Maybe granite and porcelain aren’t the best choices for a subway station floorBy
It doesn’t make sense to lay the floor first. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
As more details emerge about the MTA’s construction budget crisis, I keep coming back to Scott’s comment about the MTA and crown jewels. How do you balance form, function and visual appeal?
Right now, the MTA is in trouble. As the Daily News noted yesterday, steel and concrete prices have “jumped 91% and 25% respectively” since the MTA budgeted for their projects. Considering how big a role steel plays in the subways, that jump has led to skyrocketing costs. But steel and concrete aren’t about making stations luxuriously opulent.
Rather, granite and porcelain make stations overly expensive, and now, the MTA is saying that granite and porcelain have to go. Pete Donohue has more:
Transit officials looking to save money may swap plans for fancy granite subway and train station floor tiles for a more economical – and drab – concrete. The potential savings are significant and the issue is generating strong opinions. “For me, this is a no-brainer,” said Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member Barry Feinstein, calling granite a “very expensive amenity.”
According to NYC Transit, the MTA’s largest division, it costs $1.7 million to install granite flooring in the standard subway station, compared with $421,000 for regular concrete. After considerable expenditures, it is also scrapping a third type of tiling material: porcelain, which has been used exclusively in underground stations for the past eight years. Since then, 22 stations have received porcelain tile floors, at a typical cost of $1.4 million per station.
Those porcelain surfaces have not held up well and are cracking and chipping, said NYC Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges.
Now, I’m with Feinstein. The only way to describe this option is as a no-brainer. But MTA board member Andrew Albert brought up another point. “A lot of people don’t believe a station renovation project is done unless the floor has tiles,” he said. “It doesn’t look finished.”
And here’s where I think the MTA is messing up their construction plans. Why does the porcelain and granite look so bad? Why does it chip so easily? Because construction crews are installing the decorative aspects of the new stations well before they should be.
Take a walk around the 59th St-Columbus Circle Station right now. It’s a mess. Construction walls are everywhere. Walls, ceilings, floors and staircases are all in various stages of completion. Dust floats through the station faster than pedestrian can maneuver. Yet, despite the mess, the new, fancy floors are already installed on the platforms, and they look terrible. They’re disgustingly dirty and slowly getting ruined. They’re also about six months old.
Now, I have to ask: Does this make any sense? Usually in a construction project, the fancy, delicate parts go last because heavy machinery and constant work will ruin them. That’s exactly how the work at Columbus Circle has turned out.
Clearly, the MTA needs to find a balance between building a functional transit system under budget and constructing something that looks nice. But the first place to start — besides in cutting down porcelain and granite use — should come in the planning stages. Put in the fancy stuff once it won’t get destroyed by ongoing construction.