Days after MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said he was investigating Mayor de Blasio for holding up a train for a subway-related photo-op, Gov. Cuomo had a photo-op of his own on the tracks of the A train as he explored the antiquated infrastructure that powers the century-old transit system.
But did Wednesday’s dramatic tour of the subway corridors below Columbus Circle, in which Cuomo was joined by Con Ed Chairman John McAvoy, have a negative impact on commuters?
The governor’s aides bristled Friday when NBC 4 New York asked whether his media event posed any safety concerns or delays to riders. They insisted his visit was 100 percent safe and was chaperoned by MTA staff and state police.
In a statement, Lhota said that “MTA staff secured every aspect of the tour. It was entirely safe and not a single train was delayed. Period.”
But transportation analyst Alex Armlovich says it would be hard to imagine how a normal train schedule wouldn’t be impacted by a group of journalists and officials walking around on the tracks.
Armlovich says train operators should’ve slowed down for the governor and his entourage, just as they would slow down when workers are on the tracks.
“Either, on one hand, they were following the normal safety procedure of slowing down trains and honking and having men wave flags to alert the driver, or you guys were not protected by the normal safety precautions that are used during track work. It has to be one or the other,” Armlovich said.
The governor’s aides conceded that not everybody on the tour received special track safety training in advance, which has previously been a requirement to cover any assignment on the tracks.
Last year, the Daily News' transit reporter, Dan Rivoli, wrote an article about his track training. On Cuomo’s tour Wednesday, reporters were not asked to put on the special safety gear described in Rivoli's story, like a white hard hat or a reflective vest.
Jim Hall, who chaired the NTSB for seven years during the Clinton administration, questioned whether Cuomo put publicity ahead of safety on Wednesday, saying “any effort to use an operational track for publicity purposes needs to be carefully considered.”
No one was hurt during Wednesday’s tour, although several journalists told NBC 4 that that they were surprised by just how up-close their access was.