5 Ways Your Subway Commute Might Be Better in the Future

New subway cars will feature wider doors and open gangways. And Vignelli maps too? | Image: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast and New York City Transit President Ronnie Hakim this morning in Brooklyn to announce some changes coming to New York City Subway trains and stations. This week, the MTA will issue a request for proposals for 1,025 new subway cars and another RFP for the overhaul of 31 stations as part of the 2015-2019 capital plan. The first three stations will be in Brooklyn (Prospect Avenue, 53rd Street, Bay Ridge Avenue) with the remaining 28 spread across the five boroughs.

The new train and station designs include a host of minor enhancements, but also a few substantial improvements that represent serious, if not overdue, progress for the 112-year-old transit system. Combined, these changes could add up to a better experience for many of the city’s 2.7 billion annual riders. Here are a few ways your commute might look different in the future:

You’ll know how soon the next train will arrive before you enter the station. Real-time service signage will be located not just on the platforms, but outside station entrances too. So if you know your train isn’t coming for a while, you can spend that time getting an iced coffee instead of waiting inside on a sweltering platform.

The platform might not even be that miserable. Today, the station where you catch the train probably has some peeling paint, pooling water and maybe even crumbling walls. That could soon change. According to Hakim, remodeled stations will feature enhanced lighting, countdown clocks, better cellular connectivity, Wi-Fi and contemporary art. Hopefully the train arrives before you even notice these amenities, but if it doesn’t, the wait should be a little less painful.

You’ll be able to charge your phone or tablet while you wait for your train. Again, ideally you wouldn’t have enough time to dig through your bag to find your charging cable before the next train arrives. But in the unlikely event that your train is late, at least you’ll be able to revive a dying phone. Unless, of course, you’re not comfortable plugging into any old USB port.

When the train finally comes, it will be easier to get on — and get on your way. The MTA estimates that wider doors will help people get on and off more quickly, reducing station dwell times by about a third.

The train will be less crowded. There aren’t many ways to add capacity to a subway system. So if you can’t run trains more frequently (a non-starter thanks to the subway’s ancient signal system) the obvious solution is to find more space for people inside the trains. That’s why out of the 1,025 train cars the MTA plans to order, 750 will be open gangway cars. Like an articulated bus, the space between cars is space for riders to stand. The open gangways also help balance the use of space inside, so you’ll see fewer trains where some cars are much fuller than others.

The plans outlined today will bring some positive changes to New York City transit riders, but this is only a first step. While 750 open gangway train cars is nothing to sneeze at, the MTA has over 4,600 subway cars in service. And while 31 stations will be overhauled, 438 will not.

2 Comments on "5 Ways Your Subway Commute Might Be Better in the Future"

  1. Clark Morris | July 18, 2016 at 4:29 pm |

    Will all 31 stations be wheelchair accessible?

  2. Notice the absence of CitiBike information on page 4 of the renderings under “Enhanced Station Information….”? If they can show the nearby bus departures, they can show the nearby CitiBike stations’ available bikes and open docks information too. A real oversight.

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