Home Rolling Stock A first glimpse at the MTA’s plans for an open gangway prototype

A first glimpse at the MTA’s plans for an open gangway prototype

by Benjamin Kabak
The MTA released a conceptual rendering of the open gangway prototype the agency plans to include in the R211 rolling stock order.

The MTA released a conceptual rendering of the open gangway prototype the agency plans to include in the R211 rolling stock order.

As the MTA struggles to expand subway capacity to meet current ridership demands, the idea of rolling stock design has come under scrutiny. A few years ago, the MTA, to the public’s dismay, floated the idea of making a certain number of cars per train seatless during rush hour, but that didn’t go far. Another proposal, which is standard design in a number of international cities, is now getting its day in the sun. That idea is of course open gangways, and in MTA Board materials released this weekend, we now have a glimpse of what the MTA is envisioning for their prototype.

Open gangways are a familiar sight to international travelers, and in fact, one needs to travel no farther than Montreal or Toronto to experience this rolling stock design. The idea is simple: By sealing in and opening up the space in between cars, open gangways create freedom of movement and more space for passengers. It’s a safer design that eliminates the problems of isolated subway or metro cars and can increase capacity by around 8-10 percent per subway train. That we do not have them already, MTA sources have told me, is a mix of agency fears at doing something viewed by New Yorkers as “different” even if it exists elsewhere and some manageable engineering concerns about these types of cars’ ability to handle tight curves.

A few weeks ago, I explored how the 2015-2019 Capital Plan features an open gangway prototype order. For the upcoming R211 rolling stock, 10 cars out of 950 will include an open gangway design so the MTA can test this feature for future use. It’s a disappointingly modest part of a rolling stock order expected to by in service until the 2060s or 2070s. But hold that thought.

This weekend, the MTA released the rendering you see above. Intriguingly, the image suggests a June 4, 2013 creation date. So clearly the agency has been bandying this idea about for a few years. That it is taking so long to come to fruition, even on a pilot basis, is indicative of the MTA’s hesitant approach to ideas that are “new” to New York. (Considering how early 20th century subway cars featured open gangways, we could argue the semantics of whether these designs are actually new to New York for hours. Either way, they are new to the MTA in a post-1968 world.)

In accompanying materials [pdf], the MTA simply notes that the objectives for the $2.3 billion R211 order includes expanding capacity through better design. It’s not clear if, when the prototypes are successful, the agency could retrofit the R211s for additional open gangway train sets or if the MTA could amend an order in progress. I’m sure we’ll hear more about this plan during the committee meetings on Monday, but I hope this option exists. Otherwise, having around 1 percent of one rolling stock model feature open gangways won’t do much for the MTA’s capacity concerns.

And therein lies the rub. If the MTA receives these open gangway cars in the early 2020s and determines the design is feasible for many subway lines, the window for system-wide adaption will have closed for decades. The agency brags that 56 percent of its fleet is, at most, 15 years old, and the upcoming orders — the delayed R179s, the R188s, the rest of the R211s — aren’t open gangway train sets. Thus, the next order of cars that could be all open gangways won’t arrive until the late 2020s, and the MTA’s full complement of subway cars wouldn’t have these open gangways until the mid-2070s. By then, I hope another phase or two of the Second Ave. Subway is open as well. A slow approach to seemingly-innovative designs that are de rigueur elsewhere will get us nowhere.

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Rich B January 25, 2016 - 1:19 am

Well, crap. I think you just triggered my personal mid-life crisis. I’m 37 and you’re talking – credibly – about things that should but won’t happen in my lifetime. You’re right. We won’t have a full fleet of open gangways until 2070. Ugh.

rustonite January 25, 2016 - 11:01 am

I’ve been having this exact feeling for the past six months about a lot of stuff- not just transit, or infrastructure, but health care and family leave and all sorts of things that every other developed country can apparently manage but we cannot. I’m 33, and I’m not gonna live to see the US get any of that.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 3:23 am

I think we’re gonna get some of it. All we need is a political revolution.

Sanders isn’t a political revolution by himself, but we have demographics on our side….

Benjamin Kabak January 25, 2016 - 12:07 pm

I’m a few years younger than you, and I triggered my own life crisis just thinking about how long it would take to convert the fleet into cars with open gangways. If I didn’t make it clear in the post, I think the MTA is making a huge mistake placing a 950-car order of which only 10 have open gangways. This is a move that will echo throughout the decades.

SEAN January 25, 2016 - 3:00 pm

Sorry if this is way off topic.

I know just how rustonite feels – I had a near medical crisis of my own quite recently involving insurance & drug coverage.

We’re all coming from different angles, but we are asking the same basic questions – “how did we get here? & how do we stop it from getting out of control? This involves everything from transit funding to government funding of the “war Machine.”

Again sorry, I couldn’t think of another way to express so many thoughts in a few remarks.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 3:30 am

We’re all feeling the same way. I’m just turning 40, and the country has been getting more and more third-world-corrupt throughout most of my lifetime (since Jimmy Carter left office). Basically in order to stop it from getting out of control we have to completely overthrow and dismantle large portions of the establishment — shut down the military-industrial complex, etc.

The main reason we haven’t been able to do so yet is that we simply haven’t had the *numbers*. (I mean, with a majority of Congress and the President, the MIC could be liquidated with the stroke of a pen.) But the numbers are changing every year, *in our favor*, as younger people turn 18 and older people die off.

I follow social surveys just to keep track of this. I seem to be at the leading edge of the major demographic trends; for instance, the percentage of Republicans increases as people get younger towards my birth year, but decreases starting with my birth year and forever after. Same thing with lots and lots of questions about social and economic issues.

The frustrating thing about being at the leading edge of demographic trends is that I really will be old by the time “right-thinking people” manage to take power and start to fix things. The nice thing is that it will happen.

Chris January 25, 2016 - 3:06 pm

Wouldn’t surprise me if those 10 gangwayed cars would drive up the cost of the entire order.

Gangways have proven themselves to be reliable in many systems; operationally it also won’t be much of a problem (when it’s 2 sets of 5 (semi-)permanently coupled cars, AKA every train since 1999). Splitting becomes a little harder (if necessary), but can easily be done in a yard.

SEAN January 25, 2016 - 4:03 pm Reply
mister January 25, 2016 - 10:46 pm

MTA’s unitized trains already have to be un-linked in a yard.

Rich B January 26, 2016 - 11:21 am

Agreed 100%.

I wonder how many parts are common between the open and closed models of the R211? Could they deliver the prototype first, and keep the option to convert the last 1/2 or 2/3 of the order to open-gangway if (perhaps accelerated) tests prove they work well?

Gustav Svärd January 25, 2016 - 4:21 am

Here I was thinking that the Stockholm subway system is low to adopt open gangways since the new cars coming from next year are half-train cars (i.e. open gangways in 4-car units with two such making up a train) after 15 years of using open gangways that connect a 1/3rd of a train.
So at least the MTA is going for a full train open gangway in one step! Otoh, even the last trains delivered to the MTA ought to have been fully open gangway. By now they ought to be going for trains that can run fully automated and that have off-set doors (such as positied here: http://bkabak.wpengine.com/201.....and-stand/).

Brooklynite January 25, 2016 - 9:08 am

New York’s fleet will probably be coupled in two five-car sets, with no gangway between the front and rear half. The unions would simply have a fit about the elimination of the conductor, and would claim that having him outside of his cab is unsafe, and that trains need to be uncoupled for maintenance purposes, etc.

tacony January 26, 2016 - 9:16 am

Don’t many PATH trains operate with the conductor in the car outside of a “cab”? What’s the difference? (I honestly don’t know.)

Brooklynite January 26, 2016 - 1:41 pm

Yes, I’ve seen that. I’m not familiar enough with PATH to know why they do that but I’m sure NY could do it too if the union would sit down and be quiet. There’s no real technological barrier.

B. Jenson January 26, 2016 - 8:07 pm

For New York City Transit. Your safety is prioritized hence why the Conductor position is a secure closed off area. NYCT subway trains also experience extensive crowding compared to other entities so the conductor needs ample space to perform his or her duties in a safe yet efficient manner. Fighting crowds to get to one’s operating position would delay service.

The difference between PATH and NYCT Subways is that PATH is considered a railroad operating under FRA standards. NYCT is not. FRA has specific rules governing the accessibility of Conductors. NYCT follows these guidelines to a degree. Hence why on equipment like the R32 and R42 type train the Conductor must remain outside of the cab and visible to the public when not perform door related duties.

mister January 27, 2016 - 12:37 am

So on the one hand, you say that Conductors need an enclosed space to perform their duties, but on the other, you acknowledge that on older equipment they had to interface with the crowds and somehow the job got done. It would seem like an enclosed full car width cab is not truly necessary.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 3:32 am

On NYCT the conductors barely have duties any more. They should be eliminated and given station jobs.

John-2 January 25, 2016 - 4:30 am

Cautiousness over something that seems fairly simple has been a trait going back to the NYCTA days — the 10-car open gangway order on the R-211s reminds me of the order of fiberglass contoured seating the TA ordered for the last 10 cars of the R-22 order, before that type of seating became standard on the system.

(Maybe next year the MTA can get the D-type trains rolling for the holiday special, instead of just being a static display/gift shop at Second Avenue, and Manhattan subway riders can experience open gangways — albeit with a slightly different design — just like they did in the late 1920s.)

Brooklynite January 25, 2016 - 9:10 am

TA is essentially reinventing the wheel with this “prototype.” London replaced their entire fleet on four lines with the open-gangway S stock without an oddball prototype.

And the D-types are operable. They ran during the Parade of Trains last summer. It’s simply easier to keep the train exclusively R9s.

Larry Littlefield January 25, 2016 - 7:33 am

Are they planning to move the door positions again, to keep the cost of platform doors stratospheric to satisfy the contractors and (if they are worried about conductor jobs) the TWU?

Spendmor Wastemor January 25, 2016 - 5:47 pm

Quite possible.

B. Jenson January 26, 2016 - 8:12 pm

Have you seen how we conduct ourselves when riding trains. The many different ways of door holding, standing in doorways, etc. As a result Conductors in NYCT will always be needed. NYers won’t change and become more civilized like our international cousins when it comes to subway service.

mister January 27, 2016 - 12:40 am

I don’t see how a conductor addresses these problems in a way that can’t be addressed by an automated system. Can you explain what specific tasks a conductor performs that address door holding/blocking?

Bolwerk January 27, 2016 - 9:37 am

No, New Yorkers are not uniquely misbehaved, and fuck anyone who says otherwise.

It’s really much the same as anywhere else. People hold doors, stand in inconvenient places, get stuck in doors, get caught on crowded trains. Our transit habits are not unique.

bigbellymon4 January 25, 2016 - 8:13 am

Is it just me, or did the MTA model the R211s after the new London Tube Trains in this Transport for London document: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/ntfl.....report.pdf

To me, i always found it weird yet interesting that TfL is able to not only roll out articulated train sets, but also install PSDs, remodel the stations for easier access (in terms of vertical circulation), install CBTC, AND expand capacity into, out of, and around London. It makes me wonder, what is London doing that

1. We (as Transit Systems of the US) are not doing
2. How can we reform our rules to raise us to their (London, Paris, etc.) level 3. Why are we being held back and how do we fix these problems for the future
4. When can this change come?

For me, a simple answer is a whole restructuring of not only the MTA, but also solving issues that our leaders (which we appoint btw) should solve that are simple and straightforward without bullsh*t (Hudson Tunnels). I guess a guy can dream can he?

Nick Ober January 25, 2016 - 9:05 am

Yeah, I very much noticed the similarity to the “New Tube for London”. Right down to the bonnet design. Shame that the MTA can’t make a bold move and just make the whole order open gangway. They should be able to check the clearances fairly easily for the lines they’re planning on running them on if they truly are nervous about the tight turns in Lower Manhattan.

Brooklynite January 25, 2016 - 9:19 am

It’s all politics. In government, MTA is not being funded sufficiently to let MTA sign long-term upgrade contracts with the knowledge that the money will still be there. The head of the MTA also has to do his annual trip to Albany with his hat out to raise money. It’s pretty sad.

That said, the money MTA does get is spent quite frivolously, either because of union “concerns” or simple managerial incompetence. Why do we pay $60+/hour for one person on an L train to press a button every 20 seconds and another person to open and close doors? Why do the engineers in charge not trust the experience with open gangways that many other cities, and even the old BMT, have?

In short, despite the fact that TFL is beset by its own woes regarding the cost of capital projects, in London people are held accountable, so things get done. Here nobody’s job is on the line for incompetence, so nobody cares.

B. Jenson January 26, 2016 - 8:25 pm

“Why do we pay $60+/hour for one person on an L train to press a button every 20 seconds and another person to open and close doors?”

Good question. When CBTC on the L fails and it does so quite often, how do you think service continues?

As for having a person open and close doors. When you travel internationally how often do you notice someone holding doors for others, inserting hands or other items into doorways. NYC has a last train on earth complex. Without Conductors the risk of dragging a passenger increase in the NYC subway system.

Rich B January 26, 2016 - 8:57 pm

Bullcrap. One person can drive the train and operate the doors. That we have two people per train should be huge outrage to everyone.

mister January 27, 2016 - 12:46 am

When CBTC fails, service continues with substantially reduced capacity. I don’t think anyone here has advocated for the complete removal of operators, but it’s certainly achievable. If you still insisted on a redundant system upon failure of the automated system, surely you could equip the cars with something similar to what automakers are presently developing on their self-driving vehicles.

As for the whole open-closing of doors, as mentioned above, the automated opening/closing of doors can perform all of the same functions that conductors manually do now. If you’re really worried about drags, install a system similar to SEPTA’s Market-Frankford line where the operators can see the exterior of the train on screens at their seats.

smotri January 25, 2016 - 2:06 pm

What a guy can do instead of dream is vote and make his voice heard. Too few people do that anymore.

Chris January 25, 2016 - 3:48 pm

For now the NTfL remains an (expensive) pipe dream, with many questions about its practicality remaining unanswered (Wouldn’t surprise me that they’ll cancel it and go for a more traditional train once BoJo is gone).

As for your questions:
1. The UK has attacked the unions head-on in the past, instituting common-sense requirements on them (like forcing them to hold a ballot under their members about a strike)

2/3. Get rid of the parallel bureaucracies; which causes frequent bureaucratic infighting. For a passenger the LIRR should work exactly the same as the subway (yet it doesn’t).

So here’s my plan: All ground transportation within the NYC metro area should be controlled by a board appointed by the counties in the area served (so no involvement from Albany or Trenton). Operations and maintenance (not assets) should be contracted out with tight quality standards to a company like MTR (on a per division basis). Maybe attack the FRA for their ridiculous regulations that spread like a disease to anything it touches. (there’s no reason why a subway would be any different from a surface railroad)

For construction go for DBFM contracts. Sign a contract, and a company has to build it for exactly or below their bid (if the cost ends up higher, they’ll have to pay out of their own pocket). Don’t change any requirements while it’s being built.

4. Whenever there’s the political will to make changes; someone who is willing to attack the establishment instead of caring about being re-elected.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2016 - 5:06 pm

Trenton is the end of the line for the Trenton locals and the Trenton expresses. Trenton, Hamilton, “Princeton Junction” and Princeton are in Mercer County. I’m not sure people in Connecticut are willing to let New Jersey have a say in how their trains are run and vice versa. Or either of them let the gaping maw of the subway get anywhere near their trains and buses.
People on railroad.net and subchat.com imagine a lot of fighting. The bureaucracies rarely have to consult with each other.

Brooklynite January 25, 2016 - 6:28 pm

I have a say in how trains to Port Jervis, Montauk, and New Haven are run, even though I live in Brooklyn, because I ride MTA. Likewise, people riding those trains have a say in my service. It’s not as if changing the organization running the New Haven Line, for instance, from Albany to NYC will have a significant change in operations. It might, as a matter of fact, prove more efficient than current operations, if something like a New Haven-Trenton service is debuted. Fragmentation and duplication of bureaucracy because “OMG THAT EVIL PERSON 50 MILES AWAY WILL TOUCH MY TRAINS” hinders progress and rational development.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2016 - 6:58 pm

CDOT determines how trains run to New Haven. Running trains from New Haven to Trenton is already done. You don’t want to do it during rush hour. Problems in Connecticut affect service in New Jersey and vice versa.

Brooklynite January 26, 2016 - 1:46 pm

MTA still operates them. The only thing having a separate agency accomplishes is ensuring redundant and inefficient bureaucracy.

And problems in the Bronx or Queens affect subway service in Brooklyn. Problems in the DC area affect Amtrak service everywhere from Boston to Miami. There’s no way to completely isolate segments from incidents elsewhere (other than running shuttles between each pair of nearby stations) so the tradeoff of mobility and city-terminal efficiency versus reliability has to be made.

And it’s currently not run because of electrification issues as I understand it. However, I believe M8 cars can be easily retrofitted to be able to operate such services.

adirondacker12800 January 26, 2016 - 3:21 pm

So you are going to disband the MTA and recreate the MTA?

Brooklynite January 26, 2016 - 3:32 pm

See my 1:50pm response to your 12:25pm comment below. MTA is the right idea, but the bureaucracy, even at one agency, has managed to trip over itself to the extent that little gets done.

Rich B January 26, 2016 - 3:33 pm

More like disband the PA and create a new multi-state agency that runs the former PA operations plus oversees the MTA and NJT.

Brooklynite January 26, 2016 - 3:45 pm

IMO, an agency overseeing MTA and NJT is the last thing we need. Yet another layer of bureaucracy. Merging the two with the PA, and integrating all the constituent parts (eg NJT Rail with MNR with LIRR, and NYCS with PATH) is worth a look at.

adirondacker12800 January 26, 2016 - 4:18 pm

How many Metro North trains or NJTransit trains or for that matter LIRR trains are going to run to Coney Island? Why do people in Connecticut care about bus service in New Jersey? Why do people in New Jersey or Connecticut want New York to get anywhere near their service?
If this is such a lip smacking good idea why is there SEPTA or the MBTA? SEPTA trains go to Trenton. Have the trains in Delaware under the same magic bureaucracy as the trains in Maine.

AG January 26, 2016 - 6:48 pm

I think all of that is possible (and most effective) except NJT folding in to MNRR/LIRR. People in Jersey pride themselves on being independent of NY – even though they are not by any stretch.
Plus – NJT runs trains into areas that don’t consider themselves part of the metro area too. Any NJ governor would be hard pressed to argue for it in the legislature

Brooklynite January 26, 2016 - 7:21 pm

LIRR to Coney Island, or rather Brighton Beach, used to happen you know 🙂

To address your arguments, though: the point is that all these commuter services are part of the NY metro area. NJT feeds people from the west, while LIRR and MNR do so from the north and east. Delaware and Maine are not part of the metro area, so they get their own bureaucracies. But within the tristate, it makes sense for there to be coordination, because it is reasonable to expect people to use the network as part of their daily commutes. Bureaucratic turf lines serve no real purpose other than to hinder commutes. Think about it – what is the point of having a regional agency such as MTA in the first place? We could take your argument about “eww, those people are touching my service” to its conclusion and determine that each rail line and bus route should be operated individually, and we’d be lucky to even have a map of all the modes, let alone fare or schedule coordination. Ultimately, perhaps that is the solution – have a bunch of separate agencies behind the scenes with one map, one fare system, and through running trains where appropriate. However, the complete lack of cooperation between the agencies we have right now (MTA, NJT) doesn’t suggest that that is working too well.


I suppose the answer to your point is what I mentioned above. After a certain size you’re right, demanding accountability from a huge behemoth of a bureaucracy becomes impossible. If there were the political will to unify the various systems from the passenger perspective (fares, maps, through services even) then there would be little need for one massive bureaucracy. There is no such political will though, and the isolation the distinct systems impose is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. “Those people” should have nothing to do with my services, so they’re isolated, so they remain “those people” instead of people who simply across the Hudson rather than the East River.

adirondacker12800 January 26, 2016 - 7:36 pm

Wikipedia says I can use my EZ-Pass in 14 states so the states know how to coordinate things.

Why is it so burdensome to carry two slips of paper in your wallet?

Chris January 27, 2016 - 9:12 am

And keep it as far away from state politicians as possible. Have it controlled by the local counties/cities that are served by the system (in NY, NJ and CT), instead of someone that doesn’t even live in the region.

Tower18 January 26, 2016 - 11:10 am

People on railroad.net and subchat.com imagine a lot of fighting. The bureaucracies rarely have to consult with each other.

Whether or not there’s fighting is not really the point. If there is, it’s even worse, but even if there isn’t, it’s besides the point. The point is they don’t coordinate at all. There rightly *should* be a regional organization that oversees all NYC-focused transit and provides coordinated planning and administration. There should be no issue designing an authority that can efficiently oversee NJT, MNRR (incl CT), LIRR, and NYCT. I don’t really care that much about Bee Line, CT buses, etc., local authorities can run these however they see fit.

adirondacker12800 January 26, 2016 - 12:25 pm

…what would they call it. How about the Metropolitan Transit Authority! It would still be hard to get Connecticut and New Jersey to buy in. But Connecticut could contract their train service to the uber agency, the MTA and the MTA could decide they don’t have enough trains running to Hoboken and contract that out to whatever uber agency there is in New Jersey.

Brooklynite January 26, 2016 - 1:50 pm

Something like MTA is the right idea, because the only way to get anybody to stop whining about their little station and think of the big picture is to have a large region-wide agency. However, the fact that MNR and LIRR are still completely separate seems to suggest that MTA is not the right vehicle for doing so.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 3:37 am

Well, the most obvious thing is that London’s Tube has consistent financial support whether the mayor is “Red Ken” Livingstone (Labour) or Boris the Boor Johnson (Tory).

The slightly less obvious thing is that London’s unions aren’t run by demented lunatics, the way TWU local 100 is. They want good pay, good working conditions, and good pensions, but they aren’t demanding outright featherbedding (like the ‘conductors’ on the subway trains). The other side of this comes from management — even under a Labour government, if the unions demanded outright featherbedding they would be told to pound sand.
(Even Boston has implemented one person train operation with relatively little trouble. New York is the outlier here.)

The much less obvious thing is that London doesn’t seem to have the same sort of blatant contractor scamming and corruption that New York City does. Honestly, I don’t know why.

SEAN January 25, 2016 - 9:37 am

Never could understand the tentative nature of the MTA when it comes to any type of innovation. This goes way beyond “not invented here” syndrome.

As we discussed a few days ago, the CTA with it’s own set of challenges has managed to innovate on several fronts from BRT to advanced fare collection & payment systems.

Brooklynite January 25, 2016 - 6:30 pm

Devil’s advocate – they tried innovation with the P-wires on the R44 fleet. They got burned, badly. They tried a new (Rockwell) truck design on the R46s, and got scalded even more severely. They have a history of trouble with untried new ideas. At the same time I agree, it’s ridiculous to be reinventing the wheel (or gangway in this case). Could some engineers from London not be brought in as advisers?

Caelestor January 25, 2016 - 9:55 am

It’s good that the MTA is finally exploring open gangways. I’d expect the R62 replacement to consist entirely of open gangways in order to alleviate overcrowding on the 4 / 5 trains, since I don’t think SAS Phase 3 will be completed until at least 2030.

Bob January 25, 2016 - 12:01 pm

About damn time!

I give it 20 years until most of the rolling stock is open gangway due to the capacity benefits. The technical challenges are myths.

AG January 25, 2016 - 6:32 pm

Well I hope you are right. I still won’t be retired by that point… I hope I will see the benefits.

Personnel January 25, 2016 - 12:25 pm

Can we please add this to the list that New York CAN’T have?

MTA, don’t get these sets please. We can’t afford it!

Benjamin Kabak January 25, 2016 - 12:32 pm

Care to explain more?

Personnel January 28, 2016 - 5:10 am

I forgot to add /sarcasm in my previous post.

Gary W January 25, 2016 - 12:57 pm

So one smelly homeless guy can upset a whole train instead of just a single car.
Sign me up!

Rich B January 25, 2016 - 1:09 pm

OR, open gangways make it much easier to move away from anyone smelly, obnoxious, or threatening. It’s actually a positive step in the direction of more pleasant and safe trips.

Don’t believe me? Just look at where these have already been deployed, which is everywhere else in the world. People like them. The layout works well.

Bolwerk January 25, 2016 - 1:30 pm

*eye roll*

Could just pay for the social services necessary to deal with homelessness and not have a homeless problem at all. It’s probably cheaper than the prosecution-industrial complex inept neoliberals prefer.

BoerumBum January 25, 2016 - 4:05 pm


pete January 26, 2016 - 3:28 am

Eliminate joy riding in the subway with mandatory exit swipes and metrocard inspectors who walk between cars like LIRR conductors and check metrocards for swipe in time. A $2.75 “ticket” gives you 4 hours (2:40 is the longest station pair, 241 street to far rockaway) inside the paid zone of the subway. Turnstyle jumping or walking through the door without paying will also be non-existent except for tourists who think there are no fare inspectors. Also token booth clerks can’t buzz in their friends for free but would have to give them a metrocard version of a block ticket http://s287.photobucket.com/us.....2.jpg.html and those can be counted.

BolwerTk January 26, 2016 - 9:54 am

So you want to pour how much manpower, capital investment, and money into preventing the 1%-2% of rides that actually involve fare invasion? Get a grip.

We have a perfectly simple tool for preventing fare evasion: fining the evaders who are caught enough to pay for the ones who are not caught.

pete January 26, 2016 - 6:25 pm


The homeless who stay in the subway for 9 or 18 hours have to go. No private business would allow what goes on in the subway.

Imagine that all a homeless person has to do, is buy a $100 American Airlines ticket, go through TSA security, and walk onto any plane that flys to anywhere, and sit down. There are no more gate agents, people are trusted to know they are boarding the right plane, like they are trusted in the subway to know they boarding the right train. When the plane lands, the homeless person get off, and walk onto another AA airplane, and fly to another random city. Only once they leave airside, which can be 24-72 hours into the future, do they need to pay for another $100 ticket to get back to airside and board any airplane they want. This is how the subway operates. The NYC subway is for transportation in name only, it really is the worlds largest feral homeless shelter. Every night I see homeless men squat and shit between the cars (F train). Or homeless women squat and piss on the platform infront of everyone (34th herald square). Every other city has policies to make it impossible to use the metro as a homeless shelter. Things like the metro closes at night (Europe/USA). Entry/exit swipes to make sure you didn’t exceed X hours in the system (USA). Exiting at your entry swipe station, is the MOST EXPENSIVE fare in the tariff (USA). Fare inspectors who walk between cars and demand your RFID card or your validated paper ticket (Europe). Forbidden to be on a train going towards your entry swipe station (Europe, I got a ticket for this in Europe, mailing a money order to Europe is a pain).

It is about time MTA say the subway is for transportation alone, and not a feral, unwatched, homeless shelter.

Brooklynite January 26, 2016 - 7:36 pm

This starts crossing the line into a problem of politics and social services rather than simply transportation. You’re right of course, the homeless/EDP in the subway should go, but the argument is that they have the right to be there, and hypothetical rules like “being smelly is forbidden” could not be enforced objectively. The closing of many mental institutions, and the rather poor condition of homeless shelters, also make it politically infeasible to implement such rules. The fixes you suggest are too expensive and disruptive for the gain that they will bring about. Even something that would eject all and only homeless people is problematic – they can simply hop the turnstile and re-enter, and arresting them gives them better shelter and food than they have in the subway in the first place.

I suppose this one is down to De Blasio and his homeless outreach programs more than the MTA.

adirondacker12800 January 26, 2016 - 8:24 pm

That and the homeless people in Austin or Tulsa or Little Rock or Memphis or… don’t have a subway to hang out in. And since almost everyone drives everywhere they are blissfully unaware of them.

AG January 26, 2016 - 9:42 pm

I was just in central Florida… The homeless are very much there for everyone to see who is driving. THey live on the sides of the road and often beg at the intersections a la the squegee men in NYC prior to the late 90’s. In fact – my aunt told me (as we stopped at a light to see three sleeping at a bus stop) that there were only 2 shelters open in the whole Osceola county – so you see them often on the street in Kissimmee.

If you go to LA – they are much more pervasive on the streets (even downtown) than they are on the subway in NYC. As to drivers – they sleep under MANY highway overpasses out there in LA. Drivers see them everyday. It’s false that NYC has more “problems” with it’s homeless than other cities.

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 3:41 am

Ronald Reagan is to blame for most of the homelessness problem, for dumping everyone from the mental institutions onto the street. And then cutting shelter funding.

Most of the rest of the homelessness problem is actually Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich’s fault for the “Welfare Reform” bill which basically eliminated welfare in the US.

pete January 27, 2016 - 5:48 pm

Not a single rule from other metros around the USA and world I mentioned says “homeless are forbidden”, they all say “the metro is solely for transportation”.

Another analogy, a homeless person gets in a NYC taxi and says “drive me to Washington DC [so I can sleep in the taxi for a couple hours], I dont need to prepay for the trip or show you I have the cash to do it as per NYC TLC rules”, at the other end in DC dash from the taxi without paying. If DC TLC has similar rule, the homeless person can repeat it going north. Private industry would never tolerate this.

Another “only for transportation” concept, but it is not retrofittable to NYC since it isn’t a fare media policy.

Russian metros segregate their escalators, once you get on an “up” escalator, you will forced to go landside and leave the system. There are fences and barriers in the “head house” that separate entering passengers and exit passengers. You can’t go back downstairs without going through the turnstyles (if you took the wrong direction, you must switch directions on the platform, not in the headhouse). Also line transfer corridors are single direction. You will get the look of death from everyone else if you stop walking, or attempt to walk the wrong way in the transfer tunnel/hallway.

The homeless on the street do not want to be arrested, they wont use the NYC shelter system because drugs and alcohol are forbidden in shelters and they are searched. Drugs and alcohol are too expensive in Rikers for them to afford. Hence they sleep on the street and subway.

Turnstyle hopping is nearly obsolete in NYC except for teenagers who do it as rebellious behavior. Asking for a swipe is the legal way to do it. Although asking for a swipe will become impossible with exit swipes.

Bolwerk January 26, 2016 - 10:48 pm

Evasion. Thank autocorrect.

Get them homes, group housing, nursing home care, dorms, whatever they need – it varies by case – and they’ll go. It’s not that hard. If anyone wants them on a train less than you, it’s them.

And, seriously, re tl;dr about planes: get a grip. Homeless mostly don’t do anything beyond offend your sub-bourgeois sensibilities (which should earn them a Nobel Prize in lulz). If homelessness bothers you, and you don’t want to find housing arrangements that work for them to get them off the subways, you’re just whining futilely.

AG January 27, 2016 - 4:38 pm

“It’s not that hard”…. Anytime anyone says that I cringe. No it’s not that easy. I work down the block from 2 shelters. Most of the men out there appear to have zero motivation during the day to do anything except smoke cigarettes and tell stories to each other. No – not all homeless are the same. Just like not all drug addicts are the same. Some want help and some couldn’t care less.

Bolwerk January 27, 2016 - 8:47 pm

It really is. So easy it should “[boggle] the mind why something so seemingly simple and helpful is so difficult in NYC.” Or America, really. It’s so easy that most of the developed world has done it to the point of decimating, sometimes maybe even all but entirely eliminating, that degree of poverty. Burning resources and human lives maintaining a nearly apartheid-level of occupation in poor communities and communities of color is much more difficult, violent, and expensive, and Americans don’t blink about that. Not to mention how the problem of homelessness is fed by making a huge percentage of your population unemployable because of arrest/conviction records. This is cringe-worthy, especially if you think people should be working.

But who cares about motivation? Not everyone is going to be motivated. Technology is eliminating both the need and opportunity to work. The neoliberal policy of imposing permanent growth recession on postindustrial economies for their own good is only helping along what would have happened anyway. But hey, once you start injecting morality and doctrinaire political ideology into economics, you get crappy results.

AG January 27, 2016 - 9:29 pm

Poverty has been erased nowhere… Not even in other first world nations. Urban riots in England in recent times as well as in Paris show their is plenty of anger and resentment. Vancouver which has wonderful quality of life has drug and homeless problems.
This nation might be “bad” in terms of other first world nations – but to insinuate those problems don’t exist elsewhere fights against reality.

Bolwerk January 28, 2016 - 10:14 am

Huh? Was that a deliberate straw man or did you just not read what I wrote? What I clearly said

decimating, sometimes maybe even all but entirely eliminating, that degree of poverty

would seem to explicitly acknowledge some degree of poverty still exists. A little bit of that is even the sort of street homelessness pete’s briefs are bunching over, though some cities really have erased that, so we know it’s possible. On the flip side, I guess poverty has actually gotten worse in the past few years, thanks to people like Cameron and Merkel.

I’m not sure I buy an inherent direct relationship between poverty and urban riots. Often enough these are about middle class anxieties, and other times they’re about ethnic anxieties whether severe poverty is a factor or not. Riots may involve “poor” people, but they almost certainly aren’t instigated by the utterly destitute.

Rich B January 26, 2016 - 6:53 pm

Exit swipes (or taps) are never going to happen in NYC. Too many stations are too small and/or too busy.

But a 4-hour limit enforced by roaming inspectors doing random checks… that’s not a bad idea. It might be possible with the current system. If not, a newer system should surely be able to do that.

Brooklynite January 26, 2016 - 7:37 pm

Ignoring the effects this would have on railfans or on passengers stuck in some long-term delay, how much money would this really raise to offset the cost of all the inspectors?

Rich B January 26, 2016 - 8:39 pm

If there are delays on a line, the inspectors could easily switch to a non-delayed line, and swipe info (entry station) would confirm if a passenger transferred from a delayed line.

The fine should be high to act as a deterrent. If few people actually pay it, that means it’s working.

But it could actually pay for itself quite easily. You don’t necessarily need all that many inspectors. The homeless are currently a major deterrent to taking the subway for many people, especially along certain lines and at certain times of day. People with money (and NYC has plenty of those) will choose Uber over the subway even if there’s traffic and they know it means their trip will take longer. Fix the smelly homeless problem and they might choose the subway instead.

adirondacker12800 January 26, 2016 - 9:53 pm

How are high fines going to deter homeless people?

mister January 27, 2016 - 12:49 am

I’m not really sure we should invest the kind of resources you are talking about just so that people who want to avoid the homeless can avoid the homeless. Homelessness is a problem that needs to be fixed, but not for the sake of snobs who have enough disposable income to ride Uber to avoid seeing the problem.

Bolwerk January 27, 2016 - 9:39 am

Yes, this.

People with chauvinist attitudes toward the homeless are exactly the sorts of people who we should be happy to lose to the suburbs and Florida. They’re probably NIMBYs too.

pete January 27, 2016 - 6:00 pm

BART has the “Excursion Fare” for railfans. Other metros just buy the unlimited card and remember to tap in and out occasionally. Note, some metros with aggressive ticket inspectors as I mentioned, your unlimited card must be mailed to you, and it has your name on it. It is a holographic paper pass similar to a MNRR/LIRR monthly. It can’t be bought a window, but you can fill out the application and pay for it. Having the discipline to panhandle long enough to save up for the unlimited ticket, vs buying a bag of drugs or alcohol, means the most problematic homeless are gone from the metro. There still will be some homeless with an unlimited card that neither smoke, drink, or do drugs, but nobody can see they are homeless, and therefore are irrelevant for discussion. Nobody cares what your 1040 says.

Teenagers who go into the subway to chill away from LEO, or simply because they are 13 years old and tougher than everyone else in the world, would also be stung by aggressive fare policies (they only get 3 free rides on weekdays from DOE on student MCs). Throw in Showtime too. But showtime is able to afford to swipe out and in at the end of the subway line.

adirondacker12800 January 26, 2016 - 7:37 pm

So after a four hour nap the homeless person swipes out, turns around and swipes in again.

Rich B January 26, 2016 - 8:41 pm

I’m sure some would. But many would not. It would make it a lot less attractive than it is now.

There’s basically no deterrent now. There should be something.

pete January 27, 2016 - 6:08 pm

King Cobra malt liquor is 99 cents. Subway is $2.75. I can get 3 King Cobras for 1 subway ride, what would I buy?

If the homeless want to legitimacy pay $2.75 for each one way ride between JC/WTC, Washington Heights and Far Rockaway or 179/CI (the 3 best lines for the homeless), you can’t stop them, they are buying transportation services and helping with the MTA budget.

Oh, BTW, if you take PATH to Newark you are force ejected out of airside and must pay to reenter, but it is the only PATH terminal that doesn’t allow you to go back. WTC/33/HBKN allow you to go backwards AFAIK. PANYNJ knows what they are doing, NYCT doesn’t.

Dexter January 25, 2016 - 1:01 pm

And official worried about how open gangways will handle tight curves have obviously not ridden the Paris Metro.

Tower18 January 25, 2016 - 3:45 pm

Or articulated buses, which turn much tighter than any train, and as far as I can tell, nobody has been crushed in the process.

mister January 25, 2016 - 1:18 pm

Ideally, we could order these sets at the front of the R211 order, test them and then determine if they will work for the entire R211 fleet. If that slows down the R211 order, it shouldn’t be a big problem since the cars being replaced are not in imminent danger of failing.

A bigger disappointment here is the fact that they are ordering 60′ cars instead of 75′ cars. MTA knows that this is going to cost something like 15% more over the life of fleet, and that capital dollars are hard to come by, but they’re forging ahead anyway.

MF January 25, 2016 - 2:23 pm

The 75-foot car experiment was a failure. They are incompatible with half the B-division, which means we have to manage three fleets instead of two. And eight fewer doors per side means exponentially longer dwell times at rush hours (turns out it doesn’t scale linearly – oops!) And given that the end excess around curves is so large that car-end doors must be locked, it remains unknown whether an open-gangway version of a 75-foot car would even be possible within NYCT’s safety guidelines.

Standardized car lengths and door layouts throughout the B-division also make PSDs a possibility (though remote) in the future.

mister January 25, 2016 - 10:42 pm

No, it was certainly not a failure.

The ONLY place the 75′ cars cannot operate is the BMT Eastern division: the J/M/Z lines east of the Williamsburg bridge and the L line. That’s hardly half of the B division. Furthermore, since the MTA began unitizing their trains, the Eastern Division fleet is incompatible with the rest of the system anyway. The 4 car sets of the Eastern Division can’t be used to make service anywhere else, and the 5 car sets in the rest of the system certainly can’t be used on the Eastern Division unless you send them to the shops and render 20% of the consist useless. So the entire compatibility argument is pretty much irrelevant these days. As for number of doors per car, there is no rule that the 75′ cars have to have 4 pairs of doors per side.

Could an open gangway concept work for these cars? Who knows. But saving 15% of Billions of dollars in cost could certainly make a study to test the concept worthwhile. Why not design a test and implement it on a set of R46s after they are retired? And PSDs can work with varying door locations. The rationale behind going with an all 60′ fleet would be okay if we had all the funding in the world, but with a system that consistently deprives MTA of cash, maybe we shouldn’t make decisions that increase capital and operating costs by significant percentages.

pete January 26, 2016 - 3:35 am

The City Hall and 5th Ave 59th stations have curves that require that doors be locked on 75 footers. Hence the 75 footers are failures until those tunnels are redigged to be straighter.

Brooklynite January 26, 2016 - 1:58 pm

On the other hand, Toronto has 75-foot cars with open gangways. I don’t have info on how sharp the curves there are offhand, but it’s something work looking at.

John S January 25, 2016 - 1:22 pm

New? We’ve had articulated buses with the same layout for years.

SEAN January 25, 2016 - 4:13 pm

Artix have been around since 1978. The first system to deploy them was Seattle’s King County Metro & operates the largest fleet in the country today. There are plenty of routes in NYC that could benefit if artix were used.

pete January 26, 2016 - 3:38 am

Articulated buses are bought by transit agencies to CUT bus frequencies. Example CTTransit. They aren’t improvements. Load guidelines say people must be standing on the buses. If the TA finds out people ARENT standing on the buses, they will cut service frequency until they are standing.

SEAN January 26, 2016 - 11:47 am

That is such bullshit, I cant believe that was posted. In many cases service frequency needs to be increased not decreased once artix are introduced.

In CT, artix were introduced for two applications – FasTrack a BRT service Between New Britten & Hartford as well as Route 1 service between Port Chester & Norwalk as lines 11/ 41 & NCC Flyer line 45.

Brooklynite January 26, 2016 - 2:00 pm

Why would frequency necessarily need to be increased? IIRC NYCT Bus planning standards specify 4 articulated buses for every 5 standard ones, which is a 20% frequency cut.

SEAN January 26, 2016 - 8:45 pm

Take a trip to Westchester County & ride the Bee-line bus & it will only take you a few seconds to understand what I’m talking about.

Take the 4 to Bedford Park & board a #20 bus to white Plains & you will see just how quickly the bus becomes standing room only once it leaves Woodlawn. It has become so busy do to Empire City casino that Cross County SC short turns were added.

mister January 27, 2016 - 12:51 am

How does that anecdotal evidence support that argument that articulated buses result in the need to increase frequency? Yes, the existing Artics on the line are getting full; if they were using standard buses, then you would need more of them to accommodate the same number of people.

pete January 27, 2016 - 6:13 pm

CTTransit put artics on the 41 bus, the number one bus of CTTransit, so they don’t have to increase frequency above THREE buses an hour. Thats TWENTY minutes between buses during rush hour. Route 41 gets so much usage it needs 10 minute or less bus service, but CTTransit is cheap. Midday the 41 is standing room only with artics, at TWO TWO!! frickin buses per hour.

CTTransit only bought artics so they dont have to pay more bus drivers, not for the passengers convenience.

Samuel January 25, 2016 - 4:34 pm

How about make the seats on the R46 and R68 on the R211 and add a charging USB doc around the area of the turned seats it makes it more interesting

Will January 25, 2016 - 4:37 pm

Mr. Kabak,

I found this article from Twitter, and everything you said makes sense. Do you email your articles to the MTA? Is there any evidence they read your work?

Benjamin Kabak January 25, 2016 - 4:40 pm

Will, Thanks! They read my work every day. It’s part of the press clippings their internal team puts together in the morning. So yes, they’ll see what I’ve had to say here.

BKTrain January 25, 2016 - 5:24 pm

These photographs from Antenna Design are 3 years old and not reflective of what the gangway will actually look like. It will be significantly narrower than what is depicted in the photo in the presentation from the board meeting earlier today. Tight curves (e.g. s curve near city hall on the R line, the switch between Jay St-Metrotech and Bergen on the F) will make gangway smaller but still effective.

1 ten car open-gangway train out of roughly 100 trains ordered. Quite a sad state of affairs. These trains are supposed to run for 50 years, so most of us will be dead by the time they get open gangways on all the lines.

The United States is so far behind regarding train technology that our transit systems are the last in the world that still buy cars without open gangway (WMATA and BART’s recent procurements come to mind). Kawasaki doesn’t even produce cars without gangways except in the United States.

bigbellymon4 January 25, 2016 - 9:15 pm

The gangway doesn’t have to be significantly narrower. Remember, they will 60-foot cars so there won’t that much of an overhang as a 75-foot car.

mister January 25, 2016 - 10:28 pm

I saw the same thing. A smaller open gangway, or removing it entirely and simply having larger windows between the cars.

AG January 25, 2016 - 6:28 pm

Like many other things – it boggles the mind why something so seemingly simple and helpful is so difficult in NYC…
Well just like Cuomo twisted arms to get them to speed up countdown clocks and 21st century payment systems – maybe he can do the same with this (and CBTC).

Talk of the Governor – Ben – the RFP for Penn/Empire Complex is out:


SEAN January 25, 2016 - 8:20 pm

Just skimmed through the RFP & it’s quite interesting. Here are a few takeaways…

1. This doesn’t involve NJ Transit.

2. Even though the Farley building is across from Penn Station, access to the 1, 2 & 3 & the 7th avenue entrance will be maintained along with additional entry points.3

3. The possible closure of 33rd Street from 7th to 8th as a pedestrian way along with street level improvements including daylighting.

4. No mention of relocation of MSG except for the theatre.

AG January 25, 2016 - 9:40 pm

submission date is april – so we will see

SEAN January 26, 2016 - 9:35 am

If someone were to read between the tracks so to speak, they would realize there are numerous moving parts that need to be carefully coordenated.

Rex January 25, 2016 - 7:34 pm

How depressing, I was back in London and Paris at Christmas and the relative modernity of their subway systems compared to New York was shocking
Like several others above I am suffering from not in my working lifetime shock, New York continues to have a glamour that dazzles but compare it to London in my lifetime
London has cross rail, the jubilee line extension, the DLR, new river crossings, HSR to Paris in under an hour and a half and many other tech advances, countdown clocks and the oyster system etc etc
NYC not so much, will the PABT be replaced before I retire in twenty years, I doubt it
I do appreciate that continue to point out the most commonsensical of arguments which seem to receive no traction elsewhere

Nathanael February 8, 2016 - 3:47 am

London’s Tube in 1990 was nicer than the NYC Subway is now. in every way, shape, and form.

Oh. And 100% of their taxis were wheelchair accessible. That’s in *1990*.

Conclusion: NYC transportation SUCKS. I don’t know how to get a government for NYC which will make it stop sucking.

AMH January 26, 2016 - 3:21 pm

Amazing quote from Andrew Albert, an MTA board member, via the News.

“It’s great benefit to salespersons, performers and others,” he said, “but I’m just wondering what you think it is for riders.”

It’s a lot more space for us, you idiot!

Rich B January 26, 2016 - 3:30 pm

That is amazing. Has the benefit of extra train capacity – the primary benefit, by any measure – seriously not been… articulated… to the board?

Bob January 27, 2016 - 2:33 pm

Wow. Just wow. And this guy is really on the MTA board?


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