Max graduated from the CUNY City College of New York with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. He spent 3 years as a College Aide at MTA New York City Transit, spending a half year at the Division of Operations Planning, and the balance at the Department of Subways Performance Analysis Unit. Since June 2019, he has been a conductor on the B division (letter lines) of the subway system, and mainly works on the lines that run out of Queens. He also spends time volunteering at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in Connecticut, and serves on the board of trustees there.
What’s your preferred transport mode and why?
My most preferred mode of transport is heavy rail metro/subway, mostly because of its sheer capacity. Heavy rail urban transit systems can transport an immense amount of people at quite high speeds. Very few other modes can compare in this regard.
What are you working on that you’re most passionate or proud about (transit-related)?
I am most passionate about working on and supporting MTA NYCT’s museum train program. NYCT has a beautiful fleet of vintage subway cars of various types that are used for both public special events and paid excursions. These trains bring a massive amount of positive publicity to the MTA and the New York Transit Museum. Performing conductor’s duties on museum trains is incredibly rewarding, as it is an opportunity to learn a lot of “railroading” knowledge and skills that cannot be learned anywhere else. A railroad is very evolutionary in nature. Understanding how the older trains work provides a lot of critical operational knowledge needed to understand the nuances of how modern day operations at NYCT work.
What is the biggest transit-related problem that you’d like to help solve?
I feel that some of the biggest problems in the transit industry are brain drain and loss of institutional knowledge. Every time a senior worker retires, a massive amount of knowledge leaves with them. This has critical implications for transit systems where in some cases one can find operational rules that date back decades, if not over a century. If nobody knows why a rule was implemented decades ago, how can one properly evaluate policy changes that impact that rule? In one extreme example, an incorrect definition of an acronym for a type of train control/braking system was essentially made up and repeated for several years in some training booklets. Why? Because nobody remembered the actual definition from when it was established in the 1940s. Fortunately this has since been corrected.
Similarly, it is not uncommon for information about some of the more obscure technical aspects of railroading to only be found on decades-old instruction booklets and on the occasional enthusiast blog.
I believe that it’s incredibly important to implement effective knowledge transfer and aggregation initiatives at transit agencies to provide easy access to information for new employees. There is so much that a person can “not know that they don’t know” in the transit industry. Reducing the steepness of that learning curve is critical to ensuring that transit agencies follow best practices.
Do you have any tips (career advice) for YPT’ers interested in your career path?
My advice is to try to get out in the field as much as possible and try to get experience in a variety of departments. The more one understands how transit operations actually play out in the field, the more effectively somebody can then plan or manage aspects of a transit system. Similarly, working in different departments allows one to learn so much more about how a transit system operates, and it builds a lot of professional connections. As a conductor, I can say that I am considerably more effective with the knowledge I gained when I was a College Aide. Likewise, the in-depth field experience I am obtaining as a conductor would be invaluable should I go back to working in an office setting in the future.