The 15 new proposed improvements to the NYC subway, ranked

The interior of the proposed new subway cars. Via the governor's office.
The interior of the proposed new subway cars. Via the governor’s office.

Yesterday the MTA unveiled the ~~subway cars of the future~~ and no, they don’t have cool future tech like “hover cars” or “trains that aren’t so packed at rush hour you have to wait for three to go by just to go one stop.” Instead, they have a bunch of aesthetic and amenity upgrades that the governor and the agency seem to think New Yorkers want instead of improved service: Wifi, USB ports, new color schemes and this crazy cutting edge technology called “maps.” Gov. Cuomo’s office said these will help ease congestion and cut down on delays.

The agency this week will begin soliciting bids to build the 1,025 new subway cars with the goal of having them finished by 2020 or sooner: The first three stations planned for renovation are in Brooklyn: Prospect Avenue, 53rd Street and Bay Ridge Avenue. Are these upgrades actually good or just a fine coat of polish on a woefully neglected turd? Here’s our ranking of the proposed upgrades:

15. Improved “wayfinding”

Maps. These are called maps and you probably have one on your phone.

14. Easy to clean floors

The new finishes will make them easier to clean. At this time there has been no announcement of increased funding for cleaning crews.


Via the governor's office.
Leaning benches: Like seats but not comfortable.

13. New exteriors with paint job and LED headlights

It’s true, the no. 1 complaint of many subway riders is “this thing needs a new coat.”

12. Enhanced lighting

Brighter stations make it easier to see the easy-to-clean floors that haven’t been cleaned yet.

11. Leaning benches at stations

Leaning benches are like seats but standing. It is unclear why these are better than regular benches.


Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 11.19.10 AM
USB = U Should Be careful about where you plug in your phone.

10. Glass barriers 

Now you will be able to better see, at waist level, when your train isn’t coming? Sure, why not.

9. Wifi 

This sounds like millennial-focused target marketing, but think about it: do you reaaaalllly want wifi on the train, invading your few moments of quiet space where your boss can’t reach you and you can’t be expected to do work or read the latest horrible news item on Twitter? Dave argued against wifi on trains here, but if you’re really looking forward to janky, sometimes-working, questionably secure public wifi networks, you’re in luck.

8. USB ports 

The MTA has promised to install USB ports at stations and on trains so you can charge your devices while you ride/wait. Can your phone get a virus from plugging into a USB port packed with gum, halal food and a wet amNY used to mop up spilled mystery liquid on a seat? You’ll soon be able to find out!


Do we like this color scheme or nah?
Do we like this color scheme or nah?

7. Flip seats 

More room for wheelchairs that make it waaaaay obvious if you’re an able-bodied person taking up a dedicated handicapped seat. Stand up, you jerk.

6. Digital display/service announcements

These new displays will make it very clear that your train is going express to the Bronx without any warning.

5. Illuminated door-opening alerts

These will tell you on which side of the car the doors will open so you know when to move the f out of the way to let people get off. Would be more effective if this thing blasts a “DOORS OPENING” message directly into your iPhone Candy Crush screen.

4. Wider car doors 

This seems like a good idea to improve flow in/out of cars, though it will likely also lead to superheroic new achievements in manspreading to take up the new space. You can do it, New York!


Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 11.18.36 AM
Ah finally, glass barriers.

3. Open gangway doors

Pros: Open connected cars means you can easily and legally move between cars, and there’s more room to stand on the train. Cons: Fewer doors to lean on, removal of between-car doors means you lose your emergency spot to puke when riding the train too hungover. Cons also include a whole new wave of “open gangway style” jokes just when we thought our long national Psy nightmare was over.

2. Improved oval-shaped grab bar

There were times, when we were single, when the accidental brush of skin during a frantic reach for a precious space of pole real estate would be our only human contact. Now you’ll never have to touch another person again.

1. Countdown clocks

This is all anyone has ever wanted from the subway in the history of time.


  1. The “leaning benches” are “better” because vagrants can’t sleep/set up camp on them…not saying I agree with this, just saying that’s probably the thought process.

  2. Qudamah Imuran

    The future is looking bad for handicapped people, and people with wheelchairs in New York City. So I have been told. It is my understanding there is no help for them if they want to rid the subway train. If there is no train agency to be on subway train in case of failure of automatic doors. If everything is left in the hands of the person who is driving the subway train. It appears to me that New York City is a city just waiting for mishaps to come. Therefore I will remain in Albany New York and tell people from other cities New York is not the place to visit.

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