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Stay Off the Tracks

Stacy Romano: I'm Stacy Romano, and you're listening to TransitTrax, New York City Transit's podcast service.

(Sound of train)

New York City Transit subway trains run on some 676 miles of elevated, open-cut and underground track…it all looks simple enough .. just track ties, running rails, and the third rail.. but in this case looks can be deceiving - according to Adam Pierce Boneker of NYC Transit's Office of System Safety

Adam Boneker, System Safety: It's a very dangerous area.. seems very common… because so many people use the subway every day; but the track area is extremely dangerous, nobody should ever enter the track area.

Stacy Romano: But riders do, on a daily basis - oftentimes to retrieve items they've dropped to the roadbed…something experts like Louis Melendez strongly advise against.

Louis Melendez, Emergency Response: You got all kinds of signal boxes, the rail itself - these are just natural things of the system; and somebody just walking, without even thinking, without even looking, can easily slip, trip or fall and get hurt or get killed.

Stacy Romano: The fact is that each year dozens of people are injured, and several die after entering onto the track and roadbed area of the subway.

Louis Melendez: It's very dangerous. You're dealing with a live track where at any given time you may have a train coming upon you and you're dealing with a live third rail.

Stacy Romano: Melendez is the Superintendent of the Department of Subway's Emergency Response and Track Lubrication Division. His group responds to just about any emergency - from broken rails to calls to retrieve items customers drop to the tracks.

Louis Melendez: It's a daily problem, I would say we respond to iPod, cell phones, in a majority of the cases, on a daily basis. I would say we average about, anywhere from like 12 to sometimes 15 a day; it's quite a problem.

Stacy Romano: Once they get word of a lost item, the unit springs into action:

Louis Melendez: We have track specialists respond to the call and in turn retrieve the item. In most cases we give it back to the customer or retrieve it back to a booth.

(Sound of train)

Stacy Romano: But it's not as easy as jumping on to the tracks and picking up a lost item; safety comes first, because trains are always running, and safety is paramount. In most cases customers will not get their items back right away…and will have to return to the station later to retrieve them. Which is why riders should never enter the track area - for any reason, unless instructed to by train crew members, a Police Officer or Emergency workers. At New York City Transit, we're concerned about safety, your safety.

For TransitTrax, I'm Stacy Romano.