Camera- and flip seat-equipped train debuts on E

By · Published in 2010

The new R160 configuration features seats that can flip up and handholds designed to maximize car space. (Photo courtesy of New York City Transit)

After months of delays and planning, a pair of pilot programs three years in the making are finally coming to fruition along the Queens Boulevard line. A new R160 car set to roll out as an E train will feature four cars equipped with advanced video surveillance equipment and a new car configuration featuring hand poles in new locations and rush-hour flip-up seats. The seats will be locked down for the time being, and Transit does not know when the flip-up feature will be utilized.

For the agency, the announcement that these pilots are live came after years of planning. The MTA first announced plans to install cameras in subway cars as early as March 2007, and in April 2008, Transit said that some R160 at a certain point in the future would play host to the pilot. Last August, Transit again reiterated plans to beef up on-board security, and now, an E train will test run these cameras.

“Video camera systems have clearly been shown to help deter criminal activity on transit vehicles and we believe strongly that they can also be extremely valuable in investigating accident injury claims,” NYC Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statmeent. “But we must also acknowledge the potential threat of terrorist activity on public transportation vehicles and CCTV has been instrumental in helping with investigations in this area.”

Transit started a one-year evaluation period today and offered a few details behind their plans. Four cars in a ten-car set will be equipped with four cameras each for a total of 16. Each set of four cameras is linked into one DVR system, and the four cameras are tied into a network controller unit that transmits the signals between cars. The cameras are placed to “effectively cover the passenger area,” according to Transit, and while the agency stressed that the cameras are for recording purposes and not live monitoring, it’s unclear how Transit plans to make use of the footage. Each car with a camera in it will feature a decal, seen here at right.

“The CCTV System will be evaluated for its recording quality and car-to-car transmission of video signals within the subway environment,” Steven Feil, Senior Vice President, Department of Subways, said. “Upon successful completion of the testing and evaluation of the system, NYC Transit may consider implementing the CCTV System throughout the subway fleet.”

Meanwhile, while the camera pilot will be live, the MTA’s other long-term plan — flip seats designed to maximize rush hour standing space — will be an option in a new R160 along the E but won’t be activated in the foreseeable future. The history of this plan is nearly as drawn out as that of the CCTV’s. Transit announced a seatless train experiment in early 2008, and while Boston’s MBTA started its own pilot in December 2008, Transit’s plan stalled out when Kawasaki refused to retrofit an R142 for use along the East Side IRT.

The new car, as the photo above shows, will feature flip seats and a better handhold configuration. If Transit decides to flip up the seats for any rush hour, the car’s capacity will increase by 19 percent. However, Transit says that “deployment of this feature is not being considered at this time.” In the meantime, the new pole locations should improve passenger flow and encourage riders to toward the middle of crowded subway cars. Today, with poles close to the doors, those riders who stand tend to block flow and empty space in the middle of cars often goes unused.

Categories : Subway Security

41 Responses to “Camera- and flip seat-equipped train debuts on E”

  1. Kat says:

    The cameras are a much needed preliminary step in reducing crime and capturing incidents of harassment and public masturbation that the NYPD and MTA tend to take lightly.

    • Alex says:

      We live in NY, It happens. Deal with it. I’d rather deal with someone fondling themselves instead of living in an even more police state. Plus the mta should spend their money more wisely. Cameras should be the lowest of priorities for a failing system.

    • Scott E says:

      Kat- at first, I laughed off your comment as well, but then clicked on your name (which links to http://nyfst.org) and was shocked by the stories I read — not as much for the descriptions of the incidents (though one in particular grossed me out), but for the sheer amount of sexual misconduct that was reported. (and how much goes unreported??). I honestly doubt the cameras will deter these acts (they are, after all, exhibitionists), but hopefully they’ll make it easier to catch them. Good for you for publicizing and raising awareness about the problem.

  2. paulb says:

    When does the car with laser vaporization of door blocking passengers debut?

  3. Lex says:

    I already see huge flaws in what they are considering and what is in the photo. How are riders supposed to reach over seated passengers to get to those poles? Why are the poles in the middle of the two rows of seats still over by the doors when they want people moving inside? Where is the old top railing over the seats? Are they expecting only tall passengers to ride?

    • Chemster says:

      Yeah — also, as a 6 foot tall person, I personally find those curvy poles very uncomfortable to hold onto. So nobody’s happy, yay!

      • Andrew says:

        I’m not particularly tall, and I have trouble with the curves on the poles on the other trains – they force my wrist into an unnatural position. These poles, as awkward as they may be to reach (when the seats are open), are curved in a more wrist-friendly direction, I think. Obviously, the poles are positioned to be more useful when the seats are folded up.

        The top railing is still there – the straps are attached to it.

        The benches look much wider than on other cars – it looks like they’ve been widened to fill the little notch for standees by the door.

    • kvnbklyn says:

      Yeah, the layout of the poles seems to be a huge step in the wrong direction. The nice thing about the current R-142 and R-160 layout is that the poles bend OUT into the space making it easier for people, especially short people, to reach them over the seated people. And they do not block anyone’s way. Bad move, MTA.

    • Kris Datta says:

      The poles look like they will be much easier to grab onto when the seats are in the locked position. I think the assumption being made here is that the poles in the middle of the car will not be necessary during off-peak hours when the train is not as crowded and more seats are available. The top railing seems to be replaced by the old straps seen in the redbirds, but they favor tall people.

    • herenthere says:

      Better handhold configuration? Maybe on the top, but like some have said, those vertical bars look way too far for an average person to grab a hold of when the seats are down.

  4. Aaron says:

    Can passengers flip up these seats? Would be great to be able to flip one up for the wheelchair during less-crowded hours.

  5. Kid Twist says:

    The return of straps.

  6. Joe says:

    Would MTA run train sets that had all seatless cars, or would they run some combination where some cars in a train had seats and others didn’t? Would all trains at a specific time be seatless? I feel like if this wasn’t all or nothing, we might see the vacant cars or vacant trains be emptier than trains with seats. Considering what some New Yorkers are willing to do for seats, sitting in cars with no AC on hot summer days, or stay in cars that have been vandalized or smell foul, the seatless cars may become underutilized. While its interesting in concept, I can see this very easily ending miserably.

    • Disagree.

      First, there’s no indication that Transit is going to run this pilot any time soon. Here, they’ve simply installed the seats and have repeatedly stressed that they’re not flipping it up.

      Anyway, as to the rest of your point, I never expect to get a seat when I ride at rush hour depending upon where I board train. I’d have no problem getting onto a seatless car if it meant a little more room for me because people aren’t wasting space on the seats. Most people aren’t willing to stay in un-AC’d or stinky cars, and I doubt what you’re alleging will be a problem if and when Transit flips the seats up.

      • JP says:

        Ben you may not get a seat, but what are you going to hold onto?

        • Alon Levy says:

          Presumably, he could hold onto a pole, or the car wall, or even another person. All of this is common in cities where people actually ride trains, where trains routinely have twice as many people as there are seats and straps.

          • And people have different cultural concepts of space in public places. Just because in Asian, they can cram more people into a subway car doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be. I know you bring this up a bit, and I’m certainly sympathetic to the argument. I don’t buy it though.

            • Alon Levy says:

              I don’t think it’s a cultural issue. The stereotype is that Japanese people like to keep a distance. It’s people from Mediterranean cultures (including Hispanics) who are stereotypically warm and willing to stand very close to strangers.

              Obviously, having trains run at twice their capacity is not a desirable situation. But people do it all the time, safely.

          • JP says:

            The handholds aren’t to address when there’s no breathing space and cars are over capacity- they’re for the rest of the time, when it’s not rush hour and there are no seats (which is often enough!) Good luck leaning over someone who’s sitting down to “hold a wall”. And with all the recent campaigning against sexual misconduct, you’re not honestly encouraging people to grab onto each other?

            At least the L has rails running down the middle of the cars. Sure, Ben could hold onto a pole; but a whole lot of people can’t reach those, and huddle around the ones they can: the vertical poles, which this design lacks except for… oh look, there are two at every door again, and a floor-to-ceiling right between each set of doors. There may be more standing room but we’ll still be crowding the doors with this design.

  7. petey says:

    “if and when Transit flips the seats up.”
    right, so the decision would be taken in the yard before the run? would have to be, i’d think.

  8. CenSin says:

    * Kawasaki (??)

  9. Alon Levy says:

    This might be useful for dwells, not just train capacity. Flipping up seats would create more space right next to the doors, increasing the space available for loading trains quickly. The bottleneck to loading trains in New York is not the doors, but the sections of the trains right next to the doors – people don’t move into the interior of the cars quickly enough.

    • Andrew says:

      You may be right, but on the flip side, the presence of seats is one incentive to move into the middle of the car (even if they’re all occupied, you may be the lucky guy standing next to the seat that’s vacated at the next stop). Without that incentive, some people might not bother to move in.

      We’ll see (when the seats are folded up).

  10. John says:

    Aside from the flip-ups, my big concern is the hand-holds — they look like the ones the Board of Transportation put in 60 years ago on the R-10 through R-15 trains. They got rid of them and made the hand-holds more rounded in the mid-1950s through the end of the 60s because those rectangular grips were painful to hold onto while standing for long periods, since the corner angles don’t conform to a person’s hand.

    On a train where using the hand-holds will not be an option if the seats are in the ‘up’ position and there’s no place to sit down, going back to a grip design that failed in the late 1940s is not a smart move on the MTA’s part.

    • Andrew says:

      The hand-holds do look a bit odd. I wonder why they went with small rectangles.

      But if this is really a pilot, hopefully they’ll be looking for feedback on stuff like this.

      I had no problem with the rounded ones on the redbirds. They were also much larger, so if the train was really crowded, several people could share a single hand-hold – not ideal, but at least it gave them something to hold onto.

  11. Hello,

    So, are the decals warning of possible video surveillance posted in every car of the train set? The threat of possible video surveillance seemed to effectively end the window scratching on Chicago’s buses in the 1990s. The threat that you might be under surveillance seems like the greater crime deterrent than the actual law enforcement value of surveillance footage.

    I think the threat of video surveillance is an excellent move to deter crime.

  12. Sharon Yetman says:

    Why is MTA not now have the seats flipped up? Do your seats flip up and are locked in the up position? and does the drived or someone unlock them after rush hour?

  13. Someone says:

    Not anymore.

  14. Eithan says:

    As someone who lived in Japan for about 4 years, on the surface, you would never imagine the culture could permit such crimes.


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