TreeHugger previously covered the news that New York City was going to try out the open-gangway subway cars that are used in other cities around the world, including Toronto, where I have used them many times. Now it turns out that they are diving right in and ordering 1025 of them. This is excellent news; they are wonderful things. Over on Slate, Henry Grabar writes about a worry about them:
In fact, it does make life a lot easier for the panhandlers, giving them a bigger market. This is real. However it also makes it much easier for a transit cop to get to them, and if they are really annoying, for the passenger to move away from them. It works both ways. The new cars are also loaded with cameras.
Over the next few days, tabloid columnists will probably start the drumbeat against the open gangway trains, arguing—as one of my colleagues did this morning—that they will provide a fertile habitat for New York’s “unusually colorful culture of vagrancy.”
Don’t believe it. New train designs are the fastest way to increase the capacity of the subway, and congestion and the delays it creates—not “It’s Showtime!” or kids selling Peanut M&Ms—is the great straphanger hazard.
I do hope that New York reconsiders the poles in the middle of the cars; in Toronto, they are wide open and clear down the middle. This is important because there is a lot of movement among the cars, and those poles and the people clinging to them are going to be smack in the middle. When it is not rush hour and there is room to move, people tend to spread out and you do not get packed cars next to empty ones.
There are also lots of people, like me, who know where to stand to get off closest to the exit from the platform, perhaps to be first on the connecting bus or just get out faster. So I might get on at one end of the train but know that I want to be in the last car on the way home because then I can race up the escalator. There is a LOT of movement in the train.
I find it interesting that the cars all have WiFi and USB outlets, with Governor Cuomo saying “People want to work, and they want their device to work 24 hours a day. There has to be WiFi, and there need to be charging ports.” This proves once again that Taras Grescoe was so prescient in that great tweet: