Surprise! Commuter Trains Leave Late on Purpose!

Added minute built into train schedules to give commuters more time

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Don't worry. You can make it!

    We all know that some trains run way behind schedule, but did you know that all commuter trains run a minute late on purpose?

    Get this: Every commuter train in New York City – about 900 per day – leaves 1 minute later than scheduled, according to The New York Times. If the timetable reads 9:29, the train comes at 9:30. And if it reads 11:15, it comes at 11:16.

    But the trains don't run 60 seconds late because the operators are out to get you. It's because they want to help.

    We've all been there – rushing madly down the steps, barely aware of who's behind or ahead of us, only caring that we hear the sound of our train approaching the station. But once we hit the platform, we realize it's not approaching; it's leaving.

    If only we had been one minute earlier. 

    That's why commuter trains run one minute late by design – to give us that extra opportunity to slip through those metal doors before they close and avoid having to wait for what can be another half hour or even hour before the next train. Maybe getting that train amounts to an extra half hour at home – or helps us meet our friends on time for drinks or have dinner with family. Whatever the case, that minute has become so important that the train operators incorporate it into train schedules by design.

    The fake minute, which has existed for decades and is only published in timetables for employees, is more or less a grace period for the harried who need the extra 60 seconds to get off the platform and onto the train. But if they knew they had the additional time, that extra "secret" minute wouldn't serve its purpose. 

    "If everyone knows they get an extra minute, they're going to lollygag," Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for the Metro-North Railroad, told the Times. "Don't blow our cover!"

    The trains are able to rapidly make up the extra minute, so commuters waiting at stops down the line have no idea the train left the station a minute late. Sneaky, sneaky.

    Don't take the "courtesy minute" for granted, however. At Grand Central, conductors have the option to leave at the time posted on public timetables, as long as the platform is empty and they don't see anyone racing to catch the train, reports the Times.

    The 1-minute delay worked well for Christian Riddle, a 28-year-old carpenter, who raced to catch his train at Grand Central even though it was supposed to depart at 8:22 p.m. and the clock said 8:23 p.m., according to the Times.

    "I was surprised the train was still there, to tell you the truth," Riddle told the paper, adding that having the extra minute was "pretty cool."

    "But I'd still try to get there on time," he said. "You never know."