2006_02_mtasign.jpg

The Daily News has a cool article about innovations that the MTA is looking at for the subway system's future. Granted, many won't happen until, oh, at least two or three decades from now, but some are in allegedly in the concept stage for the MTA, though some of these can be experienced at subway systems in the U.S. and abroad:

- Automated glass doors separating platforms from the tracks.
- Interactive maps - The tracking devices not only would show you where your train is but also would show where other trains are in the system — allowing you to better time transfers.
- Automated controls (like the OPTO, maybe)
- Seamless wireless coverage for cell phones and two-way pagers. The available technology is widespread in Seoul. Meanwhile, in New York City, the TA is seeking proposals for cell phone service in stations only.
- High-speed escalators to shuttle passengers from stations deep underground
- More natural lighting (like the planned Fulton Street Transit Center)and air conditioning
- Solar energy (like at Stillwell Avenue at Coney Island)

Robert Paaswell

(former executive director of the Chicago Transit Authority; currently director of City College's University Transportation Research Center) says, "If you want to know what New York City subways are going to look like in 20 years, go to Hong Kong." We have, and you can see their version of a "smart pass," as well as glass walls and doors between platform and tracks and warning about escalators here (their subways are also like one continuous train car, since they are computer operated - it's like a sinuous tunnel).

Which of these innovations do you like the most? Gothamist likes interactive maps and glass doors - and the air conditioning would be lovely too. Another interesting point the article makes is that the Smart-Pass technology might not be fully installed until 2025. While that sounds like a long way off, this photograph by Joe Schumacher of a stairwell at the Times Square station shows that even projects that don't involve technology can take forever. We'd really like to develop an MTA Time Calculator, which would translate what the MTA says to real time (for instance, the Fulton Street Transit Center already has delays).