The Metropolitan Transportation Authority celebrated National Transit Employee Appreciation Day on Monday by sending out its executives to spend time with the system’s transit workers and highlight some exceptional employees.

In so doing, it brought attention to a largely unsung role on the LIRR-side of the system: the signal inspectors. Among a handful of workers and roles that the transit agencies gathered at a press conference recognizing its workforce was Daniel Ribeiro, a signal inspector at LIRR Grand Central, and an 11-year member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.

The sentiment of the recognition was especially meaningful for, said Ribeiro who spoke for his fellow signal workers as a team of rail workers who do highly technical, critical work that goes undetected by most straphangers.

“Everyone sees conductors all the time. They see engineers all the time. They see the station cleaners all the time, but no one ever really sees Signal because signal’s out in the tunnels and the tracks,” Ribeiro said.

Railway signal is a visual display that conveys instructions and information about track conditions and other trains out in the system. Signal inspectors do a lot of preventive maintenance to make sure that the complex system of electrical circuits functions smoothly. This often involves working out on the roadbed, where workers face hazards from live train traffic and electricity.

“We always say, ‘To save the railroad, we put on our cape,’” Ribeiro said. “Because every time we get a trouble call, they call signals.”

Signal problems can range from simple problems like a break in the cables to more complicated electrical issues, which involve computers to fix. The signal inspectors really have to be a jack of all trades in order to problem-solve on the job, Ribeiro said. Because their work is central to the system they often work very closely with other parts of the agency, which means they have to know a bit of what everybody does.

A big part of their job involves testing different signal lines to make sure that no problems occur in the first place.

Acting LIRR President Rob Free told Ribeiro that he really wanted to elevate the work of a signal inspector because he thought that their work is often invisible to the average person. In the ceremony, Free also extended his thanks to all LIRR workers.

“Not only do our employees operate and maintain the busiest commuter railroad in North America, they’re also responsible for the safety of millions of people a year. But what gets unnoticed sometimes is the sacrifice. The families of our employees make the demands of the job also impact their lives,” he said.

For MTA Commissioner Jano Lieber, the day of appreciation also represented an opportunity to address several recent high-profile attacks on railway conductors, which he said the agency is working with the governor to find policy solutions for.

For signal inspectors, who aren’t as public-facing as operators, Ribeiro said that safety is certainly a priority, and one way to improve it is providing them new Roadway Worker Protection training. Administrators have raised the idea of providing a new protection system. Ribeiro said they want it asap.

“We’re actually pushing them to try to get it as soon as possible. That would really help because our safety is our concern,” he said.

For Ribeiro that safety is always at play when he’s doing his job in the middle of live train tracks around the city. Right after the MTA press event at Grand Central finished, Ribeiro was sent right back down into the station’s subterranean tunnels to inspect the tracks.

From left, MTA Commissioner Jano Lieber and Singla Inspector Daniel Ribeiro


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join Our Newsletter Today