‘F Train From Hell’ Rider Demands Evacuation Plan From MTA

f train
Photo via nycgo

“For a city that has 6 million riders a day, it is a travesty that we are not educated by the MTA about basic safety procedures in the event of an emergency,” Michael Sciaraffo said. “And that needs to change.”

Sciaraffo, a 36-year-old Bensonhurst resident, was one of the 1,600 straphangers stuck on the underground F train without air during rush hour… for close to an hour on June 5. Following the incident, he posted his experience on his Facebook page, which then went viral.

Horrified and wanting to prevent it from happening again, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Michael Sciaraffo at MTA press conference. (Photo: Sciaraffo) 

Today, August 8, at 10 am, Sciaraffo testified at City Hall before the NYC Council Transportation Committee MTA Oversight Hearing. He demanded that straphangers should be taught proper evacuation procedures, as horrific subway incidents are happening quite often now, and not everyday will someone be as lucky to survive.

“Much like the phrase ‘If you see something, say something’ is drilled into our heads, the MTA must also educate all 6 million riders who use the subway everyday on how to navigate to safety in the event of a fire, power outage, terrorist attack or derailment. And they must do it immediately,” Sciaraffo said in his testimony. “I want accountability from [the] government to ensure that going forward, the right protocols and safety mechanisms are put into place to assure the riding public and give them the full confidence that commuting on MTA trains is a safe endeavor.”

Sciaraffo was invited to testify by MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, who was not in attendance at the hearing, an MTA spokesperson confirmed. MTA Head of Transit Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim showed up instead.

In his testimony, Sciaraffo spoke about what he did following the dreadful episode– he conducted his own “citizen safety investigation,” he said.

Here are a couple of photos/analysis from his investigation:


“Our subway system is over 100 years old with signals technology from last generation. However, it is not rocket science to have emergency protocols in place, unlocking doors during emergencies like the signs say and not lie to passengers about what is going on,” he said in his analysis. “These items do not require any 21st century solutions. There will always be a risk. But to trap riders suffocating to death is not a risk that needs to be endured by the public and is completely avoidable.”

On June 26, Sciaraffo joined transit advocate groups and straphangers to rally outside Governor Cuomo’s office. In it, he demanded transparency, safety, and infrastructure repairs.

On July 25, the MTA revealed its 30-point action plan to repair the subways. Nowhere in the plan did it include safety procedures for riders in case something happened again.

At his testimony, Sciaraffo brought up the fact that other mass transit systems actually do provide riders with procedures (brochures/pamphlets) for emergency situations– such as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

Photo: Washington DC Metro

Though the MTA still has a lot of work to do, some action has been taken. According to a NY Times report, several conductors have begun telling the truth in times of delay; like when a person jumped in front of the 3 train two weeks ago, that is what the conductor actually announced over the loudspeaker. And then there are the more entertaining reasons you may find out why your train has been delayed:

Just over the weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his plan to tax the wealthiest in order to fund MTA repairs. The plan would raise income taxes from 3.87% to 4.41% for New York individuals earning more than $500,000 and couples earning more than $1 million.

Sciaraffo, like many fed-up New Yorkers, wants more. And he won’t stop until the MTA is safe for everyone.

“I am raising this issue to the highest levels of our city, state and federal transportation agencies to demand investigations into this matter and find what remedies that need to be implemented so that this never happens to anyone ever again.”

Comment policy


  1. While there is no doubt that our subway has serious issues that need to be addressed, I have to laugh that WMATA was cited as an agency that does things right. I recently moved back to NY after living in DC for 30 plus years. Let me assure you–WMATA and Metro offer nothing for the MTA to emulate. Metro is less than half the age of the NYC subway, has a fraction of the track mileage, closes for several hours overnight every night, charges fares based on distance traveled (some of which are double the $2.75 we pay), and offers simplistic service (all trains local with miles of overlapping routes between its six lines). Despite this, the system is plagued with far worse problems than NYC’s. About a year or so ago, smoke filled a tunnel near one of the system’s busiest stations. Despite the emergency procedures lauded above, a woman wound up dying from inhaling the toxic fumes. The smoke issue in the tunnel recurred just a short time later. Several years before that, several deaths including the motorman and many injuries occurred when the computerized signaling system broke down and one train plowed into the back of another at full speed. I bet that if NYers traded transit systems with Washingtonians for one week, they’d welcome what we have back and show more patience with the MTA.

  2. I agree with Michael Sciaraffo but my only concern is that you will get some wacko trying to open doors while the train is moving. There needs to be some kind of safety feature where doors can only be opened during an emergency like where he was one of many stuck on that F train for hours without air – or there needs to be back up AC. But we all know they the MTA will never do anything about any of the problems on the subways and if they do they will not be anything that works and of course they will raise the fairs because they will say they have no money for these repairs.

  3. Rachel, I think you need to re-read the article.

    “At his testimony, Sciaraffo brought up the fact that other mass transit systems actually do provide riders with procedures for emergency situations…such as WMATA.” An image of WMATA’s brochure is included, as is a link to their website.

    My point is that while WMATA may issue procedures to passengers (procedures that are not well-publicized, by the way), they were not followed during two major incidents in recent years that led to loss of life and significant injuries. Their maintenance record and process is far worse than New York’s, despite maintaining a much smaller system. I don’t believe WMATA is a transit agency that should be emulated by the MTA in any way, shape, or form. It’s very misleading to suggest otherwise.


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