Home MTA Absurdity Glass walls for Second Ave. subway could keep passengers, air, trash in

Glass walls for Second Ave. subway could keep passengers, air, trash in

by Benjamin Kabak

You can’t really make the train come faster by peering down the tracks if there’s a glass wall in the way, now, can you? (Courtesy of flickr user j&c)

The Peer is a time-honored New York City subway tradition. As the train never shows up, frustrated would-be straphangers peer into the darkness of the tunnel for a glimpse – any glimpse – of the tell-tale signs of headlights from an approaching train. According to legend, peering into the tunnel actually makes the trains come faster as well.

But the MTA wants to do away with the open tracks of the current subway system. Instead, they want the city subway’s to become AirTrain-like platforms encased in glass with sliding doors that will open when the trains arrive. William Neuman, The Times’ MTA reporter, has more:

The doors, set into a wall of glass or metal, would create a floor-to-ceiling barrier, sealing off the track and tunnel area from the platforms and altering forever the daily experience of waiting passengers. Gone would be the rush of air and thunder, gone the visceral thrill as many tons of steel hurtle by at high speed, just inches away, all replaced by the hygienic interface of technology…

The doors, he said, could allow substantial energy savings in the station cooling systems, which would use cold water to chill air blown into the stations and reduce temperatures by about 10 degrees. With open platforms, the hot air from the tunnels would mix with the cooled air in the stations. With doors on the platform edge, the heat from the tunnels would be at least partly blocked and the cooling system could operate more efficiently.

Ernest Tollerson, the MTA’s policy director, talks a lot about the environmental benefits of these doors. Additionally, as The Times’ Empire Blog notes, the doors would prevent riders from rat-observing, trash-tossing and wallet-retrieving as well. (Of course, you wouldn’t be able to drop your wallet with the doors closed, but that’s besides the point.)

On the surface, it seems like a good idea. Saving energy is a desirable goal and keeping the tracks clean is a benefit too. But all is not well.

First, how long would it take for scratchiti to overtake these doors? Second, from what I’ve read so far in the Second Ave. Subway environmental impact statement, the trains may not all be the same length. Will they have doors spaced appropriately to accommodate both the 60-foot- and 75-foot-long cars? That sounds like an engineering nightmare to me.

And how about that bugaboo of any MTA project, the cost? Mysore Nagaraja, the head of capital construction for the MTA, is tight-lipped about the dollars, saying the doors would just be added to the project’s total budget.

But former MTA head Lawrence Reuter shared his views on the doors, and it’s not a favorable one. “I definitely discouraged it because it’s a cost item and it’s a maintenance item,” Reuter said. “It’s only going to apply in a few stations. What good is it going to do if you can’t adapt it to the rest of the system? I didn’t see any benefit, plus it’s going to cost extra money to maintain them.”

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peter knox April 5, 2007 - 3:50 pm

Does anyone understand the MTA’s finances? They are altering the design of the Ground Zero station owing to a lack of funds. They don’t have the money to build the station at the new Yankee Stadium. They don’t have the money to handle cost overruns from the East Side Access project. They have put off installing necessary fans and lights in the subways until 2028 because they don’t have enough money. They don’t have the money to provide adequate security for the subways even though the NYPD terrorist expert says an attack on the subways is almost inevitable. Russianoff said that the MTA can’t build the Yankees a station because the MTA is broke. The MTA announced in January that it was running deficits of about 1B a year. The MTA is seriously considering a fare increase for 2008. And yet they are going ahead with the Second Ave. Subway, a project that the MTA said would cost 3.8B back in 2004. They have signed one contract, and that was for 337 M, 17M more than they had expected. They are in debt 5% and they haven’t done a thing yet. Where is the other 4B going to come from? Does any of this make sense? Does this organization have to ever explain its finances to the public?

SUBWAYblogger.com » Blog Archive » Glass platform doors? What next…silk covered seats? April 5, 2007 - 4:23 pm

[…] and walls would provide a barrier between the tracks and the passengers on the platform.  The idea actually sounds nice. They look kinda cool too.  But unless the glass door company starts handing out free doors, […]

Todd April 6, 2007 - 12:11 am

This looks pretty, but come on, what a waste…

Julia April 6, 2007 - 12:37 pm

If they’re planning to put AC in the stations, it seems like they’d have to do something like this as well. Otherwise, it will be a huge waste of money and fuel to keep the AC going full blast as the cool air is sucked down to the tracks and into the tunnels.

But yikes, that glass is going to get real gross real fast.

Julia April 6, 2007 - 12:41 pm

P.S. Likewise, if the platform is enclosed in glass and packed full of sweaty, stinky people in the summertime, there had BETTER be working AC, because … yuck.

Tuck April 6, 2007 - 8:05 pm

I’m gonna miss watching the little rats scurry when the train comes. Maybe the MTA can install tiny rat trampolines so they can jump up and down and peek their little noses at us through the panel doors.

Louis April 10, 2007 - 7:28 pm

The cars will all be of the 75 foot, lettered-line variety. It is impossible for lines to operate passenger service with 60 foot and 75 foot cars, because the 60 foot cars are narrower, and so would not reach the platforms.

For this reason, 60-foot cars can run on lettered lines for maintenance, i.e. to run to Coney Island Shops for servicing, but 75-foot cars cannot run on numbered lines because they cannot fit into the stations.

On another note, Paris uses this system on the 14-Meteor line with great success. Having two doors not only improves air in the station; it also greatly reduces loading times. Why? Nobody wants to be between 2 closing doors. Which is not to say they are unsafe, in fact, it has shown to be quite the contrary.

Bobo May 5, 2009 - 1:55 pm

You’ve gotten yourself good and confused. There are three sizes of cars on the subway. “A” division cars come in one size, 51′ long by 8’10” wide. “B” division cars come in two sizes. 60′ long by 10′ wide (what you refer to as “60 foot cars”) and 75′ by 10′ wide (what you refer to as “75 foot cars”). 60′ and 75′ cars CAN OPERATE TOGETHER ON A LINE. The 51′ foot cars can’t BECAUSE THEY’RE OF A DIFFERENT WIDTH.

Mike April 12, 2007 - 12:34 pm

Louis, I’m a fraid you have it wrong. The cars on the numbered (IRT) lines are 51 feet long and roughly a foot narrower than those on the letered (IND-BMT) lines. The lettered lines run both 60- and 75-foot cars. Both are the same width. If the put platform-edge doors on the Second Avenue line, they could solve the door problem easily enough by shifting around the fleet so that only one size of car runs on Second Avenue.

Louis April 19, 2007 - 10:14 pm

Thanks Mike,

You are quite right. I just re-visited the comments here to admit that myself. I had it way wrong.

It turns out, for anyone who is interested, that BMT Eastern Division (JMZ & L) cannot use the 75-foot trains. Also, this means that the “Chrystie Cut,” which connects the Christie Street B/D (read: 2nd Avenue Subway) with the JMZ will not be able to use the 75-foot trains. Just food for thought.

Thanks again for the info, Mike. I didn’t know about the 51-foot cars.

Louis April 20, 2007 - 10:34 am

I should clarify, I didn’t know about the 51-foot cars even though I ride them almost exclusively every day.

Let's Revisit the Subway Air Conditioning Question : SUBWAYblogger.com: Blog from the New York Subway July 9, 2007 - 11:14 pm

[…] April, SUBWAYblogger laughed at the idea of having glass doors as a barrier to the subway tracks on the new Second Avenue line.   The doors would work just like the AirTran stations.  I think the monorail at Disney World […]

Transit exploring glass doors for platform edges :: Second Ave. Sagas February 1, 2011 - 11:47 am

[…] revenue-sharing plans with the chosen vendor. Otherwise, this project, as previous MTA officials have warned, will be too expensive. Still, any excitement over this project may be a bit premature. “We […]


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