Deinterlining and Schedule Robustness

There’s an excellent Uday Schultz blog post (but I repeat myself) about subway scheduling in New York. He details some stunning incompetence, coming from the process used to schedule special service during maintenance (at this point, covering the entirety of the weekend period but also some of the weekday off-peak). Some of the schedules are physically impossible – trains are scheduled to overtake other trains on the same track, and at one point four trains are timetabled on the same track. Uday blames this on a combination of outdated software, low maintenance productivity, aggressive slowdowns near work zones, and an understaffed planning department.

Of these, the most important issue is maintenance productivity. Uday’s written about this issue in the past and it’s a big topic, of similar magnitude to the Transit Costs Project’s comparison of expansion costs. But for a fixed level of maintenance productivity, there are still going to be diversions, called general orders or GOs in New York, and operations planning needs to schedule for them. How can this be done better?

The issue of office productivity

Uday lists problems that are specific to scheduling, such as outdated software. But the software is being updated, it just happens to be near the end of the cycle for the current version.

More ominous is the shrinking size of ops planning: in 2016 it had a paper size of 400 with 377 positions actually filled, and by 2021 this fell to 350 paper positions and 284 actually filled ones. Hiring in the American public sector has always been a challenge, and all of the following problems have hit it hard:

  • HR moves extraordinarily slowly, measured in months, sometimes years.
  • Politicians and their appointees, under pressure to reduce the budget, do so stupidly, imposing blanket hiring freezes even if some departments are understaffed; those politicians universally lack the competence to know which positions are truly necessary and where three people do the job of one.
  • The above two issues interact to produce soft hiring freezes: there’s no hiring freeze announced, but management drags the process in order to discourage people from applying.
  • Pay is uncompetitive whenever unemployment is low – the compensation per employee is not too far from private-sector norms, but much of it is locked in pensions that vest after 25 years, which is not the time horizon most new hires think in.
  • The combination of all the above encourages a time clock managerial culture in which people do not try to rock the boat (because then they will be noticed and may be fired – lifetime employment is an informal and not a formal promise) and advancement is slow, and this too deters junior applicants with ambition.

Scheduling productivity is low, but going from 377 to 284 people in ops planning has not come from productivity enhancements that made 93 workers redundant. To the contrary, as Uday explains, the workload has increased, because the maintenance slowdowns have hit a tipping point in which it’s no longer enough to schedule express trains on local train time; with further slowdowns, trains miss their slots at key merge points with other lines, and this creates cascading delays.

Deinterlining and schedule complexity

One of the benefits of deinterlining is that it reduces the workload for ops planning. There are others, all pertaining to the schedule, such as reliability and capacity, but in this context, what matters is that it’s easier to plan. If there’s a GO slowing down the F train, the current system has to consider how the F interacts with every other lettered route except the L, but a deinterlined system would only have to consider the F and trains on the same trunk.

This in turn has implications for how to do deinterlining. The most urgent deinterlining in New York is at DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn, where to the north the B and D share two tracks (to Sixth Avenue) and the N and Q share two tracks (to Broadway), and to the south the B and Q share tracks (to Coney Island via Brighton) and the D and N share tracks (to Coney Island via Fourth Avenue Express). The junction is so slow that trains lose two minutes just waiting for the merge point to clear, and a camera has to be set up pointing at the trains to help dispatch. There are two ways of deinterlining this system: the Sixth Avenue trains can go via Brighton and Broadway trains via Fourth Avenue, or the other way around. There are pros and cons either way, but the issue of service changes implies that Broadway should be paired with Fourth Avenue, switching the Q and D while leaving the B and N as they are. The reason is that the Fourth Avenue local tracks carry the R, which then runs local along Broadway in Manhattan; if it’s expected that service changes put the express trains on local tracks often, then it’s best to set the system up in a way that local and express pairings are consistent, to ensure there’s no interlining even during service changes.

This should also include a more consistent clockface timetable for all lines. Present-day timetabling practice in New York is to fine-tune each numbered and lettered service’s frequency at all times of day based on crowding at the peak point. It creates awkward situations in which the 4 train may run every 4.5 minutes and the 5, with which it shares track most of the way, runs every 5.5, so that they cannot perfectly alternate and sometimes two 4s follow in succession. This setup has many drawbacks when it comes to reliability, and the resulting schedule is so irregular that it visibly does not produce the intended crowding. Until 2010 the guideline was that off-peak, every train should be occupied to seated capacity at the most crowded point and since 2010 it has been 125% of seated capacity; subway riders know how in practice it’s frequently worse than this even when it shouldn’t be, because the timetables aren’t regular enough. As far as is relevant for scheduling, though, it’s also easier to set up a working clockface schedule guaranteeing that trains do not conflict at merge points than to fine-tune many different services.

Deinterlining and delocalization of institutional knowledge

Uday talks about New York-specific institutional knowledge that is lost whenever departments are understaffed. There are so many unique aspects of the subway that it’s hard to rely on scheduling cultures that come from elsewhere or hire experienced schedulers from other cities.

There is a solution to this, which is to delocalize knowledge. If New York does something one way, and peers in the US and abroad do it another way, New York should figure out how to delocalize so that it can rely on rest-of-world knowledge more readily. Local uniqueness works when you’re at the top of the world, but the subway has high operating costs and poor planning and operations productivity and therefore its assumption should be that its unique features are in fact bugs.

Deinterlining happens to achieve this. If the subway lines are operated as separate systems, then it’s easier to use the scheduling tools that work for places with a high degree of separation between lines, like Boston or Paris or to a large extent London and Berlin. This also has implications for what capital work is to be done, always in the direction of streamlining the system to be more normal, so that it can cover declining employee numbers with more experienced hires from elsewhere.

40 comments

  1. Phake Nick

    Is it possible to do interlines in more simplified manner? Like Japan especially Tokyo have many interlined rail lines and many of them even operating through multiple companies which should have made planning and coordination extraodinary complex, however this year they can make repeated adjustment to cut service according to demand which seems to indicate a realtively easy process to handle those trains.

    What is the difference?

    • Alon Levy

      Tokyo through-running isn’t really what I’m complaining about. For the most part, the situation there is more like, you ride Keisei, then through the city it is called the Asakusa Line, and then at the other end your train probably through-runs to Keikyu, and that’s it, these are the only systems these interface with. Likewise, Keio-Shinjuku is effectively one line, Den-en-Toshi-Hanzomon is also effectively one line and at the other end train run through to Skytree express.

      In New York the issue is that if you ride an inbound express train from 125th and St. Nicholas in Harlem, then it may run on Eighth Avenue or Sixth Avenue, and as it leaves Manhattan it will also share track with the local train that you didn’t get on at 125th because the express is faster, and if it’s the Sixth Avenue train (i.e. the D) then it’s also going to share track with the N (which got there from Astoria via and Broadway).

      The closest thing Tokyo has to how New York runs the subway is cases like how Chuo local trains can run the normal route to Sobu or divert to Tozai (and this is bad and Tokyo should stop doing this, it’s bad for capacity).

      • Phake Nick

        – Ueno-Tokyo Line & Shonan-Shinjuku Line
        – Shotetsu-Tokyu through service line & Shotetsu-JR through service line
        – Tobu Tojo Line & Seibu Ikebukuro Line

        • Borners

          Japanese city centre through-running tends to be a calculated trade-off unlike the brain-dead legacy services NY subway or London’s mainline services (Hayes service oh god). The trade-off is that that they under perform on train frequency in the core in exchange for more capacity on the connected surface lines, extra platform space and more 1-seat rides etc. The higher performance of the Tokyo subway system compared to Osaka and Nagoya suggests it was the right call. And the 100% through running Kyoto subway outperforms on passenger/km comparable systems in Sendai, Sapporo etc. Reverse branching tends to limited to just 2 lines at intersection point coming from the original (the Asakusa line) and often just one. This also applies to the Shonan-Shinjuku/Ueno-Tokyo system which eats a slightly lower frequency for dual-core access.

          I can see the point that the Tozai line has too much connective power and not enough competitor services for this strategy to work and ditch the sobu through running to get to Parisian or London top-end frequencies.

          Obviously the Namboku-Mita and Yurakucho-Fukutoshin interlining are big mistakes that should have never been made. Its clearly why Mita, Namboku and Fukutoshin are the nowhere-near-1-million-riders-per-day class of the Tokyo subway systems.

    • Stephen Bauman

      From Uday Schultz’ linked article: “NYCT, like many other transit operators in the US, uses a software called HASTUS for its vehicle and crew scheduling. Originally developed for bus operations,”

      I don’t know whether HASTUS is any better in avoiding impossible bus schedules. I developed a program to determine when each bus trip crosses each intersection in NYC from the GTFS schedules and GIS street map data published by NYCDOT. There are too many instances when more than 100 individual bus trips are scheduled to cross the same intersection within an hour. I would guess the software is missing a sanity check module. This module would check for too many trains on a track section or buses within an intersection.

      One problem with relying on software is that people in charge forget how to do the job. Merging patterns were more complicated and service levels were greater 60, 70 and 80 years ago. Our grandfathers managed schedules that resulted in OTP metrics around 99%.

      “Present-day timetabling practice in New York is to fine-tune each numbered and lettered service’s frequency at all times of day based on crowding at the peak point. It creates awkward situations in which the 4 train may run every 4.5 minutes and the 5, with which it shares track most of the way, runs every 5.5, so that they cannot perfectly alternate and sometimes two 4s follow in succession. ”

      Our grandfathers understood the situation. Their solution was to run trains at the minimum headway but set train length to equalize crowding among the different routes.

      • Alon Levy

        Nowadays train lengths are much less variable, and that’s fine. Fine-tuning consists has other problems:

        1. It is labor-intensive to break and join trains.
        2. Maintenance is harder when each car has a different service history.
        3. It’s not possible to break trains with open or even semi-open gangways.
        4. Train crews cost money and the benefit of 2- over 3-minute headways for passenger wait times is invisible.

        Your grandfather’s generation ran the system for the wages of the middle of the 20th century. The problem is when NYCT labor productivity is stuck in the middle of the 20th century while labor costs are often in the middle of the 21st (New York train drivers outearn their counterparts in all German and Swiss cities that I know of, the work conditions for new hires are so bad).

        • Stephen Bauman

          “1. It is labor-intensive to break and join trains.”

          This was accomplished in the station in many instances.

          Before the BMT invaded the IND’s Queens Blvd Line, the GG used to operate 3-car trains off peak. Crews would couple 2 3-car trains in the station to make a 6-car rush hour train after 3pm. That’s when I got off from school; I witnessed many such operations waiting for the express.

          Similarly, one of the night time crime stopping strategies from a couple of decades ago was to run shorter trains at night. The Flushing Line would leave the 3 lead cars in the Main St. station at night and couple them back before dawn. Both operations took less than a few minutes to execute.

          “4. Train crews cost money and the benefit of 2- over 3-minute headways for passenger wait times is invisible.”

          The difference between 2 and 3 minute headways was the reason the Lexington Ave Line was overcrowded during rush hours. Had they operated 2 minute headways there would not have been any overcrowding. The SAS was the remedy for not operating the Lex at service levels for which it was designed. The SAS’ cost far exceeded extra employee hours required to operate the Lex at capacity.

          There isn’t enough room in the margins to comment on the other points you raised. Please don’t conclude my not addressing them indicates my agreement. :=)

          • Phake Nick

            “A few minutes” is a very significant slow down in time on metro systems where their schedule are usually counted in literally fraction of seconds.

          • Stephen Bauman

            “on metro systems where their schedule are usually counted in literally fraction of seconds.”

            Not in NYC. Their schedules are counted in 30 second increments, when they need a precision and accuracy to the second. It’s a major cause for the interlining problems.

            Another (as per the linked article) is schedules that cannot be maintained – trains spaced closer than the emergency braking time on a single track, too many buses scheduled to cross an intersection within an allotted time, etc.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Mainline British trains are timetabled to the nearest 15 seconds. So 30 seconds on a metro is, wow.

        • Stephen Bauman

          “more than 100 bus an hour is considered abnormal?”

          That depends on the intersection geometry (# of intersection streets, street widths, etc.), bus routing (straight through vs turns), bus lengths, etc. NYC streets are narrow – typically a single travel lane in each direction, must share the intersection with pedestrians, are controlled by traffic signals, etc.

          Also, according to NYC traffic regulations section 4-07 (b)(2): “No operator shall enter an intersection and its crosswalks unless there is sufficient unobstructed space beyond the intersection and its crosswalks in the lane in which he/she is traveling to accommodate the vehicle, notwithstanding any traffic control signal indication to proceed.” This means a leading bus must travel intersection length plus twice the bus length before a follower can proceed.

          If one measures the intersection length from stop line to beyond the opposite crosswalk, assumes bus lengths of either 40 or 60 ft, and average speeds of 5 mph for turns and 10 mph for straight through, anything over 100 buses per hour in most intersections needs to be investigated for delays imposed by the schedule.

          The MTA and NICE issued new gtfs schedules on September 1st. For 14 Sep 2022, these schedules contain 1629 intersection-hour instances of 100 or more buses scheduled to cross within 1 hour. This includes 357 intersection-hour instances of more than 150 buses scheduled to cross within 1 hour and 51 intersection-hour instances of more than 200 buses scheduled to cross within 1 hour.

          Let me cite 1 example of what HASTUS hath wrought.

          The Q19, Q50 and Q65 all start at Main St & Roosevelt Ave in Flushing. All 3 routes go east on Roosevelt and turn left (north) onto Main St at the intersection. In addition, the Q48 terminates on the same block but changes direction by making the same left turn onto Main St. The MTA has scheduled the Q19, Q50 and Q65 to each have trips starting at 7:00am. In addition, the Q48 is scheduled to terminate at 6:59am. These left-turning buses block the intersection from all other directions while making this turn.

          The turn distance from the stop line on Roosevelt to the end of the far end of the crosswalk is 95 ft. All the buses are 40 ft long. This means the following bus cannot proceed until the leader has traveled 95 + 2*40 = 175 ft, according to NYC Traffic Regulations. A left turn bus, traveling at 5 mph (7.5 ft/sec), will take 23.3 seconds before its follower can start a similar turn. The traffic signal has a 55 second long green aspect every 120 seconds. At most 2 buses can execute this turn during a green cycle. 4 buses are scheduled to execute this turn.

          There are 7 bus trips scheduled to cross this intersection between 6:59:04 and 7:00:15 including the 4 left-turning buses. BTW, from personal observation, pedestrians crossing Main St prevent buses turning north onto Main St for all but the last 20 seconds of the 55 second long green time. Finally, 225 buses are scheduled to cross Main St & Roosevelt Ave between 7 and 8 am.

          This problem is similar to the subway occupancy problem that Mr. Schultz identified. It’s an obvious deficiency with the methods the MTA uses to schedule its buses and subways.

          • Phake Nick

            Why is the bus travelling at 5 mph across intersection and why is the bus unable to proceed until previous bus fully left the intersection? That appears to be more of a problem of counterproductive rule blocking transit from opeating efficiently

            Like, in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCKuE6ZQk9A, from 6:49 to 7:00, you can see three buses crossing same intersection, and two of them are making right turn in right hand drive traffic. That only take 11 seconds and roads are narrower than the New York example above, with the road they are making right turn into only 1-lane wide.

          • Henry Miller

            A bus – or car – that doesn’t wait to enter the intersection until there is enough room on the other side will block the intersection. It only takes a few of these happening at once to cause gridlock. Thus a bus cannot proceed until the previous bus as not only let the intersection but also has left enough room on the other side for the bus to clear the intersection. Cars are smaller and more maneuverable, and still get into gridlock situations.

            If there is light traffic you don’t have to worry about the above as you can just trust there is enough room to clear, but in heavy traffic you can’t be sure there isn’t a red light ahead meaning you will never get clear of your intersection unless you wait to ensure there is room. I can’t believe there is anyplace in the world with 100 buses per hour through an intersection that doesn’t have heavy traffic. If this is BRT you can maybe call that light traffic and do a lot more than 100 buses per hour (this would require study though before I’m willing to state it as a fact, but it seems possible)

          • Stephen Bauman

            “Why is the bus travelling at 5 mph across intersection”

            From the NYT article about a bus failing to make a turn and falling 50 ft

            “GPS data showed that the bus had taken the turn at 17 to 26 miles per hour, far faster than the 3 to 5 m.p.h. that would be appropriate under the authority’s rules, the agency said in a news release.”

            “why is the bus unable to proceed until previous bus fully left the intersection?”

            I explained this by copying the relevant section of the NYC Traffic Regulations. Basically, one major reason for traffic congestion in NYC is vehicles not clearing intersections before the traffic signal changes. This rule is designed to prevent “blocking the box.”

            “Like, in this video…from 6:49 to 7:00, you can see three buses crossing same intersection, and two of them are making right turn in right hand drive traffic. That only take 11 seconds and roads are narrower than the New York example above, with the road they are making right turn into only 1-lane wide.”

            I took the trouble to download the video, analyze it frame by frame and locate the intersection on Google Maps/StreetView. There are several key differences.

            There aren’t any parked vehicles, allowing buses to use the full width of the roads. There are bus stops or taxi queues on all 8 parking lanes at the Main St & Roosevelt Ave intersection. This means all approaches and exits to the intersection are single lane.

            The Cheung Wo Court, the approach street on the left, is 3 lanes wide. This allows buses to use alternate lanes in sequence to turn into the intersection, which they do. Bus 1 turns narrow; bus 2 turns wide; bus 3 goes straight and can pass turning bus 2.

            While the pedestrian island makes the approach into Hui Kwong St a single lane, the street widens to two lanes in 95 ft. This leaves room for a follower to sneak in behind without fear of blocking the box.

            The traffic signals permit only 1 approach at a time. This means a bus approaching a green signal does not have to worry about oncoming turning traffic.

            There are very few pedestrians. Main/Roosevelt is supposed to be the 3rd heaviest pedestrian intersection in NYC.

            There are only 4 buses crossing intersection in 2 minutes. The MTA scheduled 7 in 71 seconds for Main/Roosevelt.

            The double deckers are 30 ft long. The MTA buses are 40 or 60 ft long. They take longer 25% to 100% longer to cross a point.

            There’s a long distance between intersections (and traffic signals). The left turning buses onto Main St. face another intersection (39th Ave) in 170 ft, after clearing the crosswalk’s far end.

            The right turn distance for the Hui Kwong St & Cheung Wo Ct intersection is approximately 100 ft. That’s close enough for Main&Roosevelt’s 95 ft for a left turn.

          • Phake Nick

            @Henry Miller Indeed no vehicles should back up an intersection, and if they foresee they cannot clear the intersection they shouldn’t make turn. But unless the preceeding vehicle have difficulty turning into new lane or if driver visually see a queue of lline piling up on the target lane, there’re no reason to assume they won’t be able to clear the turning. As for “I can’t believe there is anyplace in the world with 100 buses per hour through an intersection that doesn’t have heavy traffic.”, I counted the intersection at about the 3rd minute of the video I posted, it have more than 100 buses per hours even before counting minibuses, yet that’s still a relatively calm junction in residential zone.

            @Stephen Bauman The NYT article you linked show a bus trying to cross an overpass instead of intersection. Also we have thousands of bus crossing intersection at speed above that yet still didn’t have problems.

            For clearing intersection see above, no reason to assume that’s the case for all intersection all the times.

            If parked traffic is a problem and that this part is really that heavily travelled, why even allow street parking or putting taxi stands so close to the intersection? Why not move them elsewhere?

            There’re only 4 buses in 2 minutes as it wasn’t peak hour and not in busy area, just one that I happens to find which show such turning. Yet 4 buses in 2 minutes still average out to 120 buses per 60 minutes.

            Why would traffic signals allow multiple approaches that enable conflicting turn against each others unless one of the approach is so rarely used that the vehicle can just wait? Didn’t that defeat the purpose of having a traffic signal in the first place?

            The double decker buses in the video should be between 37-42 ft long.

            Wouldn’t it be a good idea to pedestrianize the 39th and maybe even 38th avenue if distance between stopping line is a problem?

          • Stephen Bauman

            “The NYT article you linked show a bus trying to cross an overpass instead of intersection. Also we have thousands of bus crossing intersection at speed above that yet still didn’t have problems.”

            I linked that post because you questioned the policy of buses turning at 5 mph. The Times article confirmed my statement. The bus was executing a left turn, as per the linked video. The street was on a viaduct because an expressway passed underneath. The bus was turning too fast and could not turn the full 90 degrees. It ran into the viaduct fence, rather than a store or house.

            “no reason to assume that’s the case for all intersection all the times.”

            It’s a pretty good assumption for this case. Number of scheduled bus crossings from 0600 to 2000 are: 153(6), 225(7), 210(8), 175(9), 146(10), 133(11), 133(12), 138(13), 167(14), 185(15), 192(16), 205(17), 196(18), 163(19).
            The crossings at 39th Ave & Main St are comparable. 150(6), 221(7), 211(8), 173(9), 141(10), 129(11), 128(12), 131(13), 165(14), 182(15), 190(16), 195(17), 191(18), 160(19).

            “Yet 4 buses in 2 minutes still average out to 120 buses per 60 minutes.”

            The video does not show whether the 4 buses/2 minutes is sustained over one hour. Unfortunately, Hong Kong does not have a gtfs schedule so I cannot determine whether the 2 minutes were a blip or steady state. I would think that you are more likely to find more congested intersections on Hong Kong island rather than Kowloon, which is the intersection in the video.

            “If parked traffic is a problem and that this part is really that heavily travelled, why even allow street parking or putting taxi stands so close to the intersection?”

            Perhaps I wasn’t clear. There’s the sidewalk – crammed with pedestrians, the curb, a lane reserved for bus stops and a taxi stand, a travel lane and then the yellow line and the mirror image in the reverse direction. There isn’t any parking. This is the end of the subway line and the most heavily used intermodal station in the City. Proximity to the subway entrances forces the locations to where they are.

            “Why would traffic signals allow multiple approaches that enable conflicting turn against each others unless one of the approach is so rarely used that the vehicle can just wait? Didn’t that defeat the purpose of having a traffic signal in the first place?”

            That depends on the proportion of turning vehicles and the wait space before the traffic signal for not sharing directions. If most of the traffic does not turn, and there is a turning lane, then separating the approaches would reduce flow through the intersection. In this case, no turns are permitted from Main St and the only buses are permitted to turn off Roosevelt Ave. This means that congestion caused by turning vehicles is solely due to MTA schedule shortcomings.

            “Wouldn’t it be a good idea to pedestrianize the 39th and maybe even 38th avenue if distance between stopping line is a problem?”

            As I mentioned, this is a subway terminal (as well as a major shopping center). Buses terminate here. There needs to be a means for them to loop around to change direction. Also, access to this intersection is constrained due to physical barriers. There’s the LIRR on the south and the Flushing River on the west. 39th and 38th Aves are used as loops for buses to change direction.

            “The double decker buses in the video should be between 37-42 ft long.”

            I took an aerial view of Hong Kong, especially the Sau Pau Ming bus terminal at the beginning of the video. The double deckers are 35 ft, according to Google’s measurement tool. The buses at Main&Roosevelt are 40 and 60 ft, using the same method.

          • Phake Nick

            @Stephen Bauman The Hong Kong government open data site actually have GTFS data for all public bus operator iirc.

        • Stephen Bauman

          “The Hong Kong government open data site actually have GTFS data for all public bus operator iirc.”

          Hong Kong wasn’t listed on the sites that list gtfs file feeds. I looked at the Hong Kong open data site, I could not find a gtfs download. I saw some listings for stop locations but the long/lat coordinates aren’t sufficient.

          I’d appreciate it, if you could supply a link.

          • Stephen Bauman

            Thanks for the link.

            Unfortunately, Hong Kong does not provide the shapes.txt file in their gtfs feed. It’s an optional file. It’s a gis file that gives a linestring description of every trip.

            This file enables me to locate intersection and bus stop locations along each bus trip. I get the intersections from openstreetmaps. Each intersection is between two bus stops. I use linear interpolation between the two bus stops to get the intersection crossing time from the stop time data for each bus trip and bus stop.

          • Phake Nick

            I think one can only try to intercept bus company app’s private api and such for that. Even when bus companies displaying arrival time data of other companies route they can only link up stops together in straight lines. And Google Maps have to use its own navigation engine to try to route the buses but commonly got it wrong when faced with bus-only roads that their engine couldn’t recognize as passable by bus vehicles, or for when there are roads that buses cannot pass and need alternative routes.

          • Phake Nick

            Come to think of it, one of the busiest intersection for bus in Hong Kong is probably the one just east of the Exhibition Centre Station Bus Terminal. Most buses entering Cross Harbour Tunnel except a few specific routes have to pass through it.

  2. Matthew Hutton

    I once tried to get a job with the police and the whole process from start to finish took 6 months – I only went through the whole process because I was looking for something new very half-heartedly.

    Every other private sector job I’ve had I’ve got within 1 month of looking and often less.

    • Matthew Hutton

      If you want private sector professionals to apply then the timeline needs to be one year – because if it doesn’t work out you can’t expect people to hang around for 5 years to get 1/3rd of their salary. That’s crazy.

      • adirondacker12800

        It seems obvious none of you understand how pensions work. If you only have six years in it’s very likely you accrued pension will be below the threshold for remaining a participant and they will cash you out. You can roll it over into a IRA. Or if you are very lucky, into your new employer’s 401-k.

        • Matthew Hutton

          Ok so if you earn $100k and are there for 1 year and accrue a pension of $2k/year will they give you the $50k to go in an IRA that $2k is worth?

          • adirondacker12800

            If you work there for a year you don’t get anything because you don’t vest in the pension until your fifth year. If you work for a private employer it’s unlikely you would even be able to participate in the 401-k. If you work for a private employer for five years and they have a 401-k you get back whatever you contributed plus interest. It’s obvious you have no idea of how this works.

          • adirondacker12800

            I don’t pay bills out of my gross pay I pay them out of my net pay. If I have to fund my own retirement I don’t get to see that money until I retire either.

          • Alon Levy

            Normal people who work for the private sector put some money in savings and then don’t think about it for a couple decades, but end up with a lot more free cash early on (for example, because they don’t have their money locked in savings as soon as they start working – usually they wait a bit if they need cash now for things like paying debts). There’s also no expectation of retiring after 25 years of work – try 45.

          • Henry Miller

            Pensions these days are a bad investment. Between regulations not allowing some good investments (for good reason, but the rules are outdated) and no good story about what if you don’t work there for life a pension should account for zero when considering a job until you are 5 years from retirement.

            As such the public sector cannot reasonably say that our pensions are better – there is too much risk that you won’t get the pension at all (because you don’t work there for life).

          • Matthew Hutton

            A public sector pension is typically still defined benefit. So for absolutely sure it’s a significant advantage over an equivalent private sector position.

            And at least in the UK you have pretty big freedoms to invest in stuff from within a pension wrapper – and you can transfer money pretty easily between different pensions – of course with pretty much all private sector pensions they are defined contributions.

          • adirondacker12800

            There’s also no expectation of retiring after 25 years of work – try 45.
            You can retire with less than 25 years. Even if you have a private defined benefit plan. It’s obvious you have no idea how this works.

          • Tom M

            Yes that’s right, the US is filled with middle class salary level people who retire at 50 (start work at 25 + 25 years of work) and not 65 or 70.
            The number of private sector employers today with open defined benefits plans is basically zero. Even the number of private defined plans where you can still contribute is rapidly declining.

          • adirondacker12800

            There aren’t any defined benefits plans because the dastardly Federal government made employers stop lying about them.

          • Henry Miller

            Back in the 1960s (50s? I’m telling this story third hand) one distance relative of mine worked for a company with a pension plan, 2 years before he would have retired the company went bankrupt, and he was out of a job. Turned out his pension was invested in company stock, so he was also out of his entire retirement. Things like this is why there is federal pension insurance, and laws about what a pension can invest in. Those laws about what a pension can invest in limits them to lower return investments, and soon any company with a good accountant (that is all but the smallest of companies) realized that a 401k is a much better investment.

            I actually work for one of the few private companies that have a pension. I didn’t start until I was 35 though, and so my pension payout will be minimal, and it will be even less if I find a new job in the mean time. Some of my coworkers who starts right out of college will get a good payout – by the dollar value of when they started, inflation will eat their pension down to not very much by the time they are 65. Assuming they work here until they retire, and that the pension still exists at all.

          • adirondacker12800

            realized that a 401k is a much better investment.
            For the company it’s great. Instead of using company money they get the employees to pay for it.

  3. R. W. Rynerson

    It was interesting to read about the lack of error checking for conflicts in HASTUS, because in Denver we had to work with the low-bid Trapeze software. During my time there (into 2014) the purported conflict checking never worked. I found a workaround using the public information print-out, as it showed headways (a 0-minute headway is not good).

    Various political commitments put our C, D, E, F, and H-Lines down the Central trunk and our then E, F, G, and H-Lines overlapped in the suburbs. While we were working on implementing this, I coincidentally went to Berlin for a reunion and took a close look at the S-Bahn, which has coped with this sort of thing.

    We avoided most potential conflicts by writing a trunk schedule in Excel for the minimum headway, at that time 2½ minutes, then slotting lines into it. The then D-Line went in first, because of its single track segment, and then everything else went in with branch headways subordinated to the trunk schedule. There were some other exceptions, not relevant to this blog post. And, after the base service dropped to the late night schedule there were some lurches to set up timed transfers, but overall it worked.

    I would add that from my prior experience in Edmonton and then in Denver that for lower density systems it also helps maintain discipline on feeder bus schedules if the rail schedule is not jumping around. And from a marketing standpoint, it’s great to expect to find a bus waiting within walk time from one’s train. Portland started out with this approach and as budget cuts and staff turnover and additional lines were added they drifted away. My brother enjoys having two trains scheduled at the same time for his commute. One or the other shows up at Gateway Station on time.

    [Note: this refers to the 2005-06 period. If someone wants to look at current schedules, they’re still on the pandemic/labor shortage Sunday levels. And the then G-Line is now the R-Line and the single track segment of the D-Line is now the L-Line. And the 2½-minute trunk headway is now a 3-minute trunk headway, due to changes in downtown traffic signals for 4-car train surface operation.]

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