Eerie….

I was browsing Subchat this morning & spotted a thread posted by “Terrapin Station” which caught my eye. The thread title is what led me to open it & discover quite an eerie story. The story was about a mother who was found dead around the same area her daughter was found dead 5 weeks earlier. Here is the story courtesy of the BBC:

Joanne Coombs (Mother; 40 years old) Natasha Coombs (Daughter; 17 years old)

The mother of a teenager who died on tracks near a railway station in Essex five weeks ago has been found dead on the same stretch, it is reported.

Joanne Coombs, 40, was reportedly found dead at Manningtree, Essex, on Tuesday.

Her 17-year-old daughter Natasha was found dead near the same spot on 10 August. Police were at the Coombs’ Harwich home on Tuesday night.

Insp Ed Purchase of British Transport Police said a train driver found a body after a track fault was reported.

“On Tuesday evening the driver of the 1900 BST Liverpool Street to Norwich train service reported a possible track fault,” Mr Purchase said.

“The line was checked by the driver of the following freight train. He found the body of a woman near Manningtree station.

“We can confirm that this is the same location where the body of 17-year-old Natasha Coombs was found on 10 August.

“It is believed that the woman was struck and killed by the train reporting the track fault. The incident is not being treated as suspicious.

“The deceased has not yet being formally identified and an investigation is under way by British Transport Police.”

Meal with friends

A postmortem examination showed Natasha died when she was hit by a train.

She was last seen alive while traveling home to Harwich following a meal with friends in Ipswich on 27 July.

Natasha had separated from her boyfriend two weeks before and police believed she might have been upset about the split on the night she disappeared.

Natasha Coombs
Natasha’s body was found in undergrowth near the station

Her body was found two weeks later in undergrowth a mile down the line from the station on the London side after a report from a passing train driver.

A coroner has launched an investigation into her death.

Mrs Coombs appeared at a press conference on 2 August with her husband Gary, 48, to appeal for help in finding Natasha.

She broke down as the couple discussed Natasha’s disappearance.

“The house is so empty without her,” Mrs Coombs said. “It’s unbearable.”

She said the family had been due to go on holiday to Canada on 4 August and added that Natasha had been excited by the prospect of the trip.

Mrs Coombs said her daughter had also been looking forward to turning 18 later in the year.

‘Constant fear’

Natasha was Mr and Mrs Coombs’ only child.

Mrs Coombs told of her last conversation with Natasha when the teenager had called on the night she vanished to say she would get a taxi home from the station.

In the days following Natasha’s disappearance, her grandparents, Peter and Wendy Clackett, also made an appeal for help to find her and offered a reward to anyone who had information.

On 8 August Mr and Mrs Coombs made a second appeal for help in finding Natasha and said they lived in constant fear of “what tomorrow will bring”.

What an eerie story……..

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I Have My Doubts……

This entry can be considered a continuation of the entry below which focused on the MTA’s vow to improve storm performance. I decided to reread the entire report & develop further opinions about their suggestions. The key suggestion that caught my eye referred to developing capacity for real time text alerts.

I applaud the idea on merit but question the reality of it getting done. The MTA already has such a system in place for LIRR commuters. The LIRR system has 24,000 subscribers & it takes up to 1.5 hours to send out alerts to all of them. New Jersey Transit has a similar system in place & it sends alerts to approximately 46,000 subscribers. The major issue is can any of these agencies handle a real big upswing in subscribers?

Considering the amount of straphangers who depend on our system in the tri-state area, their current levels are quite low. They have problems pushing alerts out fast enough to such a small number of subscribers. What happens when the number of subscribers doubles, or goes into 6 figures? The current timing of alerts reaching everyone will not cut the mustard as such data will probably be outdated by time it reaches everyone.

The other major factor is character limits when it comes to cell phones. Most cell phones have a character limit of 160 for text messages. I would speculate at minimum, 90% of the MTA’s service alerts would surpass that limit with ease. Unfortunately the option to scale back on characters can not be considered as a solution.

In reality, can the MTA really produce a system with legitimate real time capacity & execute it as it should be? I have my doubts……

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MTA Vows To Improve Storm Performance

Today the MTA put out a press release in relation to its performance during the August 8th storm that crippled mass transit throughout NYC. The report which was submitted to Gov. Spitzer today focuses on how the storm caught them off guard & the changes they plan on implementing. Here are a few sections of the report:

To directly address these issues, the MTA will pursue a series of improvements in operations, engineering and communications. Operationally, Doppler radar is being installed in each agency’s operations center, an MTA-wide Emergency Response Center has been created, and new storm protocols will be put in place to guide alternative service.

To begin implementing these solutions, the MTA has committed $30 million to fund initiatives that can be put into place quickly. Just as importantly, the MTA will quantify the costs of the longer-term capital fixes needed to permanently prepare the system for operating in future storms and communicating with customers in all types of emergencies. These initiatives will be considered for inclusion in the MTA’s expedited Capital Program, due to be presented to the State Legislature early next year.

Create Early Warning and Response Capability – The MTA agencies will collaborate on a common and redundant weather forecasting system/capability and install Doppler radar monitoring in all agency operations centers. This will allow pre-deployment of operating personnel when potentially threatening weather is indicated. (30 days)

To see the full release, click here.

I have a bone to pick with the MTA. Why did it take a major storm to implement such changes? How many times has the MTA performed poorly during rainstorms? The number is so high, I have lost count. One would think that the MTA would learn to be more proactive instead of reactive with this issue. I understand that the MTA is not fully to blame as far as floods go. We all know that a good percentage of straphangers are also to blame with the littering of our system. However this does not change the fact that the MTA should have severely fixed this issue years ago!

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J, M, & Z Service Alert

The MTA has posted a service alert regarding the J, M, & Z trains. The service alert reads:

Due to a police investigation at the Bowery Station, Jamaica-bound , and Metropolitan Avenue-bound trains are running express between the Chambers Street Station and the Essex Street Station.

Stations being bypassed are: Canal Street and Bowery.

As an alternate, customers are advised to take the Broad Street-bound , or trains from the Essex Street Station to bypassed stations.

Please expect delays in service on the , and trains at this time.

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Subways Catching Up With The Times…

I was browsing AMNY’s website & saw a headline about the subway system & cell phones. It seems that plans to enable working cell phone service in every station is moving forward. Here is the article courtesy of AMNY:

After two years of talk, plans for cell phone and WiFi-accessible subways stations are rolling forward, an encouraging message for some straphangers but a troubling one for others who wonder if platforms will become one loud phone booth.

New York City Transit announced Wednesday an agreement with a consortium, Transit Wireless, to wire six stations in the next two years, pending MTA board approval next week. If the company’s work rings true with transit, the firm will fit the remaining 271 underground stations over four years. The tunnels, however, will not be wired.

“I think it’ll be very useful. I’ve had so many problems when I’ve been stuck on a train and have 20 minutes to get somewhere, and I can’t call to say I’m late,” said high schooler Parul Aggarwal, 17.

The consortium will pay $46 million to wire the system, and transit will pay nothing. The consortium must strike a deal with a carrier, which has not been selected.

Keeping in touch underground is one reason for wired-up platforms, but the initiative could help in a transit meltdown like last month’s.

The agency was widely criticized for poor communication with passengers about the system-wide, storm-related service outage. A recommendation in an MTA report the governor ordered afterward calls for the agency to better communicate with straphangers about service problems. That report will be released by the agency today.

A spokesman would not say if text messaged service alerts will be among the recommendations.

“Obviously, communications is an area where we underperformed on August 8, and providing cell service on platforms will allow customers access to phones and PDAs so they can let people know they’re stuck or find information from other sources, such as the MTA Web site,” spokesman Jeremy Soffin said. “In emergencies, cell phones could also be used to communicate with first responders.”

That’s what pay phones are for, said some straphangers waiting for the No. 7 train yesterday. Others said transit has a phone-free solution to better communication — clear and helpful announcements over PA systems.

Riders on the elevated No. 7 line know what chatty platforms and trains are like. Some say cell phone talkers are mere background noise, but others said conversations get too loud, hampering the commute.

“I think it’s going to be more stressful, especially in the morning when you’re just trying to get with it,” said Ellie Rodriguez, a teacher who commutes to Manhattan from Flushing. “People don’t have a concept of manners or rudeness when it comes to cell phones.”

The Straphangers Campaign has polled its members, who mostly support wiring stations but are mixed on offering service in tunnels.

“In a station you’re not a captive like you are in a subway car,” Straphangers spokesman Gene Russianoff said. “You can walk away.”

All I can is about time! Now only if they could work in subway tunnels as well! I admit that is asking for too much & is not exactly necessary.

I am hoping that Sprint gets the contract to handle this project!

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