Have you ever wondered what’s behind those locked doors in subway stations? Whenever we see an MTA employee going in one, we’re not ashamed to admit that we always peek over their shoulder. Just as mysterious to us are the phone numbers posted on the doors themselves. If we dial the STA scrubber room, will they send a cleaning crew to clean up that spilled latté? And who would we get if we rang up the Division of RTO? We decided to find out.
It turns out that all roads lead to the Rail Control Center. Whether you want to speak to the people in EDR (what?), at the Electrical Room, or in the Communication Office, the same surly lady picks up at the RCC.
Surly Lady: Rail Control Center.
Untapped Cities: Hello there, we saw this number on a door, but it said we would reach the “Scrubber Room.”
S.L.: This is Rail Control Center.
U.C.: Ahh. Well, we’re writing an article, and…
S.L.: You’ll have to contact the MTA for that.
It’s no use complaining about a problem, either. When we called to report a “serious rubbish issue,” she directed us to dial 511 and hung up.
511, the New York State Travel Information Line, has always been the go-to hotline for drivers worried about congestion on the BQE or tolls on the George Washington. In 2011, it also became the one-stop shop for all MTA-related questions. Before this, commuters with a question had an incredible 117 MTA phone numbers to pick from (presumably including those listed above doors in subway stations).
The Rail Control Center is not 511. They are not interested in your petty problems. Rail Control, from their huge new digs on 54th Street, is in charge of the daily operations of the entire New York subway system. The only way to get their attention is to report an EMERGENCY. So we tried that too.
RCC on 54th street between 8th and 9th Avenue
Untapped Cities (in a nasally voice): Hello, Rail Control? This is Silverstein at 59th street. I need to report a serious problem at the station.
Surly Lady: What’s the problem exactly?
U.C.: The turnstiles here are stuck. They won’t move. The line is backed up to the stairs.
S.L.: Oh dear… I wouldn’t even know who to call about that…
We here at Untapped Cities are not unkind, though. We allayed the Surly Lady’s fears.
U.C.: Wait! They’re moving again. Thank you for your time, Rail Control.
To be fair to Rail Control, they do help out in the event of a real emergency. When a train operator saw a woman fall off a platform, he called them to turn off the third rail before venturing onto the tracks.