Could This Subway Car Save NYC Transit? – Cheddar Explains


[MUSIC] The New York City subway system. [MUSIC]. Used by almost 8 million riders every weekday, it serves as a staple in the Big Apple. On a good day, you can get a good seat, read your book, get a head on emails, and at the very least, not have to deal with traffic. But more often than not, it look something like this. Signal problems and schedule changes aside, the layout of the subway car has a huge effect on the commutes and rides of billions of people each year. So New York City is looking to change that by creating the perfect subway car layout. [MUSIC]. Subway delays are an enormously frustrating aspect of our commute. Every day it seems like there’s something new that slowing us down. But what is the main culprit? According to data from the MTA, the governing authority of the New York City subway system, it’s not just the machinery behind the 114 year old system to blame, but also overcrowding. The number of passengers are reaching all time highs. More riders getting on and off the subway means longer dwell times, the time a train spends in the station unloading and loading, which can add up to significant delays over time. The MTA is well aware of the problem that overcrowding has on our commutes, and they’re still trying to fix it by designing the perfect subway car. Just recently, in October of 2017, they removed seats from 100 of the 260 E trains in New York City to see how riders would respond. They calculated that with fewer seats, the trains could accommodate between 80 and 100 more people, maximizing efficiency. [NOISE]. Our data from their web site shows that the percentage of trips arriving on time went up from 77.3 percent to 83.2 percent over a year and a half. The MTA has said that there are too many variables to know for sure that the removal of seats on the E trains actually helped with overcrowding problems. The problem with overcrowding is that the growing population is being shoved under train designs that haven’t changed much since they debuted in the early 1900s. There wasn’t just one transit authority company like we have today, but three competing transit authorities with different types of car designs. The number trains we ride today are based off the IRT’s Lo-V subway from 1916. They made the tunnels narrower so the other competing transit authorities couldn’t bring their larger cars into their territory. The IRT train was also built for speed, not for comfortability. Because the cars were narrower and shorter, they decided longitudinal seating was the most efficient. The design hasn’t really changed much since. [MUSIC]. However, the BMT’s competing car was built for comfortability, and they had a much larger car to design with. To make a more comfortable car, the designers gave it transverse bench seating scattered throughout the car. If it looks familiar, that’s because the majority of the letter cars today are based off this car’s design. In 1940, the city’s main transit company, IND, bought out both of the other companies, and created the one transit authority we know today. Any car design that came after that was just a variation based off of these designs. Since then, small changes in pole and door placement were made based off of observations of human behavior. In the winter of 2011 to 2012, researchers from the Transportation Research Board rode te New York City subway system, and observed the actions of every rider. Where they stood, where they sat, for how long. The study was conducted outside of rush hour, because as the authors said, riders in overcrowded cars have virtually no choice in sitting. Their findings? No shocker here. People want to be alone. They noticed that one, New York City passengers preferred to stand near and crowd the door areas instead of standing in the middle of the car, even if there’s more space there. Two, if they are in the middle of the car though, they preferred spots where they can hold on to vertical poles, rather than holding the horizontal ones above the seats. Three, they will do just about anything to avoid the middle seat. Choosing ones that are on the end up against partitions and poles instead of another person. This is what the Transportation Research Board said the cars of the future should look like. One, to fix the door crowding, they would install cars with asymmetrical door placements that will then force passengers away from the doors. Two, not only are they going to install a few more poles and dramatically switch off their placements, but they’re installing branching poles and changing the location and amount of overhead bars. Three, they’re going to put poles in the middle of the seat pairs, rather than at the ends since people like sitting against poles and partitions. Doing this will minimize the number of middle seats where you’re squished between two people. They’re also creating transverse or airline-style seating to reduce middle seats as well. If you look closely at the design, there are no middle seats at all while the number of seats altogether remain the same; 44 versus 44. But this perfect subway layout isn’t what the MTA chose. Governor Cuomo and the MTA revealed designs in 2016 for a different subway car layout. The R-211 cars which started being designed in 2012, will have wider doors and a more open layout. According to the MTA, they’re going to invest $3.68 billion into the order. Of the 1050 subway cars that the MTA will buy, at least 535 of them will feature open gangway style doors. That will allow riders to walk from one end to the other without having to deal with doors. A design that’s frequently used in London, Paris, Toronto, and Tokyo. The unusable gaps we currently have between subway cars can measure up to five feet. So the open style will allow 10 percent more space, and we’ll get riders to spread out more evenly through the train. Seats will flip up, poles will be designed to fit more hands, and strap hangers will be able to board quicker. The quick boarding will cut down on the roughly 30 seconds it takes a train to leave the station, or dwell time. New York City is scheduled to get the first 10 R-211 cars in July of 2020. Before the end of 2022, the MTA will have to decide whether it wants to continue with the open gangway designs, or go back to closed ended trains. Maybe before the end of 2022, the MTA will take another look at the Transportation Research Board’s findings. But until then, we’re kind of stuck with the middle seat. [MUSIC]. Thank you for watching. Please be sure to like, comment, and subscribe to our channel. 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About the Author: Michael Flood

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