Tag Archive | "subway"

Lost? Swipe Your Way to Your Destination

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is going digital. A new, touch screen, interactive subway map has started appearing in some of the busiest subway stations. Katherine Jacobsen reports.


The first of these two maps appeared at Grand Central Terminal and the Bedford Park stop in Brooklyn.  At Grand Central, the well-lit, 47-inch computer screen sits on a corner across from a clothing chain and a cluster of MTA ticket kiosks.  It looks like a giant smartphone screen with the weather and time displayed on the header of a larger screen.

Dwight Olson stops to check the Metro North schedule to New Haven.


I hope that this terminal here is going to be helpful and it looks like it is, now that I’ve pressed the Metro North button.

Olson touches the Metro North from a menu at the bottom of the computer screen.  He scrolls through the menu options at the bottom of the screen, looking for his schedule.  Destination options appear and then with a few clicks, Olson has a timetable for his mid-morning trip.


Looks like I can tell what I want to get on and when it’s gonna go, I just hope that we can get tickets by then.

A few minutes after Olson leaves, and Joel Thomas walks past the giant computer screen and does a double take.  It’s the first time that Thomas has seen one of these new, 15,000 dollar touch screen maps.


I was actually looking for the bathroom to be honest with you.  But uh, it’s pretty convenient… I can see the train I need to catch right here.

And did you also find a map of the station as well?

Ah, honestly, I didn’t do the map yet. I just saw the time departing and I think it works pretty good.

But some of the regular commuters don’t need the new screen.


Everytime I come to it, it’s showing me a useless map or something I don’t need.  I simply want it to display what it used to display.

Paul Kipelli points to the kiosk, now lit up with a giant subway map where there used to be a train schedule.


Look what is has, do you need that map?  I don’t.

Kipeli then goes running off, briefcase in hand.  He’s late for his train.

The new map may have the biggest impact on MTA employees like Audrey Gordon.  Her job is to give directions at the terminal.


Yes, you need something?

We just wanted to check something…

What would you like to check?

Gordon doesn’t feel threatened by the new touch screen maps.  She still has one up on them, she says.  Even though the maps might be getting bigger, it doesn’t mean that they’re smarter than her.


The map is only as good as the information that is programmed in it.  I go way beyond that.

Police Officer Chris Jones is on duty right across from the new kiosk.  He hasn’t seen a lot of people using it, he says.


They’re futuristic, they look like they could be helpful, but I see ppl more likely asking other ppl for help, officers, stuff like that.

Do you get asked a lot for help when ppl need to find the bathroom or something?  Every two minutes.

The MTA will add another 77 interactive maps in an additional 16 stations.

Katherine Jacobsen, Columbia Radio News.

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Subway Ridership Grows in NYC

A conductor on the "L" train checks the platform. Photo by Julie Jacobson, Associated Press.

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There are more people riding the New York subway today than at any time since 1950. More people live in the city and the newcomers choose to live outside of Manhattan.Reporter John Light took a look at how the subway system is handling the growing ridership.

John Light, Reporter:
The L train from Brooklyn into Manhattan is packed on a weekday afternoon.

FADE IN [doors]

By the time the train pulls up to the Bedford Avenue platform, the last stop before Manhattan, the cars are standing room only.


But Bushwick resident Aaron Schragg says this is nothing compared to rush hour.

Aaron Schragg:
The platform will be crowded — full — at eight o’clock, five after eight.

He lives near the Dekalb [De Cal B] Avenue L station in Bushwick, eight stops from Manhattan — or about 20 minutes, when trains are running.

Every once in awhile at rush hour, the whole thing will basically just shut down, almost with no explantation, and they’ll say basically good luck. Or at least that’s what it feels like.

John Light:
Sitting next to Schragg on the L train is Carla Cubitt. She’s also a Bushwick resident — and she says service on the weekend is particularly frustrating.

Carla Cubitt:
Then they have the shuttle bus, and then you like get off at Lorimer and then… sometimes I’ll just give up and go home if it’s not really an emergency.

John Light:
This crowding on the L line, and on other trains in Brooklyn in the Bronx, is a relatively new phenomenon.


Historian John Tauranac has designed maps of the transit system for decades; he now teaches architectural history at NYU. He says the subways have played a major role in the city’s recent growth.

John Tauranac:
Population follows transportation. Build it — the it in this case being public transportation — and they will travel.

John Light:
Between 2010 and 2011, Dekalb [De Cal B] Avenue — that’s Aaron Schragg’s station — added 40,000 passengers. Other stations in Brooklyn and the Bronx experienced even larger increases in that time — up to twenty percent more riders. Cate Contino oversees a transit advocacy group, called the Straphangers Campaign — and she says the MTA has some planning to do.

Cate Contino:
We all know that the city’s population is increasing over the next 20 years. All the projections show that. So the MTA will be forced to think pretty critically in the near future about how to meet those rising demands. [cut stammers]

John Light:
But the MTA has been struggling. In 2010, it made deep service cuts, eliminating 5 bus routes and scaling back service on some train lines. The same year, the G train added five stations in South Brooklyn — but that service could end in 2013. At a press conference earlier this month, New York City public advocate Bill de Blasio railed against that plan.

Bill De Blasio:
[full] This is where the New York economy is going.

John Light:
The existing subway system is big enough, says Cate Contino with the Straphanger’s Campaign. But she says the MTA needs to improve the infrastructure. For instance, the signal system could be computerized. That would allow more trains to run closer together. But Contino says that would take government funding that the MTA doesn’t have right now.

Cate Contino:
Overhauling the signal system is going to be a multibillion dollar project that’s been pushed off for dozens of years at this point. The majority of the signals in the system date back to the earlier part of the twentieth century.

John Light:
Historian and mapmaker John Tauranac suspects that, eventually, the transit authority will have to expand. But he thinks the MTA won’t feel enough pressure until all of Brooklyn, and the Bronx, have the clout Manhattan does.

John Tauranac:
Money is power. The moment that neighborhoods start being gentrified, they will exert power on politicians, and on the MTA, et cetera, to improve service.

John Light:
The MTA did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. But in March it released a report online saying that around eighty percent of trains arrive on time. And a press release acknowledged the growing ridership figures, beginning with the line: “Everyone knows there is no better way to navigate the city than riding the subway.”

John Light, Columbia Radio News

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High Art, Underground

The MTA has a Lichteinstein mural in 42nd St./Times Square Station. Photo by Stephen Chernin, Associated Press.

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Two new initiatives are bringing high-culture below-ground. The MTA’s Arts for Transit program is reintroducing its Poetry in Motion series, and a new app to showcases the subway’s installation art. Will Sloan reports.
Narr: After a long absence, the Poetry Society of America is reviving “Poetry in Motion” to select poems each month be printed on posters, and on the back of hundreds of thousands of metrocards. In the spirit of the summer holidays, Alice Quinn, Executive Director of the Poetry Society, reads the first selection: “Graduation,” by Dorothea Tanning…Quinn: He told us, with the years, you will come

to love the world.

And we sat there with our souls in our laps,

and comforted them.

Poetry in Motion began in 1992, but was retired for four years in 2008  when the MTA decided to experiment with prose passages instead. Quinn says the experiment was unsuccessful, perhaps because the out-of-context choices were decidedly downbeat.


Quinn: I think the opening sentence of ‘The Metamorphoses’ about awaking one morning and discovering you’ve been transformed into a cockroach did not endear subway riders to the program!

Quinn believes that poetry lends itself more easily to the confines of a small poster or Metrocard, and any connection to art is a connection to one’s inner life.


Quinn: Those poems are short, and they make an impression. And you have a chance to read them over and over. With a poem, you can have the amazing experience of having a work of art within you. You’re most likely to encounter it in your own voice for the first time, and if you memorize it, it’s doubly within you, and you can call it to mind any time.

Arts for Transit, which supervises arts and entertainment programs at the MTA’s subway stations, is also launching a new iPhone and Android app. The MTA launched it last month to give New Yorkers a guided tour of subway art installations. Users can search by subway line, station and artist, and see photos of installations with explanatory descriptions. Users can search neighborhood by neighborhood to see how Roy Lichtenstein captured the essence of Times Square with his “Times Square Mural,” or how Faith Ringgold immortalized uptown legends with “Flying Home Harlem Heroes and Heroines” at Lenox St. station.
Amy Hausmann, assistant director of Arts for Transit, says the neighborhood connections are key to the art.


Hausmann: It’s very site-specific. It’s very much about the people who live in the neighborhoods, and we ask the artists to really think about the people who have lived in that place before, the people who live there now, and the people whowill come to that place in the future.

Arts for Transit was established in 1986, a time when New York’s subways had fallen into neglect. Since then, a portion of construction costs has gone to permanent artwork – typically $100,000 to 126,000 per installation.

Jean Phifer is the author of the book Public Art New York. She says that arts initiatives always enhance her subway trips.


Phifer: They’ve just done a new installation at the Brooklyn Museum with reproductions of historic artefacts in the walls. So there are a lot of stations that have really unusual and interesting things. It can be really beautiful, it can be moving, it can really make you think, and interact with the space.

At 42nd St./Times Square, commuters rushing past the Lichtenstein mural agreed.


MOS: “I love it. I’m also in the arts myself, I think it enhances travel for a lot of people.” “I think it makes the train station look way better.” “I love it! It’s fun. It makes people feel alive.”

That was Joy Dreyfuss, Jannea Alyce, and Lilya Rubinov. Amy Hausmann, Assistant Director of Arts for Transit, says that art in the subway is important for more than just its aesthetic pleasure.
Hausmann: We hope it really changes the way people think about their day and the way they interact with each other. Y’know, It just kinda makes your day a little bit brighter, and what could be wrong with that?

There will be new art underground when the 7-line extension opens in 2013. Final plans are underway for a new mosaic by Harlem-based artist Xenobia Bailey. Will Sloan, Columbia Radio News.
HOST BACKANNOUNCE: You can also find a link to Arts for Transit’s newly-launched Tumblr site at UptownRadio.org.

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MTA Employees Cope With Deaths on Tracks

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Around 7 percent of New Yorkers who take their own life do it in a subway-related way. Many lie on the tracks, or jump in front of oncoming trains. The MTA code for it is 12-9. John Light reports that memories of these incidents stay with train operators throughout their careers.

Around seven percent of New Yorkers who take their own life do it in a subway-related way. Many lie on the tracks, or jump in front of oncoming trains. The mta code for it is 12-9. John Light reports that memories of these incidents stay with train operators throughout their careers.

It was early on an August morning, about two years ago, when Jermaine Dennis had his first 12-9. He was driving an A train, approaching the Aqueduct Subway platform, near JFK airport.

As I was coming into that station, um, a lady had jumped right in front of my train. And I applied the emergency breaks on the train. Four cars went over her. I was in a state of disbelief at the time. I couldn’t believe what had occurred.

Dennis stepped from the train. The woman was still alive. He asked some people on the platform to speak with her.

She said to leave her alone and let her die in peace …After watching her being taken up from underneath the train and then hearing about her passing in the hospital… it took a toll.

The New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported last month that around 40 New Yorkers kill themselves this way every year. They looked at other methods of suicide as well. More than 400 people hanged themselves, poisened themselves, shot themselves, or jumped from a building – but subway-related suicides were the only method that had an unwilling participant. After a 12-9, subway drivers often take a few months off and seek psychological treatment. Psychologist Howard Rombom runs a practice on Long Island that has treated hundreds of mta workers after 12-9s.

We need to understand that these kinds of trauma undermine the patient’s fundamental sense of safety and predictability. We try to help train operators understand that they didn’t really kill anyone themselves, the train did.

Rombom says that in most cases, train operators suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Acute Stress Disorder – both of which have the same symptoms. Train operators also tend to feel isolated after a 12-9 — Rombom tries to help them ovecome that.

One of the things we have our patients do is sort of push themselves into social situations and also explain themselves to their family and friends, so the family and friends don’t perceive it as much as being rejection as much as this is what’s happening to me because of this.

Jermaine Dennis said he too felt isolated. He drifted away from family events, like evening game nights with his wife and six kids. But Dennis also had recurring dreams.

During my sleep she would come in a white gown, the lady who had jumped in front of my train. She would come in a white gown. Especially when there’s lightning, moreover, that’s when I would see her. So that was something I had to cope and get over with the psychologist who helped me.

Rombom says that most mta employees are able to return to work after a few months, and have recovered from post-traumatic stress disorder within a year. On Dennis’s first day back at work, he said he approached stations very, very cautiously – and he still does. It ended up being helpful a year later, when another person laid down on the tracks in front of his train. Dennis stopped in time. John Light, Columbia Radio News.

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New HIV ad campaign sparks controversy

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New York City subway riders. Photo by Shiho Fukada/AP.

Over the past few years, the new York City Department of Health has been running ad campaigns decided to shock people out of bad habits like smoking or over-eating. At the beginning of February, it launched a new campaign online and in the subways; it’s aimed at increasing awareness of HIV prevention among gay and bisexual men. But some activist groups want the city to end the campaign.

The video opens like a French film noir, showing portraits of grave-looking men standing against a black-and-white backdrop of menacing New York City streets.

The narrator’s tone is just as somber.

The video warns that the virus causes diseases like dementia and osteoporosis. Towards the end, a graphic picture of an anal cancer growth briefly appears on screen before the narrator delivers the punch line.

New York City subway riders can now see a follow-up poster, which features that same tagline and pictures of men, some of them African-American and Latino.

Kristin Goodwin is the director of New York City Policy and Organizing at Housing Works, an organization that deals with AIDS and homelessness. She says that’s a problem. “Portraying young black and Latino men who are at risk or who are HIV positive as doomed to get horrible illnesses doesn’t necessarily make people want to get HIV tested.”

Goodwin, along with other advocacy groups for people with HIV and for gay and bisexual men, says that fear doesn’t necessarily lead to behavioral change. She says the ad campaign is sending the wrong message. “With the music, the somber faces and the allusions to other illnesses, it certainly adds a layer of stigma of people at risk,” she says.

The Department of Health declined comments. But in a video posted on YouTube, Monica Sweeney, the assistant commissioner for HIV prevention and control, said the ad was effective and necessary. “These ads are hard hitting and sometimes unpleasant but so is HIV and silence isn’t stopping the spread,” Sweeney said.

She also said the ad specifically targeted men who have sex with men because they represent a growing proportion of the 4000 New Yorkers who are newly infected every year. “This increase in new HIV infections 30 years into the epidemic is unacceptable to me, and should be unacceptable to all of us,” she added.

The HIV campaign is the latest in a series of graphic advertising efforts that tackle health issues. The city released ads against smoking, obesity and lead poisoning among children. All of the ad drives use fear to get their messages across.

Kim Witte is a professor of communication at Michigan State University. She says fear works when it comes to health campaigns, but under certain conditions. “In my studies, I’ve scared the bejeepers out of people and as long as they really believe they can do something to avert that threat, the higher the fear, the more motivated they are to act,” she says. “Fear appeals or scare tactics are extremely effective as long as people feel that they’re able to do something to effectively avert a threat.”

Howard Grossman is an HIV specialist who treats mostly lesbian, gay and bisexual patients. He agrees that scare tactics can be effective and thinks a lot of younger gay men today don’t have any first-hand experience with the potentially deadly effects of the virus. “We have this whole group of younger people who never knew anybody with HIV, who never saw anybody die, and they’re not afraid. To them HIV is just another disease that you take one pill for and in fact that’s not HIV disease, but they’re not scared and they’re not having safe sex,” he says.

The Department of Health says its recent anti-smoking campaign has been effective and it thinks the HIV campaign will be too. But activists say the city has taken concrete steps to prevent smoking: it’s distributed Nicotine patches and banned smoking in public spaces. They say there is nothing comparable to prevent HIV once the scare tactics wear off.

Kristin Goodwin of Housing Works says a lot of these problems with the ad campaign could have been avoided had the Department of Health consulted with them and other advocacy groups in the first place. “There was no mention of expanding the ad campaign into the subway and we found out about it the same day that it got posted. I have concerns that the Department of Health is not listening to the concerns of people who are infected and affected and also people that do prevention and outreach in the community.”

Goodwin says there are more positive ways to get the message across. Like the bus campaign released this month by the Washington DC Department of Health, which involves African American gay men. Goodwin says that instead of inducing fear, the campaign encourages people in relationships to reaffirm their desire to be safe for each other.

But not all gay activists think NYC’s campaign is bad. Larry Kramer is a writer and founder of the organization Act Up, and HIV positive himself. He wrote in an email to friends and fellow activists after seeing the spot that he thought it was honest, true and not nearly as scary as HIV itself.

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Second Avenue Subway Construction Drags On

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The 3 Decker Restaurant’s store front with a jersey barrier and chain link fence used by crews helping build the Second Avenue Line on the Upper East Side. (Photo by Joe Danielewicz/Columbia Radio News)

The 3 Decker Restaurant sits at the corner of 91st Street and Second Avenue, its store front is blocked by jersey barriers and a metal chain-link fence, part of the construction for the second avenue subway.

Teddy Raftopoulous  helps his brother run the place.

He says in the past 5 years since subway construction began, business is down as much as 30 percent.

“We used to have a lot of taxi drivers around, lot of limousine guys around, they can’t stop around,” Raftopolous said. “If you have a place and nobody can stop around, that hurts the business.”

One block north of the 3 Decker the MTA has presented what they think is the model for helping businesses weather the construction.

Michael Horodniceanu  is the head of the MTA’s construction division.

“We need to make sure that we are good neighbors,” he said.

Horodniceanu walked reporters through what they’re calling a “model block” today.

It features better signage.

“At the corner of every block, we’re actually identifying only the stores that are on this block,” he said. “Very simple and direct.”

Pedestrian walkways that border construction are also more clearly-defined.

And the equipment inside the fences are hidden behind a screens woven into the fences.  The backhoe is still there, but not staring you in the face.

The MTA wants local businesses to say if they like the model block, in order to expand it.

Robert Zantay lives on the subway route and doesn’t expect much from the new fencing and signs.

Teddy Raftopoulos helps his brother manage the 3 Decker Restaurant at 91st and 2nd Avenue on the Upper East Side. Raftopoulos says business has dropped since Subway construction began. Photo by Joe Danielewicz/Columbia Radio News

He says it’s too little to late.

“Everyone’s gone out of business already,” he said.

Teddy Raftopoulous says when the project is complete, it will be worthwhile.

He’s looking forward to riding the subway.

“You do something, you suffer a little bit and everything, but in the long way, you know, that’s very good for everybody,” he said.

The MTA expects to be working along Second Avenue through 2016.

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