By TRONE DOWD
It’s no secret that New York City’s public transit system, once considered revolutionary, could use a major overhaul.
The more than 100-year-old system was once a showcase for how other major cities should implement an integrated bus and rail system. Today, however, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) struggles to secure funding—with infrastructure in major disrepair and more people using the system than ever—things have seemingly never been worse.
The Queens Tribune believes it might be time for New York City to start looking at innovations in public transit in other cities. The following four concepts have been proven to improve service and customer satisfaction:
The Los Angeles Transit System is known for being all but ignored by local residents in the nation’s second-largest city. But what it lacks in ridership, it makes up for in user-friendliness. Unlike New York City, which uses MetroCards as the primary method of paying for a bus or train, L.A. Transit uses the Transit Access Pass, or TAP cards.
According to the TAP website, the pass is “a durable plastic card with a smart chip designed to make your transit experience simple and secure.” In comparison to MetroCards, TAP cards are less prone to bending and warping, rendering whatever funds you have on the card useless. The cards are also easier to use. Rather than the swipe method of payment, the cards require a simple tap on a sensor pad. There is also a registration system that allows users to replace lost cards easily for a small fee. Lastly, TAP cards can be refilled in a variety of different ways, including at kiosks throughout the city and through the TAP website. That’s right—no more wasting time walking to the nearest train station to refill your card before hopping on the bus.
While the basic model of the Adopt-A-Station system has been floated for New York City in the past—Gov. Andrew Cuomo mentioned it as a funding alternative during the infamous “Summer of Hell” last year—the city has yet to take steps towards implementation of the plan. By allowing companies to adopt local stations around such metropolitan cities as New York, it transfers maintenance and other unforeseen expenses to private companies that are willing to foot the bill in exchange for product placement.
Although the idea may seem tacky, it could have a major impact on both the esthetic of the subway system and the amount of money the state needs to keep the system in line. The Adopt-A-Station model is used in the U.K., and has kept trains clean. And with elected officials—such as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Cuomo—having great hopes of bringing tech companies to Queens neighborhoods, there could be a slew of potential investors in the near future.
The Psychology of Sound and Sight
In Japan, the national rail system is one of the most efficient in the world. But while Japan seems to have mastered the complicated nature of such an expansive transit system, it’s the smaller details that stand out compared to New York’s deteriorating travel options.
Due to the country’s high suicide rate, great thought has been put into making commuters feel calm, safe and free of frustration while they commute. For starters, many stations are expertly lit by panels of blue LED light, which researchers say have a positive effect on an agitated person’s mood. Considering the types of emotional ups and downs that come with the everyday commute, this subtle addition is both smart and thoughtful.
In addition to lighting, stations and trains feature special jingles that signal arrivals and departures. According to Citylab.com, these jingles are “brief, calming and distinct” and aim to keep commuters abreast of the train’s status “without inducing anxiety.” They are also used to help the visually impaired get around the sprawling transit system. In addition, stations feature subtle nature-based background noises such as chirping birds to counter the often-harsh sounds of the subway.
As an interesting aside, the Japanese transit system also put in place systems to have the opposite effect. To cut down on school delinquency, the subway’s PA system plays a high-frequency tone during school hours that can only be heard by teenagers. This is done in hopes of discouraging kids who want to cut class in favor of fun.
A Place For Bikes
Even though some of Queens’ more rural neighborhoods have been outspoken about their disdain for bikes, there is no denying that city officials and leaders are pulling for more bike use in the five boroughs. Not only is biking a healthy activity, but it also keeps roads clearer and is better for the environment.
But for most folks hoping to use bikes as a transit alternative, relying on the subway or bus for part of their commute is crucial to getting where they need to go. This is why such cities as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver have implemented bike racks for city buses. These racks allow commuters to safely dock their bikes at the front of the bus before boarding.
In New York, the idea has been utilized in some neighborhoods. In 2015, Staten Island buses were equipped with bike racks for the first time as a test run. The program proved to be useful and became a permanent addition to four bus lines in the borough this year.