New York City’s subway system is remarkable, but there’s lots of room for improvement: Trains are often delayed, slow, crowded, and dirty.
Instead of complaining, Randy Gregory II, an Arizona native who moved to Queens about a year ago, came up with solutions. Lots of them.
The result is “100 Improvements to the New York Subway”.
The project was born from an assignment for Gregory’s Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts: Choose something, and do it every day for 100 days. His classmates’ projects included interviewing 100 homeless New Yorkers and creating 100 brand-related puns.
Gregory’s ideas range from big and expensive — new tunnels from Manhattan and Brooklyn to Staten Island — to little and cheap, like putting hand sanitizer in stations.
Each day, he posted a new idea to his Tumblr. About halfway through it started gaining popular attention, thanks to a Reddit post. The response to the project took Gregory by surprise, but it made sense. “It hit a nerve point in New Yorkers,” he said. Just about everyone cares about the subway.
That attention culminated in a one-night exhibition hosted by the Riders Alliance, a grassroots organisation of subway and bus riders in New York. John Raskin, executive director of the group, told us it was a chance to highlight creative ways to make things better.
“Randy’s ideas reach an audience that’s not the standard crowd at community board meetings and legislative hearings, so we thought it was a good opportunity to connect that group with the grassroots advocacy that can turn ideas into reality.”
Awesomely Simple Ideas
Asked which of his suggestions he would most like to see implemented, Gregory went with a new MetroCard equipped with an RFID chip, like the Oyster card used in London. It gets people through the entrance more quickly, and it eliminates the risk of walking into a turnstile if you don’t realise you mis-swiped your card.
And he’s onto something: In its recent Capital Needs Assessment report, the MTA notes that such technology will be put into place over the next 20 years.
But Gregory’s favourite idea is #63: Painting stations in the colour of the line they serve. A splash of colour — especially on the orange lines — can change the experience of waiting underground. Admittedly, it would work better on the orange B, D, F, and M lines than on the brown J and Z.
Other awesomely simple ideas from Gregory including putting hand sanitizer on subway platforms, making turnstile error messages clearer, improving directions in stations, and putting bus schedules on subway platforms.
From Paper To Reality
The best part? Some of these ideas may be put into place. Gregory earned himself a meeting with the MTA, and came away optimistic. “They want these kinds of innovations,” he said, but budgetary and bureaucratic problems make implementing them difficult.
MTA spokesperson Adam Lisberg confirmed the organisation is considering some of Gregory’s ideas. “This is something we want to look at,” he said. “We certainly have no monopoly on good ideas.”
For serious consideration, each suggestion must do three things, Lisberg explained: provide real a benefit to passengers, be affordable, and not take away resources from other projects. The simplest of Gregory’s ideas — like more colourful stations and marking cardinal directions — tick those boxes.
The MTA is already tackling two large projects, the Second Avenue Subway and connecting the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal. They will yield big benefits for riders, but are years from completion. So don’t expect a new tunnel to Staten Island anytime soon.
In the meantime, the best we can hope for are the little, doable things. Let’s hope the MTA gets painting soon.
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