Home Asides Coming Soon: Cleanliness, passenger flow upgrades on tap

Coming Soon: Cleanliness, passenger flow upgrades on tap

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA is set to invest in a few minor initiatives that could improve the subway experience for its customers, according to a short report in today’s Daily News. Pete Donohue and Matthew J. Perlman say that Transit is set to attack rodents, cleanliness and passenger flow at some of its dirtier and more trafficked stations, and the effort, if successful, could lead to some improvements in the quality of life underground.

The Daily News report was light on specifics, but the broad contours are there. Transit will be hiring more cleaners to sweep up dirty stations and track beds while also aggressively targeting rodent extermination efforts. “This is no small-time effort,” an anonymous source told Donohue and Perlman.

The more intriguing aspect of this plan, though, concerns passenger flow. According to the story, Transit plans to “reconfigure the placement of MetroCard vending machines in hubs where long lines slow down riders heading to and from trains.” This could be a real game-changer at stations such as Herald Square or Times Square where Metrocard Vending Machine lines snake their ways in front of access points and turnstile queues, and it shows some forward thinking for an agency that often has to be prodded in that direction. I’m reaching out to the MTA for more information on this effort, but keep an eye out for some movement at the more crowded stations around.

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30 comments

Nets Cowbell Guy July 18, 2013 - 3:45 pm

How about vending machines INSIDE fare control? Let’s say you are transferring at Times Sq, see the shuttle isn’t coming for 10mins, so kill the time by refilling

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Straphanger July 18, 2013 - 4:03 pm

Great idea. +1.

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Bolwerk July 18, 2013 - 4:31 pm

The vending machines should serve beer too.

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Alon Levy July 19, 2013 - 1:33 pm

Ooh. 🙂

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JJJJ July 18, 2013 - 3:51 pm

Instead of moving them, why not add more? If theres along line, the problem isn’t location, its lack of machines.

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pete July 19, 2013 - 1:17 pm

Union work rules limit the amount of MVMs.

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Alex July 19, 2013 - 2:01 pm

Every time I hear the phrase “union work rules” as the answer to why something at the MTA is screwed up, I become just a little more angry at the world.

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Phantom July 19, 2013 - 9:27 pm

Another reason why govt employees should not be in unions

None of their business

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Nathanael July 22, 2013 - 3:52 pm

That’s the sort of work rule we call “featherbedding” and it should not be tolerated. Work rules are supposed to be about safety.

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Straphanger July 18, 2013 - 4:05 pm

Great to hear about incremental improvements. How about some heat exhaust from stations in the summer? Realize that AC is out of the question, but is there *something* that could be done with fans?

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Serge July 18, 2013 - 4:41 pm

One solution would be not run the air conditioners to such extremely cold temperatures. It’s the air conditioning of the trains which makes the stations so hot, much hotter than the outside air.

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Tower18 July 19, 2013 - 1:16 pm

I can’t say I often find the trains to be too cold. Maybe in April. In this past stretch of weather, the AC on the trains is struggling to keep up. And the stations are definitely cooler than the outside, although I know this weather is unusual.

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Alex July 19, 2013 - 2:06 pm

In the same vein of incremental improvements, I noted on Twitter yesterday that there are station layouts that could use some reorganization as well. The 7th Ave F stop in Park Slope has exits at either end of the platform, but the main fare control area (with the booth and regular turnstiles) is inexplicably in the middle of the mezzanine. So the vast majority of people using the station have to go through HEETs (high entry/exit turnstiles) to get in and out. It’s a mess in the morning sometimes with long lines of people waiting to go to battle with the iron maiden of fare control. And I’m sure there are other stations set up the same strange way.

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stan July 18, 2013 - 4:13 pm

as a software guy and a UI guy, i think that the transaction flow for reloading or buying metrocards is too long and has too many steps (also, it fails too many times 🙂 ). someone needs to think about a software investment to make the lines flow a bit quicker.

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Benjamin Kabak July 18, 2013 - 4:15 pm

Here’s something to ponder though: If the MTA is serious about phasing out Metrocards over the next 4-5 years, does it make sense to invest heavily in a software upgrade for very old tech infrastructure?

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Bolwerk July 18, 2013 - 4:33 pm

Some of the infrastructure might remain. Just because the medium changes doesn’t mean the TVMs need to be entirely thrown out.

I think stan is right. How about a “repeat last transaction” feature?

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Roxie July 18, 2013 - 5:23 pm

Fun fact: the TVMs, as well as the SBS ticket machines, all run Windows NT 4. I’ve seen some of them going in endless reboot loops after a crash due to the heat. Pretty funny, but then it’s not as though one would expect a vending machine to be running Windows 7 or something.

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Bolwerk July 18, 2013 - 6:56 pm

Not that surprising. Even DOS is still pretty common in POS and industrial applications. Old stuff works, and is proven. It’s new software that has surprises.

I remember reading a speech or pitch an M$ engineer gave a bunch of SCO programmers in the late 1990s. What stood out was something like this:

M$ Engineer: Windows NT [4.x] is so stable that it only needs to be rebooted about once a month.

[laughter from room]

Though, in all fairness, it’s probably not so bad at doing one mission-critical job well. Likewise, OS/2 is or at least was until recently pretty common in ATM machines.

Nathanael July 22, 2013 - 3:53 pm

Bleah. Use Linux, guys. It’s become standard for embedded systems. If you need something smaller, there’s stuff like VxWorks.

Scott E July 19, 2013 - 8:43 am

This is very true. To add trips to a PATH SmartCard, you still use the same MetroCard TVM, only they’ve added a sensor to hold the card up against, and there are a few additional menu options. It handles both SmartCard and MetroCard.

Now, getting a new SmartCard would’ve required more dramatic changes to the mechanics inside of the machine, which is why you need to approach a separate (cash-only!) dispenser to get one of them.

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Phillip Roncoroni July 18, 2013 - 5:13 pm

The biggest failure point of the TVMs is the credit card reader slot. They need to reconfigure them to read cards like a Redbox, which has never, ever given me a card read error.

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SEAN July 18, 2013 - 6:44 pm

Yeah but you cant rent a movie with a Metrocard! LOL

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Duke July 18, 2013 - 8:32 pm

Or people need to learn to buy in bulk. I buy an unlimited card once a month, but whenever I have to wait in line to do so it always seems like everyone in front of me is putting $5 cash on a card. There is no way they all intend to make one round trip and then not touch public transit again for year. They are wasting everyone’s time by making more transactions than necessary.

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Alon Levy July 19, 2013 - 1:35 pm

It’s hard to buy in bulk when the MTA reduces the financial incentive to do so with every fare hike.

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D in Bushwick July 18, 2013 - 7:46 pm

Everyday on the L Train, the recorded PA announcement is hopelessly wrong, early, late or incorrect.
“La-ladies and gentlemen…”
Just today the train “will arrive in 6 minutes” but then came in less than 2 minutes. I could see it down the line at the next station and of course, the announcement said it was “now arriving on the Brooklyn-bound ta-raaack.” Then we got to hear it a second time when it truly was arriving.
This happens all the time. What’s going on?

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Kai B July 18, 2013 - 8:01 pm

Yes, at some stations, it will, at least in one direction, announce each train arriving twice, with the first announcement being approximately two minutes early.

Also, for L-Trains that are not running to their terminus (usually in the Rockaway Parkway direction) the announcement of the terminal will occur so late that the noise from the train arriving will make it practically inaudible.

And then there’s the infamous announcement for bypassing trains: “The next L-Train arriving on the [direction]-bound train [sic], will not stop.”

At the end of the day they’re really minor annoyances I suppose. But I think a small software update would be in order!

Also, the monitors at Myrtle-Wyckoff and Bedford that showed a full map of the current location of all trains were pretty cool. The one at Bedford only lasted a few months. Not sure if the Myrtle-Wyckoff one still exists.

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Nick Ober July 18, 2013 - 10:57 pm

I’ve never understood why the announcements on the L are so different — and so much more complicated — than the ones on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Yes, the L is using different technology to procure the announcements, but I don’t see why it needs to present them differently than the IRT. The IRT announcements are much more to the point.

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BoerumBum July 19, 2013 - 8:55 am

I think the technology for the B Division train announcements was designed to not know what specific train is arriving. I’m used to hearing the format on other B Division lines of “A Brooklyn bound train is now arriving on the local track.” I think with L trains, they just pop the letter L in front of the word train, and take out the mention of local vs. express.

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pete July 19, 2013 - 1:22 pm

The B Division announcements are done by hooking into the 80 year old signal system. Basically the signal block 2-4 blocks behind. Until a line is fully digitalized, start to finish, it can’t track the trains from start to finish.

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llqbtt July 19, 2013 - 1:07 pm

The L was the first line to be rolled out with these. I would imagine that when they implemented the IRT, they had the time to improve upon the announcements and make them more concise/accurate.

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