The New York City subway network is one of the oldest rapid transit systems in the world, and it is about to be transformed into a model of ‘Smart City’ design.
A broad agenda of new features and hardware intended to enhance the user’s experience, and increase efficiency will be rolled out over the next five years.
Connectivity and innovative technology figure prominently in the scheme launched this week by New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo.
31 stations will get a ‘face-lift’ immediately.
This includes a sleek new ‘look’ and 21st Century amenities like digital signage with real-time updates, countdown clocks, improved reception for mobiles, and WiFi.
A further 170 stations in the network will receive ‘renewal work’.
New maps will show the entire neighbourhood surrounding each station making the network more user-friendly for both visitors and regular commuters.
The NYC subway runs 24/7 – one of the few services in the world that does.
But it has not always been famous for the most flattering of reasons, something the MTA acknowledged in their announcement.
“New York deserves a world-class transportation network, worthy of its role as the heartbeat of the 21st Century economy,” Cuomo told media.
“The MTA system itself was designed at a much, much different time for a fraction of the number of people,” he said.
He said that the MTA team had emerged with a plan that “incorporates best practices from global transit systems, and focusing on our core mission to renew, enhance, and expand.”
Congestion, poor comfort, and an antiquated signal system are some of the pain points addressed in the new program.
Two leading firms, Antenna Design and CH2M, an engineering consultant, provided the MTA with a ‘reimagined’ subway car.
The authorities plan to commission 1,025 of these trains, which boast WiFi, USB chargers, digital advertisements, illuminated door opening alerts and security cameras.
They will also have wider doors – a better way to expedite passenger traffic and save on delays – and include a feature called ‘the open car end’, already in use in Toronto, Paris, and London.
This design removes the door from the carriage, allowing easy access from car to car and increasing capacity.
According to watchers in the space, the urban rail networks of Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, and Tokyo are the leaders in delivering optimum service.
Smart city innovative technologies like that planned for NYC play a prominent role in each.
Still, the global rapid transit sector awaits a raft of new innovations.
Transport for London (TfL) will soon have ‘ticketless travel’ – where bank cards serve the role of dedicated rail cards, already in use on buses in the TfL network.
As for WiFi, it may be disrupted by LiFi, a technology that does not rely on radio waves but visible light.