NEW YORK — At just the touch of a button, you, too, can disable a major metropolitan transportation system.
Officials on Friday said that an outage last month that crippled the subways and left passengers stranded was caused by a worker who accidentally pressed a power switch.
Riders of the city’s numbered and lettered trains were stuck throughout the city Aug. 29 when a power outage left them stranded on trains in underground tunnels for more than an hour.
Rescue crews had to be dispatched to guide the frightened and frustrated passengers to safety.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, in one of her first official acts, vowed to get to the bottom of the failure.
“New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in a fully functioning subway system, and it is our job to restore that confidence,” Hochul said in a statement.
Engineers examined the breakdown, and in the end, blamed it on human error that appeared to have been easily preventable.
“The reports revealed that the precipitating cause of the loss of power at the New York City Transit Rail Control Center was the byproduct of a manually-activated power-off switch on one of the building’s power distribution units,” Hochul’s office said in a statement. “Preliminary indications suggest that the emergency push button might have been accidentally pressed since a plastic guard that would prevent accidental activation was missing.”
At the time, Hochul called the failure a “perfect storm” power surge.
Engineers recommended a number of improvements, including more modern management equipment to monitor electrical distribution, as well as additional apparatus to reinforce existing circuits.
The outage stopped trains in their tracks and sparked dangerous evacuations.
There were no injuries among passengers on the 83 trains that were stopped in their tracks or the five subway trains that halted in between stations.