2005_05_unmanned.jpgThe MTA and riders will be entering another new era of subway service as token booth clerks start to move outside to help customers and new unmanned token booth kiosks are unveiled. NYC Transit President Lawrence Reuter said that since most riders use unlimited ride cards, token booth clerks have been selling less cards - and now they'll be able to help commuters who swipe swipe swipe to no avail. The booths are a new addition to the MTA's plans to eliminate token booths; originally, the MTA wanted to save money by getting rid of the booths, but when a man died at a station where there was no clerk on duty, they rethought things and won't end up saving money, chalking it up to providing better customer service.

2005_05_unmannedbooth.JPGThe new booths are red, with signs directing people to where they can buy Metrocards and where to find a clerk; the clerks will also be able to go inside the booths to make emergency calls. The signs should be hilarious: One says, "I am in the station assisting customers. You'll recognize me by my burgundy blazer/vest." Burgundy blazers! The transit union isn't thrilled with the move, but the Straphangers told the NY Times, "What started as an exercise in budget cutting and personnel reduction has become a way to serve customers."

The "redployed" token booth clerks and new booths can be seen on May 22 at these stations: Jay Street/Borough Hall, Union Square, 23rd Street and Lexington, Herald Square, Penn Station, Rockefeller Center, Chambers Street (J,M,Z) and Delancey Street. And if you love taking pictures of the subway, join The NYC Subway group on Flickr.

Image of subway clerk helping out riders from ABC Eyewitness News; image of new token booths from NY1