The money makes it bearable
While some MTA workers grew up riding the rails, watching older relatives run the trains or just envisioning themselves in the conductor’s car, most chose the job for the same reason most of us are employed: cash.
And as with any job, workers have strategies on how to make bank. “Believe it or not, trains actually run on a timetable, so you have an odd work schedule,” Scarda said. “You can have a report time of 5:12pm and you go back and forth twice for two long trips and you’ll then get a 15-40-minute lunch break, do the run again and your shift will end at 1:02am. If it’s any later, you get overtime.”
For bagging the most overtime, Lloyd recommends the 2 line, which is a longer route than most. Plus, “the switches are poorly laid out, which backs everything up,” he said. The F and the A are also known for being high-rollers.
Every MTA worker has their own favorite line, and they’re not always motivated by money. Scarda felt depressed not seeing sunlight on the R train, though Lloyd prefers a mostly underground train in case of bad weather. Operating trains used to be a promotion from working as a conductor or bus driver, but now you can be hired directly as a train operator.
And to be a train operator, you need to be in good health. There’s a mandatory medical exam before MTA workers are put in control of a vehicle. If someone gets injured on transit, MTA workers are drug-tested, even if they are faultless in the incident. And sending an email when you’re not feeling work doesn’t cut it. MTA workers pretty much always need an approved doctor’s note when calling in sick, a current employee told me.