely to suffer from obesity. Their job exhausts them the way a menial job would, so they eat like a menial worker, but the actual physical energy expended during the job is limited, so they gain weight. Obesity, esp. morbid obesity, is a serious risk factor for sleep apnea.

  • Joe R.

    #5 is especially true. I’ve seen quite a few TOs who could barely fit in the operator’s booth on the older trains.

  • qrt145

    The ways in which the life of commercial drivers suck that you mention are true, but I don’t see how it follows that sleep apnea can’t _also_ cause private motor vehicle crashes. People fall asleep at the wheel all the time. Are you saying none of those crashes are related to sleep apnea?

    Also there are plenty of obese drivers and drivers with irregular schedules out there, and one could argue that cars that are more comfortable actually increase the risk of falling asleep. 🙂

  • Joe R.

    You don’t even need sleep apnea to fall asleep at the wheel. I recall when we enacted the national 55 mph speed limit back in the 1970s it wasn’t uncommon for drivers to fall asleep in places where it was heavily enforced. Highway driving is one of the few types of driving where faster is better, at least to the point it’s fast enough to keep the driver involved in the driving process enough to not fall asleep.

    Something similar might be true for railway engineers on runs with long stretches between stops. At least with a train, there’s no danger of landing in a ditch if you fall asleep at the controls. However, on railroads where you need to slow for some curves, falling asleep can be deadly.

  • vnm

    The number of train engineers in the U.S. probably is in the tens of thousands. Car drivers is hundreds of millions. U.S. train passenger/crew fatalities is in the range of let’s say 0 to 10 per year, I’m guessing? Auto fatalities nearly 40,000. Based on that alone I’m guessing sleep apnea is a far, far bigger problem on the roads than rails.

  • bolwerk

    It’s no secret that motorists fall asleep behind the wheel frequently, though sleep apnea probably only accounts for part of the problem.

    Your average person may be behind the wheel less than a commercial driver, but s/he is also probably not screened for sleeping disorders at all!

  • bolwerk

    Between #3 and #5, a decade is probably more than most people should be doing full time work operating a bus or truck. Full career commercial driving kills you. Many people who do it full career don’t have time to enjoy a retirement, which ought to please the actuaries.

    Maybe trains are or could be made more ergonomic, but buses and trucks probably can’t be.

  • Joe R.

    The poor condition of our roads beats both the equipment and drivers to death. No matter what you do to make the vehicles more comfortable, that will be a big factor. And then you have the effects of breathing exhaust fumes for decades. I’m sure the cancer rate is higher in commercial drivers than in the general population.

  • redbike

    A suggestion for Tomorrow’s Headlines:

    Despite NYC’s Vision Zero Progress, Most Hit-and-Run Drivers Avoid Arrest

  • Vooch

    level 4 long haul trucks (depot to depot) have long been in beta testing and by model year 2020 will be selling to select customers

    I predict by 2025, there will be at least 15 million level 4 vehicles on our roads.

  • Andrew

    I recall when we enacted the national 55 mph speed limit back in the 1970s it wasn’t uncommon for drivers to fall asleep in places where it was heavily enforced.

    That sounds apocryphal to me. I mean, maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t, but I’d be much more inclined to believe it if you provided a reputable source.

  • Joe R.

    Unfortunately, a lot of this is anecdotes from state troopers at the time who noted an increase in the number of people falling asleep and ending up in a ditches. Long stretches of highway driving are boring to start with. Driving at a speed which feels like you’re creeping along doesn’t help matters.

    You also have the fact that driving drowsy to start with is dangerous even if it’s a fact of life for a lot of commercial drivers. This is compounded with low speed limits which take much of the focus out of the driving process.

    I’d love to find real data on this myself but it’s not even clear such data exists. However, from a physiological perspective it makes a lot of sense.

    Not related to falling asleep, but other studies show the same thing I mentioned, namely that faster is safer, at least on limited access highways:

    Just as an aside, as bizarre as it sounds, I once fell asleep riding my bike. I was already very tired but wanted to get in 15 or 20 miles before bed. Towards the end of the ride, I remember my eyes closing, then suddenly I was about 2 blocks further down the road with zero recollection of what happened in between. My legs must have kept in motion and I didn’t fall, but it was a really weird experience, sort of like a waking dream. I was lucky nothing was around which required my attention.

  • sbauman

    As luck would have it, the AAA just released a research brief that concluded that drowsiness is a factor in 9.5% of all automobile crashes.

    This is about an order of magnitude greater than what previous studies attributed to driver drowsiness.

  • vnm

    AAA study released today shows that drowsy driving (who knows how much of it related to sleep apnea specifically) is responsible for 10% of car crashes, thousands of deaths a year. But, yeah, obviously the problem is rail!