A New Layout for New York’s Subways

Anyone who has spent a morning commute with his face pressed into a stranger’s armpit has asked himself: Isn’t there a better way?

According to researchers, the answer is yes, and the solution isn’t a bike: it’s rearranging the train car’s furniture.

The draft report was put out by the NYC Transit Authority and based on several weeks of close study of how New Yorkers actually use the subway. Many of their conclusions are obvious (sitting>standing) some, less so, as the New York Times reports:

The report seemed to contradict much anecdotal evidence: in crowded trains, the data show, men were more likely to be standing than women, “probably because New York’s gentlemen do live up to cultural expectations regarding giving up seats to ladies and children.”

The study is most interesting in its conclusions, where it proposes a train car that shifts poles away from the doors, and doors away from one another.

The top layout is the traditional New York subway car. The two below are potential alternative designs.

The moving of the poles makes intuitive sense, since, as the report confirms, people like standing where they can hold poles, and the current arrangement puts that in the place that most obstructs entering and exiting the train. On asymetric doors, their explanation isn’t as convincing.

Symmetrical door arrangements may encourage standees to crowd door areas, exacerbating loading problems. Visually, asymmetrical arrangements make car interiors look a little more open, and perhaps more inviting—hence luring passengers away from doors with potential dwell time, loading, and capacity utilization benefits.

Here’s another theory: People like standing next to the doors so they can get off first. Regardless of symmetry.