Jul
19

Open gangways, redesigned subway cars headline Cuomo’s announcement of work in progress

By
Open gangways and wider doors are part of the new design plan for the R-211s.

Open gangways and wider doors are part of the new design plan for the R-211s.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a funny relationship with the MTA. When the agency has good news that’s bound to grab headlines — such as fancy renderings of the next generation of rolling stock — he’s front and center with a press conference at the Transit Museum, his new favorite spot. When the news is bad, it’s everyone else’s responsibility to get the word out. That is, of course, his prerogative as the state’s chief executive, but that dynamic was on display again on Monday during Cuomo’s unveiling of the new designs.

The event was a sudden one, announced early on Monday morning during a period of the summer usually devoid of transit news. And once we drill down on the news, the developments came via the renderings rather than the initiatives. The announcement, a welcome one to be sure, served as a follow-up to both previous Cuomo news and long-standing MTA initiatives. Yet, for all of my skepticism, Cuomo deserves some credit as he’s pushing the MTA to move faster than the agency is used to moving, and riders should benefit.

Monday’s press conference focused around Cuomo’s plan to close 31 stations for speedier renovation work and the MTA’s plan to bring open gangway rolling stock to the New York City subway. The news isn’t new, but the renderings are. And they admittedly look good.

A new color scheme, brighter LED lights and a return of the properly-hued route designation bullets are a part of Antenna's design for the new subway cars.

A new color scheme, brighter LED lights and a return of the properly-hued route designation bullets are a part of Antenna’s design for the new subway cars.

These projects are part of the $27 billion five-year capital plan on which Cuomo finally focused earlier this year, and he’s taking his valedictory lap while the going is good. “New York deserves a world-class transportation network, worthy of its role as the heartbeat of the 21st century economy,” he said. “The MTA design team developed a bold and visionary reimagining of the quintessential commuter experience, incorporating best practices from global transit systems, and focusing on our core mission to renew, enhance and expand. We are going to do more than renovate; we are bringing subway stations to a higher standard than ever before, and the new vision for subway cars will increase capacity and reduce overcrowding and delays.”

That last element is key. At a time when upgrading the signal system to accommodate more trains will take years or decades, changing the design of the New York City subway cars to bring it in line with international standards can improve capacity by around 8-10 percent without much additional expense. After all, rolling stock replacement is part of the MTA’s regular investment cycle, and adding open gangways represents a negligible cost in excess of the money spent on a new cars.

Monday’s announcement came couched in some interesting language. The MTA has the option to add “up to 750” cars with open gangways, but the plans are still as they were a few months ago. As part of the upcoming R-211 contract, the agency is going to order a 10-car pilot to test open gangways. If this test is successful, the agency can order an additional 740 cars with open gangways. This was the plan in January, and it remains the plan now. But the bidding will start soon as Cuomo puts pressure on the agency to speed up the procurement process. Still, it’s my understanding the first open gangways won’t arrive for 40 months or so, and if the contract is awarded before the end of the year, it’ll still be 2020 before the prototypes arrive.

Cuomo deserves praise for moving this process along, but the MTA has been working on this for years. It’s an important distinction to make. Meanwhile, in addition to open gangways, the cars will come with improved grab bars and doorways that are 58 inches wide instead of 50 inches. The colors incorporate the state’s blue and gold motif and align with the buses Cuomo has been pushing. Flip seats (that likely will always remain down), dynamic video screens and USB charging ports (always) are features of the new cars as well. The properly-hued subway bullets are making their triumphant return as well, a welcome part of the new design. If anything, now, the New York City subways will be aligned with international design standards, and the renderings produced by Antenna, the company behind the WMATA’ss 7000 series rolling stock and the LinkNYC kiosks, did a great job.

The design-build subway stations will include numerous upgrades to enhance the passenger experience.

The design-build subway stations will include numerous upgrades to enhance the passenger experience.

Meanwhile, we have a better idea of the new station design as well. As part of the MTA’s effort to speed up work, the agency is implementing a design-build process at 31 stations that were, not coincidentally, up for renovation. The new look includes better lighting and wayfinding, countdown clocks (somehow on the B division), new floor materials and, of course, USB charging ports. Everything in 2016 must have USB charging ports. The first three stations to get this treatment are Prospect Ave., Bay Ridge Ave. and 53rd St. along the BMT’s 4th Ave. line and work should begin either by the end of the year or early in 2017. As the renderings show, it’s a modern look for the MTA’s subway stations which are brighter and seemingly friendlier.

Redesigned station entrances will feature dynamic screens that provide updated subway service status messages.

Redesigned station entrances will feature dynamic screens that provide updated subway service status messages.

This is all good news and should be accepted as good news. It’s easy to focus on the MTA’s big picture problems, but at the same time, constant investment in the state of good repair of the infrastructure involves well designed rolling stock and technologically advanced stations. The open gangways help with capacity and delays caused by crowded trains; the stations create a more welcoming environment. The MTA needs to continue to grow and invest in the long-term less sexy projects that will truly expand transit, but if Cuomo wants to focus on the MTA, let’s let him.

As a closing note, it was interesting to hear the Governor speak about his renewed emphasis on transit. He told one story about his family. ““My daughters were home for the weekend,” he said. “They came up to Westchester, and I got the lecture about the MTA.” Trains were too crowded, and they wanted dad, who’s in charge of the MTA, to do something about it. But there’s another side to this as well, as Dana Rubinstein related. When pressed on the renewed focus on transit investment, he responded with a tautology. There is a new emphasis on the MTA “because there is a new emphasis on the MTA.” And that’s where we are right now.



77 Responses to “Open gangways, redesigned subway cars headline Cuomo’s announcement of work in progress”

  1. Streater says:

    It’s about time… finally the MTA is going to spend money on upgrades instead of wasteful expansion. The system is falling apart.

    Hopefully they will start spending money on regular maintenance too so the station upgrades aren’t all for nothing.

    • 22r says:

      Expansion is not “wasteful”. We need both expansion AND upgrades. Other world-class cities can do it just fine — let’s not hold ourselves to a lower standard.

      • Keon Morris says:

        At first I thought he was being sarcastic but now I feel he’s just one of these puppies living in lower Manhattan with ample train access and doesn’t care for the commoners in transit starved areas. Hate people like that.

    • R'Shields says:

      Frequency matters more than coverage. The priorities are in order frequency coverage cost astetics Read Jarrett Walker for more info.

      • Tower18 says:

        Sure, up to a point. You don’t need to cover every square mile.

        But a super frequent subway or bus line running 40 tph doesn’t mean anything if it’s 5 miles from your home.

  2. Peter says:

    The blue trim for the trains is a mistake. It looks fine on an A train, but when the cab sports a yellow R bullet (as you can see in the station rendering), the effect is more like an identity crisis. Stick to the neutral black trim.

    The new station entrances are also chunky and inelegant. A design that nods to the classic green iron railings would be more appropriate. But thumbs up to the canopy and information display — and please for the love of god include a countdown clock here.

    • ONIX NAVARRO says:

      I’m with you on the station entrances, but overall I’m liking the new designs. I’m wondering about the time frame for all this though.

    • AMH says:

      Absolutely agree on the entrances–the traditional design is iconic. We should actually restore a few more kiosks like at Astor Place.

      I’m in favor of getting some color back on the trains, and I think the blue looks nice and complements every route color in the system.

    • Mike from Whitestone says:

      It’s no different than when the R42, 44 and 46 cars had blue striping and operated on the “non-blue” lines. Or the Redbirds when they operated on the green 4, 5 and 6 lines or the purple 7 line. Why would it be any different now?

    • Mike from Whitestone says:

      No it’s not. It’s no different than when the R42, 44 and 46 cars had blue striping and operated on the “non-blue” lines. Or the Redbirds when they operated on the green 4, 5 and 6 lines or the purple 7 line. There was no “identity crisis” then. Why would there be one now?

      • Mike from Whitestone says:

        Plus there’s yellow trim on the sides, so that would match up with the N, Q, R and W lines.

    • David says:

      True they should keep the black trim as it would look better on all the trains.

  3. hU0N says:

    Why are there no USB chargers on the station entrances??

  4. John-2 says:

    The rendering of the station design itself — large cinder block-sized white tile wall, broken up by a section of yellow tile — merely looks like the MTA’s original late 1960s/early 70s wall tile the BMT Fourth Avenue and Broadway stations got, tweaked to add some modern amenities, new signage and improved lighting.

    In terms of the overall ‘look’ of the station it’s actually more of a done-on-the-cheap maintenance of the status quo at Prospect Ave., Bay Ridge Ave. and 53rd St. than the changes to the interior and exterior of the new rolling stock will be, in terms of how the riders will perceive how things look now versus how they’ll look in the future.

    • Tower18 says:

      Yeah I was gonna say this looks like a polished, glossy version of exactly how the Fourth Avenue local stations already look.

      • AMH says:

        Right, I don’t think the station needs to be entirely rebuilt or the look changed substatially, but better flooring (and cleaning it) would go a long way toward improving the experience.

    • I think this is a rendering for the 53rd St stop on the 4th Ave BMT, which has said large rectangle bricks.

  5. mister says:

    The MTA has the option to add “up to 750” cars with open gangways, but the plans are still as they were a few months ago. As part of the upcoming R-211 contract, the agency is going to order a 10-car pilot to test open gangways. If this test is successful, the agency can order an additional 740 cars with open gangways. This was the plan in January, and it remains the plan now.

    Not quite true Ben. The original plan did call for 10 open gangway cars, but the idea was only those 10; the rest of the R211 fleet was to be standard cars. You even wrote as much in the last paragaph of this post. The announcement that 750 of these cars could feature open gangways is a nice shift in attitude towards open gangways.

    • AG says:

      That’s how I remember it as well.

      • SEAN says:

        I do as well.

        A note on the USB ports – it’s the common connector today, but who knows a decade from now if that will remain true.

        • Chet says:

          If it does change- let’s say to USB-C, that would be a pretty easy change to make. Like changing a wall socket.

    • AMH says:

      Yes, at least the chances are better that we’ll get a full fleet of articulated trains instead of only one, especially as public support builds. It’s not as definite as WNYC (where I first heard the news) portrayed it, but it’s a huge step forward that really has me excited.

      • AMH says:

        This article says that there will be over 250 non-articulated cars, some of which will go to the SIR (not sure why that wouldn’t use articulated trains as well). Why not make them all bendy, or at least keep that option?

        • Matthew says:

          It probably has to do with the physical limitations of the maintenance shops and yards in SI. Whenever they have to do major overhauls to any of the SI railcars they have to ship the cars to brooklyn on a barge.

          • Tower18 says:

            SIR has effectively zero passengers, when compared to the rest of the subway (the entirety of SIR has approximately the ridership of a single 6 train station in the Bronx). No sense wasting open gangway cars there.

            • mister says:

              SIR also only needs roughly 80 cars, so it’s not entirely clear what will happen to the rest of those non-gangway cars.

          • Alon Levy says:

            That’s a bad reason. The MTA should only buy cars with open gangways, and send older cars like the R68s to the Staten Island Railway, doing the necessary modifications required by the FRA like compliant grab holds. While the SIR has no reason to run open gangways now – its ridership is as Tower18 notes a rounding error – it can use closed-gangway cars displaced from other lines for the next few decades.

            • Michael549 says:

              I am agreeing with Keon Morris:

              “At first I thought he was being sarcastic but now I feel he’s just one of these puppies living in lower Manhattan with ample train access and doesn’t care for the commoners in transit starved areas. Hate people like that.”

              Recently an article on this forum concerning transit deserts showed the entire borough of Staten Island as completely devoid of being with a 10-minute walk of a subway station. While in one sense true, the analysis failed to look at public bus service in any of the boroughs, or the existence of the SIR.

              Staten Island is an urban borough, just like many other urban places. Manhattan is SUPER-URBAN which leads many to think that anyplace that is not like Manhattan is “effectively zero!”

              I will politely dis-agree.

              If political and other support is wanted and needed for transit projects in other areas – then political and other support is DEFINITELY NEEDED in places currently less well served. Yes, it is that back scratching thing, again.

              Long periods of poor service and dismissive attitudes by the influential do not make plain every day folks supportive of other people’s transit.

              “Yeah, we’ve used those R68 trains for 30+ years. We’ve beaten the crap out of them. The wheels are falling off, the seats are torn up, and the brakes don’t work. Sure, let’s now give them to Staten Island, they don’t count anyway & they’ll just love it …”

              Again, I will politely dis-agree.

              Mike

              • mister says:

                Yeah, we’ve used those R68 trains for 30+ years. We’ve beaten the crap out of them. The wheels are falling off, the seats are torn up, and the brakes don’t work. Sure, let’s now give them to Staten Island, they don’t count anyway & they’ll just love it …

                This seems to be a frequent attitude: “we deserve the newest stuff, and if we don’t get it, it’s because we aren’t being treated fairly!” R68 cars can hardly be described as “having the crap beat out of them”. They missed the bad ol’ 70s and 80s, and the time period of deferred maintenance. They have been in the SMS program their whole lives, and generally have some of the highest Mean Distance Between Failure rates in the fleet; for a long time the R68As were outpacing the New Technology Trains, and they may still be doing so today. R68s also have more seats per train, which I’m sure would be welcomed by Staten Islanders, especially when you consider that the R211s will have even less seating than the current generation of New Techs.

                On the other hand, spending money to modify existing cars that will need to be replaced in 10-15 years may not be the best use of resources either.

  6. webster says:

    There was a lot of talk about the “flip seats.” Did they explicitly say it was for crush loads, because it seems to me it’s more of an ADA, issue.

  7. BK Bed-Stuy says:

    All of this looks fantastic…except the “improved” wayfinding. Seriously, there is little to praise on that count. How do the designers at MTA (and associated consultants) not understand hierarchy of information? If the platform signage is not *instantly* understandable, you’ve failed. In other words, there should be no paragraphs about service on the same sign that identifies the line and direction. Or, the station entrance gives equal or larger visual weight to the name of the station (usually named for where the person is currently standing) rather than the line and whether the entrance is a direction one, and whether there is good service/countdown clock. This really baffles me that MTA can’t get its arms around this.

  8. rewenzo says:

    I am very curious as to how they’re getting countdown clocks on the B line train stations they’re renovating. I’ve long suspected that you don’t need CBTC (or even ATS) for this but I wonder how they’re doing it. And if they’re doing it for these stations, are they rolling them out more aggressively in the other stations, i.e. those not on slate for renovation? You shouldn’t need to renovate a station to install a countdown clock and these would really help in the crowded midtown and downtown cores where full shut down renovations of the stations are impossible.

    Second, if they’re indeed able to give us real time countdown clocks on the B lines, they absolutely have to put this online and in app form as soon as possible.

    Third, yes, they must absolutely place countdown clocks at the entrance to the station for them to be most useful.

    • Keon Morris says:

      Agreed. Countdown clocks is really the only amenity I care for in all of this. I’ll take the wifi too but there ability to know exactly when my train is coming from my living room on my phone app would be nice instead of getting there and realizing you were 20 seconds late and there goes the train you would have made if you jogged a little. Especially important during late nights. I’d the train coming in 3 minutes or 19? Should I grab the bus instead?

      Ughh I want them now.

      • mister says:

        That’s not so much clocks, because that’s something you can see only once you’re at the station, but really, if real-time info was provided for the SubwayTime app lines, that would be extremely useful for knowing when to leave to catch a train with minimal waiting.

  9. Larry Littlefield says:

    I don’t know. Somehow I get the feeling this is like the Lindsay Administration pushing for air conditioned subway cars in the late 1960s.

    That was a real amenity too. But you remember what happened next.

  10. Sayyadina says:

    Why did they choose a puke-green color for the floor? It looks gross.

  11. Mike M. says:

    These will change by the time the real cars arrive anyway. I mean, according to these renderings, the Vignelli map is making a comeback.

    • Peter Bee says:

      According to the MTA Press release, the cars will have “full color digital customer information displays” which I guess might be based on the current platform “On the Go” kiosks. They could be programmed to include the Weekender display, which uses the Vignelli Associates’ diagram; or they might even be user-switchable between a Vignelli-style diagram and the geographic map based (originally introduced by John Tauranac’s Subway Map Committee in 1979).

    • Peter Bee says:

      If you look at the high-res rendering you can see that the B and M are showing weekend services, and the map is zoomed-in, so this is definitely The Weekender but a different scale from the ones available on the current web site.

  12. AG says:

    I like this… But there has to be a way to implement CBTC faster as well…

    • Chet says:

      There is… find a lot of money, and shut down large portions of a line for several weeks.

      This video explains it… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mjx3S3UjmnA

      It would be great if we could just blink our eyes and have CBTC on all the lines- we’d have much shorter headways systemwide.

      • AG says:

        To me it is important enough… In the same way tunnels will be shut down for Sandy repairs – I would love if they could do that for signal upgrades.

  13. Hank says:

    Wonder how the new car will affect the showtime kids

  14. paulb says:

    I know other cities’ lines require a variety of rolling stock but I like the giant windows on some of the Parisian metro cars. And the gangways in the renderings do look narrower than some other cities manage. But, what an excellent change for the R211 order.

    • al says:

      They need to keep a set of car end doors (per car), to prevent fires from spreading from one car to the next, and to keep smoke and fumes from doing the same.

      Considering their financial state and booming ridership, the MTA also needs to rebuild the R62/62A: removing most of the cabs, installing enclosed car end vestubules, differentials on axles, regen braking, and CBTC capability. They are ~30 years old and may have another 30 years of life left in their carbodies.

      • Eric says:

        Other cities don’t have fire safety requirements?

        • al says:

          Other cities do have fire safety requirements. However, in light of past fire damage to NYCTA equipment, it would be wise to have fire resistant doors in place. That would prevent fires, accidental, negligent, or malicious, from gutting entire 4 or 5 car sets. A doorset is trivial compared to $8-$10 million dollars of damage, not to mention the lives saved and casualties prevented.

          Finally, fire resistant would prevent smoke, fumes and odors from rapidly spreading throughout a enclosed vestibule carset. That would allow for people to escape toxic smoke (often the killer in fires), and buy time to respond.

          • pete says:

            Your fire safety requirements are fictional. The R44, R46 and R68 have no emergency exit of any kind and have been rolling around for decades. If a fire starts in a R44/R46/R68, everyone is dead. Can’t open the end doors, cant open the side doors, can’t open the opens. You will fry my friend.

            • pete says:

              *cant open the windows

            • al says:

              I was responding to the question “Other cities don’t have fire safety requirements?”.

              It is a proposal, not a requirement, as those are set by regulators and courts.

              Secondly, in light of fatal fires in multiple systems around the world over the past decades, it would be wise to learn from these disasters.

              The car end doors I’m proposing are not emergency exits that exit to the exterior of the car. They’re simply fire rated versions of what already exist at the ends of 60′ cars that allow passengers to walk from on car to the next. The point is to retain the ability of 60′ SMEE or NTT carsets, to resist fire and smoke from spreading down the train, on the new orders. All the moreso considering that the new orders will in part replace vehicles on the routes that the R32 and R42 fleets run over.

              “If a fire starts in a R44/R46/R68, everyone is dead. Can’t open the end doors, cant open the side doors, can’t open the opens. You will fry my friend.”

              You just made the point for me. Considering the MTA is ordering cars that may run for 50 years, this would be a good feature to have.

              Adding more passenger capacity, while improving (or retaining in the case of 60′ R32 & R42) fire safety, and speed up passenger boarding/egress (thus cut dwell time) would be great improvements.

              • Adirondacker12800 says:

                .. If people are busy escaping from the burning car the door isn’t going to be closed.

                When they decided to lock the doors between cars for “safety” reasons more than a few people brought up that being able to pass from car to car was a good thing.

  15. I think its nice and the pictures look cool (of the remodeled train cars) but we really need expansion. Most subway lines are crowded beyond belief especially during rush hour. I could care less about usb ports on the train or in the station if I can’t get to where I need to go on time. They really should put that money towards the second ave subway, expansion in queens and staten island, we shouldn’t have to take ferrys (as the only transit option) in the 21st century.

    • AG says:

      In reality – we can’t have it both ways. The existing system is till catching up for a lost 20 years. New cars are absolutely needed. Stations absolutely need to be modernized. As for the tech stuff… It is the 21st century… Citizens demand it. In the next 3 years – even the lowliest cars will be rolling wifi spots.
      So yes – expansion is necessary – as is a new signaling system – but we can’t say these things are a waste of time. In the 21st century all of these things are par for the course.

      • In a perfect world we would have both new trains and expansion but I guess for now we have to take what we can get. I really don’t like how Cuomo gallivants like he’s doing everyone a favor by putting amenities that we should have anyway (and other transit systems already have).

        • Nathanael says:

          What we actually need is a governor who understands that subways and trains need money.

          And who’s willing to have a Democratic State Senate. (Cuomo deliberately signed a Republican gerrymander of the State Senate in order to keep the Republicans in power because he prefers them to Democrats.)

    • Eric says:

      If all these new trains are being ordered, they can keep the old ones too, and increase frequency. That will reduce crowding.

      • al says:

        If the the MTA had decided to rebuild, and not reef, the R32 series late last decade, that fleet might had run until the late 2020’s. The R42 fleet is beat up. Retention now rests in a decision to rebuild the R46 or to retire it in early 2020’s.

        • mister says:

          More than a third of the R32 fleet is still around, and at least a portion of it will probably survive beyond the arrival of the R179s. They should really look at having a mothballed fleet stay on the property which can be recalled into service if needed.

    • Jeff says:

      In a time of limited budgets and expensive capital projects you want the best bang for the bucks… Generating capacity by improving subway car design or implementing technology is a lower cost and more timely solution (and less of a political hurdle) than building new subway lines, so that’s where their focus is right now.

  16. JJJJ says:

    I like the things the renders include but dont call out.

    -The signs on the floor showing where to stand to enter and exit
    -The lean bars on the train
    -The leaning bars on the platform
    -Colorful LED lighting on the stairwells

    Artistic liberty, or actual design?

  17. Roger says:

    The system map does not even show 7 extension..

  18. bigbellymon4 says:

    These cars are really nice looking. Time to add some color back to the trains besides the black and grey trim. Is it only me that thinks that they look like the new cars for the London Tube lines?

    Cuomo needs to stop touting USB ports. What they should do is install regular wall sockets. USB is changing to USB-C, and with regenerative braking, there should be enough power to install a 5-8 sockets on trains. Some people do use their laptop on the subway, especially since there is wifi…..

    Wifi on the trains? Nice. But how are they going to connect it to the Internet with trains flying at 30+ mph on the QB Exp tracks?

    CBTC. Everyone is complaining about how to install it faster. They could use fastrack to install it faster. Also, shut a section at 10pm Fri and work on it all weekend till 5am Mon. And then during a the summer, shut sections for a week or so at a time. People won’t like it, but dragging out the timeline, which then wastes money, doesn’t help either. Plus, since CBTC uses radios at intervals in the tunnels, they could place wifi access points to connect with the trains in the same areas in the tunnels.

  19. BruceNY says:

    Why doesn’t the MTA return the staggered door arrangement where they are not aligned with each other between the left and right sides? When they are lined up, everyone crowds into the door areas but refuse to move into the in-between areas where the seats are.

  20. AMH says:

    Yes, this makes all the difference. Hard to tell from the renderings if that’s the case.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>