Getting the Subway Moving (On Screen, at Least)

Serving almost six million riders a day and operating 24/7, the New York subway system is an icon of the city — and no small feat to run. So how did it get this bad?

Today, the city’s subway has the worst on-time performance of any major rapid transit system in the world. For the past few months, The Times has published a series of stories about the increasing delays and malfunctions in the system, and the three decades of political decisions that have allowed for them. Brian Rosenthal, an investigative reporter, discovered tight relationships between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority labor unions and the governor and examined how bond issuance fees were funneling money to the state government even as budgetary constraints prompted routine maintenance cuts. Emma Fitzsimmons, a transit reporter, dove deep into a signal system that dates to World War II and was never meant to handle 2018 traffic.

The Times’s Enterprise video team, where I am a producer, works on narrative-driven, in-depth video projects tied to the paper’s top news priorities. My colleague Alexandra Garcia and I reimagined reporting that appeared in the Metro section as the backbone of a creative explainer documentary that was published this week. We settled on a fast-paced, quirky editing style for the piece, which meant that every second on screen would count and need to be intentionally crafted. Producing and editing this 10-minute video has been my sole focus for the past 10 weeks.

“I’m obsessed with the subway and after five years in New York, still find it a miracle that I can get from one side of the city to the other just by stepping on what are essentially moving platforms underneath the city,” Alex noted. “But I’ve also been late to work too many times to not want to do a somewhat absurd look at what has gone wrong.”

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