Home View from Underground Photo of the Day: Why we can’t have nice things, redux

Photo of the Day: Why we can’t have nice things, redux

by Benjamin Kabak

Last week, we saw what happens to low-tech MTA signs that are designed to help people find their ways about the subway system: Eventually, they fall victim to irate vandals. But what about the MTA’s high-tech countdown clocks? Here’s the view that awaited me in Grand Army Plaza early Saturday afternoon.

A shattered sign at Grand Army Plaza mars the MTA's new technological efforts. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

It’s tough to say what exactly happened here, but it’s easy to see the impact. Someone tried to smash the countdown clock. Perhaps he or she grew annoyed by a late-night 20-minute wait. Perhaps a aggressively drunk straphanger took out some MTA-inspired frustration on the sign. Perhaps someone with a warped sense of right and wrong decided to break stuff. The nearest victim was a sign hanging eight or nine feet above the platform.

In its annual customer information survey released today — more on those results later — the MTA trumpeted a system-wide embrace of technology. Riders who regularly use stations with countdown clocks are far more pleased with service than those stuck on B Division lines with only the lights at the end of an empty tunnel to forecast train arrival times. People find it less stressful and easier to travel if they have a sense of when the train is coming. So why the destructive tendencies?

As I mentioned on Friday, Transit is less likely to spend precious dollars on customer improvement measures if those efforts are going to waste. As most of us learned in nursery school, it takes only one person to ruin it for everyone else. Is that what we’re seeing here as New Yorkers take out their subway-inspired frustrations on the nearest inanimate object?

You may also like


Kai B October 24, 2011 - 4:45 pm

The MTA will learn from these incidents just like they did with subway car vandalism.

Stronger plastic/glass, cages, and harder to reach locations will probably follow.

Benjamin Kabak October 24, 2011 - 4:46 pm

I was thinking about that too, but the placement of the PA/CIS screens are controlled, in part, by ADA requirements. That might limit where the MTA can put them, and in many stations, the ceilings aren’t high enough to escape the reach of someone intent on causing damage.

John October 24, 2011 - 4:50 pm

I think the ceiling height is the only limiting factor. In DC the signs are up high enough to be out of reach, and I’m pretty sure their system is about as ADA compliant as it gets.

Aaron October 24, 2011 - 6:51 pm

Yeah, I’m not seeing an ADA issue here, asides that the font probably needs to be reasonably readable, which that font would probably still qualify for even if it were placed higher. There are ADAAG requirements that contractors know and I do not, so don’t take that to the bank.

Kai B October 24, 2011 - 8:18 pm

The sign you posted actually held up quite “well” – it’s still working and probably just needs its cover replaced. Could have been worse I guess. It shows they were at least built to take a little bit of beating without needing electronic parts replaced.

al October 25, 2011 - 12:13 am

How much would gorilla glass for a screen like that cost? Its strong, flexible, and highly scratch resistant. A thin clear plastic film on top of that would take care of acid etching vandals.

dungone October 25, 2011 - 2:52 pm

I think that if the signs were raised higher, in a lot of cases the visibility from the sides and further back would be obstructed by lighting and conduit.

The Cobalt Devil October 24, 2011 - 4:52 pm

Man, I wonder why NYers feel the need to spit, shit, piss, throw food, scratch and punch every single inch of this system. I’ve ridden subways and buses in LA, Philly, Chicago, Newark, DC, San Fran, Paris and Buenos Aires, and I’ve NEVER seen any of the disgusting actions mentioned above. Really, is there something in the mouths of NYers that forces them to spit on the platform or tracks when riders in LA or Philly NEVER feel the need to do so? Is there some latent anger on the populace of this town that makes them destroy property that their own taxes pay for? It’s so discouraging…

Sunny October 24, 2011 - 5:59 pm

The problem is that there is a general hatred of the MTA and the subway system all across the region. Either due to nasty service or the payroll tax.

Alex C October 24, 2011 - 6:04 pm

Here we go with the “Payroll Tax” nonsense. It’s a general culture of “it’s OK to do it because everyone does it” not the payroll tax boogie man. When somebody smashes that sign they’re not thinking “God I hate taxes, I really don’t like the payroll tax! Ronald Reagan ROCKS!” They’re thinking “I’m really cool and/or consider myself above the law, so I will break this sign to show everyone how too-cool-for-school I am.”

JP October 24, 2011 - 9:24 pm

It’s done by amazing children who are taught their ways by amazing parents, as a result of and response to living in an amazing city filled with many other amazing people.

Hey, my sarcasm tags didn’t show up in this HTML!
Okay then- pretend I didn’t say “amazing” but something hideous and its opposite.

Alex C October 25, 2011 - 12:33 am

Pretty much. If the parents raise their kids to be crap, they turn out to be crap. This applies to parents in lower-income areas who neglect their kids and rich parents who convince their kids that they’re above the law.

Bolwerk October 24, 2011 - 10:03 pm

It’s probably a small minority that’s responsible, and the problem is probably mainly normative. But, unlike those other systems, my impression is we really blow at cleaning up, so litter and vandalism stay around longer; it’s not like the token booth clerk doing nothing most of the day is allowed to clean it up, even if s/he wants to.

Nathanael November 11, 2011 - 5:13 pm


It’s well documented that most people take less care of things when they see already-damaged or already-broken stuff.

Most people will not throw trash on the ground… unless there already is trash on the ground, at which point most people will. (Sigh.)

So, while a small number of people will continue to cause trouble, it is *critical* to clean up after these vandals *quickly*, as it prevents the “sheep” from making the problem worse. Even though the “sheep” will probably never actually vandalize a countdown clock, they’ll start messing up the station in more subtle ways.

The MTA needs to aggressively clean up and fix dirty, damaged, and broken things which are visible to the public. But as we all know, they are really terrible about this.

PaulW October 25, 2011 - 12:07 am

Actually, I lived in Chicago for 15 years and routinely saw people spitting on the L platforms and tracks. With much of the system being elevated, the spit would then rain down on pedestrians below. There was also a fair amount of littering, pissing and all that good stuff. I wish I could say I found a used baby diaper on a seat on the Red Line *that one time* but not such luck. Unfortunately, obnoxious and inconsiderate behavior isn’t just a New York thing. There are savages and ingrates everywhere.

dungone October 25, 2011 - 2:48 pm

I remember visiting Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills with a couple Marines and after 30 minutes two or three of them were getting very uptight, until finally one of them said, “Come on let’s get the hell out of here I need someplace to spit out my dip.” I also remember riding some trains in Germany, and at 3 AM, with my shoes off, I put my feet up on the adjacent seat only to be scolded for it by the conductor.

Maybe New Yorkers are used to it, but they have some of the most decrepit stations I have ever been to. New York also has station workers sit in their booth late at night while someone is getting raped and they just watch it happen. People take their queues from that.

BBnet3000 October 24, 2011 - 5:26 pm

Definitely a height issue. The BART signs are high enough that you would have to put in a lot of effort to do anything to them.

Aaron October 24, 2011 - 6:59 pm

I’m wondering the same thing as Cobalt Devil. I lived in LA for a few years and the subway system there (a) was pristine and (b) largely remained pristine. Sure, shit happens, but the volume of damage that I see in NYC is a little bit astonishing. It’s not a demographics thing, I would venture to say that the LA subway riders skew poorer and definitely skew younger than NYC riders. Surely there’s some sociologist out there who happens to be a subway geek, but my non-sociologist self wonders if the fact that NY’s subway system looks shitty means that people will treat it shittily (hey, it’s a word today).

LA’s subway system looks like underground modern art, primarily because it is underground modern art – perhaps higher expectations lead to more respect for the property. After all, think about it – if you use a public restroom that appears to never be maintained or is extremely dirty, you’re not going to go to as much effort to clean up after yourself, your mind (with some justification) tells you that it’s hardly worth the trouble.

Scott E October 24, 2011 - 6:59 pm

Height is an issue (I’ve seen signs that I can jump up and touch, and I’m relatively short), but there are other ways to avoid vandalism. First, maintain the system so people are not only in clean surroundings, but comfortable ones. Second, offer an alternative to combat boredom. On PATH platforms, I often find myself watching the “PathVision” video screens in each station while waiting for a train (I wouldn’t break something if they weren’t there, but it does help pass the time). Of course, this all requires a big commitment and a lot of money.

But looking at the above photo, I believe the sign could have easily been hung a foot or two higher than it is, which would have reduced the chance of this happening.

Larry October 24, 2011 - 8:22 pm

The person who did this should be eligible for the electric chair. And dont worry about B division trains having a problem! They wont be getting those for at least 10 years…

pea-jay October 25, 2011 - 11:41 pm

This damaged sign still provides more readable information than the similar (but a lot less informative ones found in many B-division stations)

sk October 24, 2011 - 8:58 pm

Plain and simple THUGS are responsible. The thugs that jump turnstiles and enter buses from the rear door to beat the fare. More police, stop and frisk, undercover and a Giuliani mayor. Otherwise it is more mayhem and destruction.

Frank B. October 24, 2011 - 9:17 pm

Surprisingly enough, I pretty much completely agree with that sentiment.

normative October 24, 2011 - 10:56 pm

How are you a thug for jumping a turnstile? And what do stop and frisks have anything to do with a broken sign? “Mayhem and destruction”?? OF all the signs installed, how many have been broken? So far: one that is identifiable, and we do not even know what happened yet. Glad to see the lynch-mob mentality still alive and well.

Andrew October 24, 2011 - 11:13 pm

If not a thug then at least a thief.

People who have no respect for the law are likely to break the law in multiple ways – e.g., jumping the turnstile and then vandalizing a sign.

(Not sure what Giuliani has to do with it, though – crime continued to drop and drop and drop under the Bloomberg administration.)

Bolwerk October 24, 2011 - 11:25 pm

At least some turnstile jumpers are probably desperate and poor. Vandals are probably almost universally males between 15 and 24, most of them probably under 21, and at least their motivations are probably about the same motivations as any males that age who behave destructively. At least some of the cure is giving them something constructive to do.

As for crime, it started dropping before Giuliani came about. For all we know, he hindered its decline.

Kid Twist October 25, 2011 - 10:54 am

@Bolwerk: Desperate and poor? There are millions of poor people in this country who would never dream of stealing and you them a grave disservice by suggesting that poverty begets crime. Crimes are committed by people who are lazy and stupid, or too self-absorbed to consider the consequences of their actions on others.

Bolwerk October 25, 2011 - 1:51 pm

And there are probably millions more who would dream of it. Crimes are committed by all kinds of people for all sorts of reasons, often just ignorance. Some crimes, including some violent ones, are clearly motivated by economic circumstances.

Turnstile jumping, of course, is not a crime. It’s a civil infraction. Presumably a portion of the people doing it are malicious little pricks, but luckily for them their not netting themselves a criminal record in the process.

normative October 24, 2011 - 11:29 pm

Dude, I have jumped the turnstile before; you know why? I had no money and had to get home. I remember a specific time when I was 16 and at a concert. I had like 75 cents left and it was a school night, so I just hopped the turnstile and got home.

There is no evidence that if you break a law, you are likely to break it multiple ways. Under strict interpretation of the law, we break it everyday–jaywalking, loitering, sipping a cold bear outside during a hot day, what have you.

The MTA is facing monumental problems for the future and this is the shit people are worried about?

Andrew October 24, 2011 - 11:59 pm

Did you steal your concert ticket? Stealing a subway ride is no better. It’s pretty irresponsible to go to a concert without enough money for the trip back home (or at least borrowing a few dollars from a friend), don’t you think?

You are entitled to your opinion, but I think that fare evasion and vandalism of expensive (and brand new) electronic signs are serious problems. And I guess you’ve never heard of broken windows (jump to the bottom of page 15 if you don’t want to scroll through the whole thing).

normative October 25, 2011 - 1:00 am

Yes it was a mistake, but alas, here I am, morals intact and paying the subway fare. It happens. If I pay for the subway over 99 percent of the time, not paying one or two times a year really have no effect on the systems budget because no system anticipates a 100 percent ridership rate. Morally, the arguments are completely different. But, I would say, as a utilitarian I could argue I was justified not paying, but I would have to write a whole thing on that.

Are you aware of the losses of revenue estimated per year by turnstile hopping? If not, then we can never put it into perspective.

Again vandalism of electronic signs would be a serious problem if were widespread. Is it? I do not know and I am guessing you do not either, because we do not have reliable facts to point to. Often times, working in public policy, the public has vastly different conceptions of the actual data involved, and has a propensity to exaggerate conflicts.

Why would you assume I never heard of the broken window theory? Again, a huge topic for debate. From my experience and travels, I would say there are several cities around the world that demonstrably disprove the logical move from minor crime towards more serious crime. Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, and london all come to mind for different reasons–whether it be graffiti, fair hopping, or have a large squatting culture.

Andrew October 25, 2011 - 7:05 am

Do you also steal from the supermarket and the clothing store one or two times a year, or do you only steal from the subway? Just curious. And if you agree it was a mistake, why do you continue to do it once or twice a year?

I take it you weren’t around in the 80’s, so you didn’t see first hand how the the broken windows theory thoroughly transformed the subway.

Vandalism of electronic signs isn’t widespread – yet. But if the vandalized sign at Grand Army Plaza isn’t repaired quickly, vandals will take note and it may quickly become widespread. Waiting until it becomes widespread is a big mistake.

pete October 25, 2011 - 8:35 am

Every person commits three felonies a day, including you. http://reason.com/archives/200.....felons-now

normative October 25, 2011 - 9:49 am

No I do not. But telling you that when I was 16, I hopped the turnstile because I had to get home from a concert is just an anecdote. From the posts, it is obvious that most people have never met someone that has not paid on the turnstile. Then, you just usher in a grand narrative of crime and decay and attach them to it. How about asking someone for once? Just like if you saw me when I was 16, I would have told you, I got to get back to Brooklyn and I have 75 cents, any suggestions, because if I am not home soon my parents are going to kill me.

I do not still hop the turnstile, just trying to point out that if you are caught in a situation where you need to get home and do not pay for whatever reason, but pay over 99 percent of the time otherwise, it is not going to make a financial dent in the MTA’s budget. This only addresses the monetary aspect, though.

I spent most of the 80s being under 5 years of age. But, the broken window theory is still being debated. Why not trying to read some sociology/criminology journals? There are many different theories as to why crime went down after the early 90s. I am just pointing out that there are still cities with metros that have graffiti on the exterior that have not seen any jump in violent crime. The same is for abandoned buildings and fare hopping.

Jason B. October 25, 2011 - 4:32 pm

I understand ‘normative’. Some here may have not been in the situation where you need to get on the train no matter what whether it be an emergency or other crisis. True it’s theft no matter what, and for those caught it comes with a price.

My friends call me one of the biggest transit nerds they know; a huge proponent of the system. And in July, I got caught hopping the turnstile late for a grad school mid-term with a malfunctioning MetroCard vending machine. I have a master’s degree, working on more education, and am a professional employed by the City.

Honestly, I really don’t care if people here disagree or not. Unless you live at a station that constantly has broken MetroCard vending machines (literally says coins only time after time) and no agent, and you’ve frequently gone into the system with the necessary payment only to be denied a venue for using it, then you’re not seeing the entire picture.

I can’t recall how many times I’ve had to hop the turnstile over the years (it’s under 10). Not one of those times was it for lack of fare. Either the turnstiles collectively were “offline” or the vending machines weren’t working. Call it what you want, but I’m not alone in those that have to do this. Come up to East Harlem some time and use the uptown 6 platforms daily. You’ll see what I mean in short time.

Al D October 25, 2011 - 9:16 am

“There is no evidence that if you break a law, you are likely to break it multiple ways”

Please tell us that you’re kidding

normative October 25, 2011 - 9:32 am

Please show me a study from an authoritative source that says otherwise. As noted, we all break the law, sometimes with great frequency when we are not even aware. With finite resources, we have to decide how best to spend MTA money. Arguing that if you jump a turnstile it makes you more likely to become a vandal is built on faulty logic. I admit I do not have the numbers to prove my point (neither do you), but base it on experience.

Al D October 25, 2011 - 11:53 am

Show me a study that says otherwise. In the past nearly 20 years, the city has embarked under a quality of like, broken windows approach to crime. Arrest the fare jumpers and subway crime goes down. That’s what has happened.

Nathanael November 11, 2011 - 5:10 pm

Correlation doesn’t imply causation — you just made the most basic statistical fallacy. Try again.

There’s unfortunately a lot of evidence that the Giuliani approach did absolutely nothing. Other cities with crime waves in the 70s and 80s tried entirely different approaches… and found the same drop in crime rates. So something else is going on. Many suggestions have been made.

dungone October 25, 2011 - 3:15 pm

When I was 16 I would walk home 4 miles after a track meet because I didn’t have any cash on me and it never occurred to me to steal a ride. I know people who are broke right now and they walk to work from Greenpoint to Soho to save some money on the subway. But you were a 16 year old kid who had enough money for a concert, just not subway fare. So that’s cool, I get it now, people who steal subway rides are cooler than the rest of us. This is why so many people hate hipsters. So many of them are spoiled brats who think they know what it’s really like to be poor.

normative October 25, 2011 - 7:21 pm

Your getting way off topic. I originally responded to what I argued was an overreaction that one semi-broken sign was a serious problem. No one has been able to disprove that other than saying that this one semi-broken sign will decidedly lead to all types of further crimes. Then we argued about that. But seeing as you have to make it personal:

“When I was 16 I would walk home 4 miles after a track meet because I didn’t have any cash on me and it never occurred to me to steal a ride.”

Congrats. However, that is not a sound argument for why you should do it. Your logic is:

Premise A: Activity x is good. (not going on the subway when you do not have money)
Premise B: I did Activity X when faced with a similar situation to you.
Premise C: You did not
Conclusion: I am right. You are wrong.

You did not provide any reasons why premise A is good. You also assumed in remise b that our situations were exactly the same, when there could be huge differences. I did not include my story to argue on the ethics of train hopping, but merely to highlight why every person who jumps a turnstile is not a latent criminal intending on committing a series of crimes. If you want to argue the ethics, then get your shit together.

“But you were a 16 year old kid who had enough money for a concert, just not subway fare. So that’s cool, I get it now, people who steal subway rides are cooler than the rest of us.”

When did I ever say that, or even imply it. You don’t get shit. You just got nothing to add.

“This is why so many people hate hipsters. So many of them are spoiled brats who think they know what it’s really like to be poor.”

What the fuck does this have to do with anything. You do not know a single fucking thing about me, but from reading a couple sentences about an example I used to highlight why people should not generalize or wax theoretical about activities they do not know about, you’re able to connect this one story to a grand argument against hipsters and class? Come on b, your making yourself look like an asshole.

I never attached the fact that I was “poor” or “cool” to my original post. But I guess when you got a shitty argument; it is easier to just spout bullshit then to actually sit and think critically for awhile.

dungone October 26, 2011 - 2:56 pm

Read some Adam Smith. It’s called Social Contract Theory and a lot of it has to do with the concept of the public commons and how we as a society maintain those goods and services.

The rest of us, as tax payers and fare payers, pay a surcharge for every bad actor who decides for himself that he should get to ride the subway for free and for all the police officers who have to stand around all day trying to enforce a good-neighbor policy on the city’s subway.

Breaking signs, jumping turnstiles, all of it takes away from the level of services that everyone else receives as they try to share the system in good faith. The system is cash-strapped, and the argument that was set forth is that every little bit of disregard for it adds up to make the situation worse. And seeing the effects of people who blatantly disregard that shared space makes it harder for everyone else to take pride in having to use it everyday and pay for it. If you don’t get it, then you’re obviously someone who sees nothing wrong with jumping turnstiles and doesn’t see a broken sign or two as a big deal.

normative October 27, 2011 - 12:19 am

You got your philosophers mixed up, jean jacques rousseau wrote about the social contract. Adam Smith did not in the way you are describing.

I do not disagree generally with your argument, but I was pointing that you and others were categorically assuming profiles and situation about people who do not pay on the train, and that there are cases that complicate such a rule, such as when a 16 needs to get home. Either way, as far I know, train hopping is not a problem for the TA, but lack of funding is.

dungone October 27, 2011 - 11:21 am

You’re right and it’s more like I conflated the two. Glad you agree, as I don’t think the rationale should need explaining.

Turnstile hopping is a problematic behavior. Imagine I promise to give you $5 every day, but each time after I give it to you I asked you to give me $1 back. Rather than being happy about being given $4, you get annoyed and disgruntled that the promise of $5 never materializes. Likewise, when the public pays for a service but then sees people stealing and vandalizing, it takes away from the good deal that they thought they were getting for their money.

An good comparison for you is Berlin. If you get on the U-Bahn, there are no turnstiles or gates. It’s an honor system. You’re responsible for paying and people just do it. Every couple of days a team of fare checkers will get on your train and if you get caught without a valid pass, you will get yanked off the train and pay a very heavy fine. And they won’t release you until you pay it.

So I would argue that you’re having trouble seeing why everyone should have to pay because it’s too easy for you to think of how you could get away. I’m not a huge fan of the turnstiles, since they make it seem like the market transaction starts and ends with the user getting past the entry point, as if what they’re paying for is to get past the turnstile and that’s it.

dungone October 27, 2011 - 11:34 am

Incidentally, in Berlin, if you were a 16 yr old kid without a pass, you could always ask someone who is getting off the train if they’re done with theirs. People frequently leave their day passes on top of the fare machines when they’re done using the subway for the rest of the day. And the subway workers respect this system of goodwill, they don’t take the tickets away even though someone comes by to clean the station very frequently.

So if you’re really desperate and legitimately can’t pay for a ride, instead of stealing and pissing off the other riders, you could actually rely on the goodwill of people who paid for the service and appreciate that you wouldn’t steal, either.

Berlin operates on social norms, New York on market norms. But it doesn’t make it any more right or wrong to steal from one system vs the other. I do wish that New York would go for an hourly Metro Card and get rid of the per-ride fees as a way of raising the revenues per ride and giving fare jumpers a chance to rely on charity.

normative October 27, 2011 - 4:34 pm

The rationale always needs explaining. Before I studied philosophy, I was amazed how many self-evident normative beliefs I held, but then realized were built on fallacious logic.

That is not the valid comparison for train, but let us get to the point. I am ONLY trying to highlight that there are going to be cases where people do not pay a fare and can still be justifiable in doing so. People who abide by the rules according to public transit in every other way, but do not pay once or twice in their life. I pointed this out because others were making grand accusations about people do not pay, who then going to vandalize the entire system, intentionally destroying it, and then do whatever else nefarious activity in some kind of domino fashion. This fails an observation test. So I elected to point out that I did not pay once, the reasons why, and also say that I took the train back home to Brooklyn without breaking any other law.

I also thought the tone was exaggerated since so far no one has shown with data the estimated losses. Worrying about a minuscule problem in contrast to service cuts, lack of train service in parts of the city, and decreasing train service in the parts where there are already trains would seem to be the bigger issue.

I did the same thing in Amsterdam with my day pass for the trolley. I went to a stop and just asked if anyone wanted the rest of it because I was going home for the day. However, this begs the question if in fact you are stealing since you are not supposed to share your card, and thus reduce the amount given the transit operators, since that person was going to buy their own ticket.

Alex C October 25, 2011 - 12:35 am

So that hipster in expensive clothes I saw jump the turnstile at 23 St on the N/R a few months ago was a thug?

I do agree on the “Thugs” doing this sort of stuff to show everyone how cool they are is annoying, and police need to catch these guys. And put them to work cleaning up the mess. See how cool they feel then.

Nathanael November 11, 2011 - 5:07 pm

Actually, untargeted stop-and-frisk seems to make things worse sometimes. When you conclude that the police randomly harass innocent people for no reason, it’s easy to decide that you might as well randomly harass innocent people too (after all, even the police do it).

Bolwerk October 24, 2011 - 10:16 pm

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Here’s my immediate solution: make it a goal to catch a certain percentage of the people doing this type of stuff, and make the fine for catching them high enough that it:

• pays the enforcement costs

• pays the vandalism costs

• leaves a little profit on top of that

The result is the damage is paid for, and you even might make a little money off vandalism. It’s the exact same principle that makes POP or insurance work. If the average vandalism costs $50 to fix and you make it a goal to catch 10% of vandals/pissers/litterers, you need to charge them each $500 plus an enforcement premium, which may run a few hundred itself. The system would clean up pretty damn fast.

Kabak Again Documents How Animals Treat The Subway » insignificant thoughts October 25, 2011 - 8:34 am

[…] Kabak Again Documents How Animals Treat The Subway by Vincent Ferrari Posted on October 25, 2011 via secondavenuesagas.com […]

Al D October 25, 2011 - 9:24 am

The graffiti ‘artists’ started this descent to subway vandalism. I’m not sayin’ that it was pristine before then, but they ‘glamourized’ defacing subways.

Now that so many people are out of work, and there is less hope for our young than at any other time in recent memory, vandalism has just accelerated.

We cannot be trusted to behave ourselves. First, a graffiti cleaner was needed, then we needed to buy vandal resistant subway cars, then etchiti resistant film. What’s next?

What is the true cost of this, to MTA, taxpayers and society as a whole?

Being in NYC, and especially in the subway, the good, the bad and the ugly are all next to each other. The police can do only so much. They cannot fix social ills. They cannot fix bad or troubled upbringings.

Osman October 25, 2011 - 10:02 am

I think this problem has a lot to do with the broken windows concept: people are more likely to commit crimes in places appealing to do so, by virtue of their dilapidated appearance. So compare the NYC Subway: generally dirty, old, peeling paint, poor lighting, gum all over the floors, running water along the tracks, rats, collected dirty water (pee?) on platforms…all these things will attract the same kind of treatment for even the newer, nicer things. Versus in the DC Metro: the vaults are huge and everyone can see everything up and down the platform, architecture is the prominent feature, the light is dim enough so that you can’t see any dirt that is actually there (hence at first glance it LOOKS clean and modern), all the trains are generally clean, and there are certain aspects of the design that prevent vandalism. Most notably, the line diagrams are both large and are placed on the walls opposite the platforms (this is something that can be done in many locations in NYC, against the support poles between the tracks or on the walls facing the platforms), entirely out of reach of anyone unless they actually get ON the tracks, or for side platforms hop the walls into the lighting crevice. Also, as others have noted, the countdown timers are placed well out of reach.

But I honestly believe the principle problem is that the NYC subway unfortunately just looks dilapidated, and attracts equal treatment by many of its riders.

Peter October 25, 2011 - 11:44 am

I’d venture another possible theory about the seemingly higher vandalism rates on the NYC subway versus other cities: the fact that ours is a 24-hour system.

People are more inclined to engage in boorish behavior when nobody’s looking. In NYC, you have a long overnight period when stations are sparsely populated, especially further-out stations like Grand Army Plaza. I imagine this is when most major vandalism occurs.

Jason B. October 25, 2011 - 11:40 pm

There’s a similar sign at Mount Eden Ave in the Bronx on the Manhattan-bound platform.

Loren Veiga December 27, 2012 - 1:24 pm

PristinHydro is the world’s leading innovator of Water Filters and Water Filtration Systems. PristineHydro makes it easy to obtain pristine water purification with the use of one of their Under Sink Water Filter units or a Countertop Water Filter unit. Their proprietary filtration process and scientific breakthroughs make them the most sought after water filtration units available. Visit http://www.pristinehydro.com to order your Countertop Water Filter today


Leave a Comment