When a gunman opened fire on a Brooklyn subway car in April 2022, wounding 10 people, Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers were the first to respond. Train conductors and operators rendered aid to the injured and evacuated passengers before the arrival of police and paramedics, then checked each car for additional victims or gunmen. In the following days at a ceremony at City Hall, a transit union official recognized them for “taking charge” and “doing what was necessary to get riders out of danger.”
Six weeks later, a gunman killed a random passenger on a train as it traversed the Manhattan Bridge. After it pulled into the station, a train operator performed chest compressions on the victim in a frantic attempt to save his life while a train conductor radioed for help. The pair was later lauded by their union for “holding down the fort until the NYPD and paramedics arrived.”
But despite the heroic actions of those employees, MTA workers we spoke to say they feel woefully unprepared in the event of a shooting.
In interviews with The Trace, a dozen train conductors and operators characterized the agency’s active shooter training as inadequate, and said a lack of established protocols leave tens of thousands of MTA employees and a billion annual subway riders in danger. In the event of another mass shooting, the transit workers said, the only protocols they’re aware of are to radio headquarters and flee the area. They don’t participate in active shooter drills, they said.
“We are not trained to deal with mass shootings,” said Justin, a five-year veteran of the MTA who asked to use a pseudonym because he’s not authorized to speak to the news media. “We’re trained to deal with fires. If it comes down to someone armed with a gun, we’re just spotters with radios.”