Wednesday, June 02, 2004

A Subway Wish List

What follows is a wish list of some ways the subways in New York City can become more pleasant. I am putting these down without regard to cost-effectiveness, though if the subway system is more pleasant, there is a good chance ridership, and therefore revenue, would go up:

  • Make them quieter. What is especially loud and disturbing is the express trains hurtling through local stations. Maybe there are new wheel technologies that could be applied on the current tracks. The Paris Metro runs on rubber wheels. Another option would be to fit ceilings and pillars (including those separating tracks) with sound-absorbing materials. It is possible that there are hard rubbers or polymers that could do this while at the same time being extremely durable and easily washable.

  • Fix the sound systems. The loudspeakers in the stations sound like tin cans. Coupled with the echo-chamber nature of the stations (see above), this makes announcements at most locations incomprehensible. Make sure that the system is set to the appropriate loudness.

  • Include digital visual signage for announcements. New York City is far behind almost every other metro system when it comes to this. The signage can normally give the current time, and wait times for trains coming to that platform. It can give announcements about delays or route changes. Up-to-the-minute visual signage is also critical for people who are deaf. By the same token, it should not replace voice announcements, which are critical to blind people.

  • Daylight stations more. Those with darkening grills that let air in might be replaced by something that allows more light through. Or the ceilingway between the grills and the stations can be modified to allow more light. Utilize plexiglass, metal grilling, and maybe even mirrors to get more natural sunlight into the train stations, and maybe even along the tracks. Along with more sunlight will come lower energy consumption, as well.

  • Electric lighting should use full-spectrum bulbs, meaning light bulbs that emit the same spectrum of visible light as the sun. Alternately, or as a complement, various colors of lighting can be used in various arrangements to make the lighting of stations and trains more interesting and inviting, while still conveying a sense of comfort and security.

  • Make them free. This contradicts my argument about revenue going up, although there might be a way to obtain more public moneys as ridership inevitably goes up. Making subways free will eliminate turnstile jams. It will eliminate frustrations with faulty Metrocards, Metrocard readers, and vending machines. Stress levels associated with using the subway system will decrease.

  • Have personable employees at every station, and maybe every platform, to give information to riders. They could be stationed at small kiosks on each platform, and would also serve as a visible sign of security for riders at all times of the day and night.

  • Make all stations and trains easily wheelchair accessible. This will not only aid people who use wheelchairs, it will also be a boon to the many people who push carts and baby carriages and the like. And will allow ambulatory people with difficulties walking to get around the subway system more easily. This will also mean less jams on stairways, that now act as bottlenecks trying to get to and from trains.

  • Make the system much more extensive. Add the Second Avenue line, yes. But also add lines in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. And not simply all radiating out out of Manhattan. It should be easier to go places between and within boroughs outside of Manhattan.

  • These measures, and more, would make people's subway experience more agreeable, and possibly even pleasurable, and would go far toward upgrading the quality of life in New York City.


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