As the MTA’s operations budget sloughs through one of its worst crisis of in New York history, the capital budget is, if not alive and well, still ticking. With a large federal contribution behind it, the Second Ave. Subway work is chugging along, and despite a drill mishap last week that I’ll cover later today, work will be completed by some time in the future.
Even if Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway isn’t ready for revenue service until 2018, as the Feds fear, it’s never too early to pimp the features that will be found on the new line’s three new stations. In a piece last week that got buried during the July 4th weekend, that’s exactly what the New York Post did. Reporter Joseph Goldstein spoke with the MTA about the myriad upgrades to the riding experience the Second Ave. Subway will provide, and it sounds as though the MTA is trying to show off what they could do to the city’s 106-year-old transit system with the right amount of money.
Some of the features discussed in the article have been a long time coming. For instance, the MTA unveiled plans to enclose the stations in plexiglass back in 2007. This innovation — found in modern systems and airport tram systems throughout the globe — allows for better temperature control of the stations, prevents people from falling into the tracks and ensures that track-fire-causing garbage stays out of where it isn’t supposed to be.
Some of the other innovations aren’t really innovations at all. Goldstein tells us that a sound engineering company is working to build a better public address system, and train arrival boards will be de rigueur at all of the new stations. It’s hard to get that excited about something New York should have had 15 years ago. The authority will also turn away from its sometimes drab tiling scheme to duplicate South Ferry’s bright whiteness. The walls, says The Post, will be “draped with large, white tiles that can be unhooked for cleaning and replacement.” The MTA will also be installing the wiring need for underground cell and Internet service.
The most interesting parts of Goldstein’s article concern the MTA’s sound efforts. In addition to the new PA system, “sound-absorbing fiberglass along the ceiling will reduce reverberations” while “rubber blocks wedged under train tracks will dampen the rumbling.” With the threat of music being piped in, commutes could become downright melodious.
Of course, the most cynical of New Yorkers will just imagine that these things will break and grow grimy. Plexiglass walls will be stained with fingerprints, soda, coffee and who knows what else before the first week of operations is up. The white tiling, while easy to clean, will turn grey with New York City dirt. The PA system will break just as those on the R160s have. Such are the way of things underground. We can’t expect the subway of tomorrow as we still wait for the subway of yesterday throughout the system.
Still, the MTA plows ahead. They haven’t yet, though, found a flooring that repels blacked gum, but that too might come at Second Ave. “We’re looking at surfaces that will be easier to clean the gum off of,” MTA Capital Construction head Michael Horodniceanu said. “They haven’t invented a surface yet that it won’t stick to.”