Home Rolling Stock Link: The Times heads to Toronto to see some open gangways

Link: The Times heads to Toronto to see some open gangways

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

New NYC subway cars will feature open gangways and belly-aching over the design is a symptom of New York exceptionalism.

A few weeks ago, New Yorkers caught their first real collective glimpse of the MTA’s next-generation rolling stock. Pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as part of his plan to bring more customer-facing initiatives to the forefront, the renderings were notable not only for their new color scheme but also for the open gangways, an accordion-like design that essentially creates one super-long subway by opening up the passageways between individual cars. It’s a standard design the world over that can provide capacity increases by up to 10 percent, but U.S. transit agencies have been notably slow to adopt the design.

With word of open gangways heading New York’s way, the same old voices from people who feel that what works elsewhere can’t work in New York have risen in unity to bemoan our articulated future. A sampling of recent comments on The Times website provides a litany of these complaints. What about noises from buskers? Showtime crews? Panhandlers? Stinky residents of the subways? Broken air conditioners? How will the special butterflies of New York City survive? To do some myth-busting, Emma Fitzsimmons of The Times journeyed to the closest spot with open gangway cars and filed a report from Toronto, where the new design is very popular. As to the concerns raised by New Yorkers, Toronto officials were dismissive.

Some riders in New York have raised concerns that regular subway annoyances — from “showtime” dancers to misbehaving riders — might now become the whole train’s problem, instead of being contained to one car. Andy Byford, the chief executive of the Toronto Transit Commission and an enthusiastic evangelist for improving the system, dismissed those fears, saying riders could easily escape unpleasant situations in the new cars. “You’re not then trapped in a single carriage,” Mr. Byford said from his office atop the Davisville station north of downtown Toronto. “You can get up and move.”

If a rider urinates or vomits, someone could simply walk away, rather than waiting for a station and darting from one car to another…One downside is that if a train has a technical problem, workers must remove the entire six-car train from service, Mr. Byford said, instead of separating a pair of cars and replacing them. But over all, he said, the benefits have outweighed the drawbacks…

American transit officials have had reservations about whether the design could work on the nation’s aging subways and whether ridership levels warrant the expense of switching to the new cars, said Randy Clarke, a safety and operations expert at the American Public Transportation Association. In Boston, subway officials considered the idea for new cars on two lines but decided against it. Officials in New York have worked with engineering consultants on the plans and are confident the design is feasible, even though the subway is an older system, Ms. Hakim said.

In Toronto, the best sign of the cars’ popularity is that riders whose lines do not have the trains are pleading for them. Sygmund Gaskin, 45, said he wished the older trains on his Bloor-Danforth Line could be replaced with the new cars. “I don’t know why it takes so long to get them for this line,” he said. “How come we don’t have them here as well?”

Of course, common-sense reporting from cities in which these cars have been embraced for years hasn’t persuaded the critics. The comments on Fitzsimmons’ article is just the surface of “Not-Invented-Here” syndrome. Others even proclaim New York to be just too mean-spirited for open gangways to work here. Some people just won’t believe it until they see, but thankfully, they’ll be seeing it soon enough.

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Stewart Clamen August 23, 2016 - 2:32 pm

Ftr, Montreal began deploying train sets with open gangways in February

Peter August 23, 2016 - 3:22 pm

Have these people ever traveled, anywhere? Open gangways are the norm in practically every country I’ve been to in Asia and Europe (quite a number btw). Lots of good comments on this article about it: http://www.thetransportpolitic.....-gangways/

rustonite August 23, 2016 - 4:50 pm

something like 70% of Americans don’t have passports, and the rest rarely travel. so, no.

webster August 24, 2016 - 8:18 am

It’s something more like < 60%, and even if all of Americans owned passports, very few would be traveling internationally, while the vast majority of those who did so would overwhelmingly be going to Canada and Mexico, in any case.

That latter point is probably more salient.

webster August 24, 2016 - 8:11 am

I think it’s a bit of a broader issue, no?

It always appears transit agencies here are a decade or so behind when it comes to rolling stock (and other technological) advances. Whether that has to do with legacy comparabilities or not, they tend to drag their feet when it comes to fleet modernization – one only need look at the “common design language” of subway fleets in the U.S. compared to other large markets to see that there is a weird insistence to stick to what one knows.

I’m familiar with that article and, looking at the data again, I came away with the same conclusion as the first time: there seem to have been 3 broad waves: late 90s-early ’00s, late 00’s-2010*, and roughly now- 2020s.

I would honestly expect most American agencies to fall somewhere towards the end of the third wave, which seems to be the case, for NYC at least.

For me, the more prescient thing to look at is (disregarding new metros built during this time, of course) the span of time between adopting a given practice/technology and replacing said practice/technology (the period of transition being of some importance, as well).

Otherwise, it’s like zooming in on a graph that shows a 2% spike in violent crime, without also establishing that the overall decades-long trend in such crime has been a 50% reduction.

I would expect NYMTA to move at about the speed they’re going. The real question is how to get them to move in ways that allow them to anticipate future developments. I don’t know enough about the most recent acquisitions, since the R142s enough to really gauge what extenuating circumstances led them to continue purchasing non-articulated cars, over the last 15 years. I suspect it would probably be something in the realm of maintenance and operations considering how old the overall fleet was, at the time.

It might be just me, but the finally seem to be falling into a regular pattern of rolling stock acquisition, which should help them keep pace, down the road, at the very least.

* of special note due to the large increase in metro construction, in China.

Alex M. August 23, 2016 - 4:38 pm

We had something similar in the 30s with the D-Type Triplex cars. Ita just a modern version of it.

John-2 August 24, 2016 - 1:29 pm

The Times could have saved the plane fare to Toronto by just going to the Transit Museum to get a picture of the D-Types, to go along with a story of how the city had open gangway subway cars in service almost 90 years ago, but that the people running the IND didn’t want any to order any non-standard rail cars, after they gained working control of the BMT following unification in 1940.

j.b. diGriz August 23, 2016 - 4:53 pm

I was on the Thameslink this past weekend, and the open gangway cars were amazing. They told you which of the cars was more crowded/least crowded, next stops, etc.

j.b. diGriz August 23, 2016 - 4:55 pm

Seriously, who look their nose down at 5-10% passenger capacity increases without much in the way of infrastructure? We should have started ordering them 15 years ago.

Andrew August 23, 2016 - 8:28 pm

It’s a standard design the world over

There’s pretty much no such thing as a standard design for subway cars, since each system has different geometric constraints. (Maybe Baltimore and Miami are a rare exception?)

I think you mean that it’s a common design element.

that can provide capacity increases by up to 10 percent

Show your math. Every time I’ve tried, I’ve come up with numbers far short of 10%.

Here’s my math. In order to achieve the supposed 10% capacity increase, the gangways will need to be 13.6 feet wide – between cars that are only 10 feet wide in the first place!

Open gangways are great. I look forward to seeing them here in New York. But what makes them great isn’t a massive capacity increase. If you’re anticipating a capacity increase of anywhere near 10%, expect to be disappointed.

Adam Halverson August 24, 2016 - 6:10 am

The newest subway cars (individually) have a max. capacity of anywhere from 175-250 – while five cars collectively would hold 875-1250, assuming the description is accurate, the open gangway system would expand those (theoretically speaking) to up to about 960-1375, or a difference of 85-125. With there being four links (nodes) in each five-car system, that’s an additional 21-31 people per node.

Your math was correct in approximating the additional 5 feet of space per node on an open gangway system, but it appears that there was a mistake on calculating the amount of square footage added per node. Since open gangways can be designed to be close to full width, If each car is 10 feet wide, that’s up to about an additional 50 square feet per node, or up to about 200 square feet overall. Given how packed subway cars can be during rush hour, it’s reasonable to think that 85 additional people could fit within 200 square feet of additional space (here, using the strict interpretation of “up to 10%” – as, it will be 10% or lower)

Adam Halverson August 24, 2016 - 6:18 am

Also, one other thing to factor in here, is the fact that the density of people within each node can be higher than the rest of the train, as seats reduce the overall density of the car, where they are placed – 2.85 square feet per person within the existing sections of each car (average), and 2.35 square feet per person within the new open gangway section, where there will not be any seats (I would presume)

Eric August 25, 2016 - 10:48 am

Also, on a closed-gangway train, it is unlikely that all cars will be equally full. Some cars will be crush-loaded and slow the whole train down, even though other cars will still have open space.

On an open-gangway train, if one car is fuller than others, passengers will move between cars until they are equally full. So space is not wasted on partially-full cars, and the train as a whole carries more people.

johndmuller August 23, 2016 - 8:42 pm

It seems to me that they’re going overboard with cramming as many people into each car as possible. If there is going to be more space to stand because of the new space from between the cars, do they also need to take away seat space on either side of every door (an extra -16 seats per car)?

Keeping the ROW fixed up enough to run more trains faster would allow for some additional “comfort” for the passengers, if that word is still in anyone’s transit vocabulary. Back in the good ole days, they were apparently able to run trains at at tighter headways and move comparable numbers of people in rolling stock that had worse acceleration/deceleration, but still managed with something like 4 across seating.

Astoria rider August 24, 2016 - 7:39 am

Open gangways is now going “overboard”? What train do you take every morning…the C?

Tower18 August 24, 2016 - 11:48 am

Well, right now, our choices seem to be “crammed into the car” or “left on the platform” and choosing between those two, crammed into the car seems to be the best option, considering that NYC is unable to run trains at reasonable rush period headways (for a multitude of good, and bad, reasons).

Consider that London maintains ~3min headways *OFF PEAK* on many lines.

tacony August 24, 2016 - 2:22 pm

Note that the Toronto subway also has better headways than we do. Open gangways and more frequent trains! Canada is a great place.

pete August 24, 2016 - 7:19 pm

The real purpose of open gangways is to decrease train frequency even further because once you apply the “loading guidelines”, they require that you remove trains until everyone is packed like sardines again until you reach 20 minutes between trains.

Captain Logic September 16, 2016 - 9:08 am

Open gangways are part of it, but the important thing is that in Toronto THERE ARE NO POLES. The MTA has a problem with insisting on having poles, which in crowded trains turn into human blockades, creating low-density spaces in the middle and crush zones at the doors. The whole open-gangway concept will be pointless if you can’t disperse the crowds to even out density.


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