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The MTA is modernizing its transportation system with USB ports, Wi-Fi, and more

Bring the MTA into the 21st Century
This weekend, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo revealed his eighth signature proposal for 2016; one that focuses on further modernizing the Metro Transit Authority’s (MTA) transportation system, which is over a century old. The plan includes the thorough renovation of 30 subway stations, in addition to the expansion of current Wi-Fi hotspots. MetroCards will go digital, and USB ports will be installed in subway stations and on trains and buses.

The 30 stations targeted for redesign span the entire system across five boroughs. The plan calls for “cleaner, brighter stations” that will be “easier to navigate, with better and more intuitive way-finding.” A single contractor will be used in an attempt to lower cost and maintain quality. The stations will be completely closed during renovations to speed up the process, as opposed to just nights and weekends. The project is expected to be completed by 2020, with each station needing 6-12 months of work, which is a far cry from the previous 2-3 year timeline.

The Richmond Valley station of the Staten Island Railway, as well as a new Arthur Kill station are also slated to use the new design. The template will be used for future work on the  Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and Metro-North Railroad.

Cuomo’s plan also calls for updates across the MTA system. Currently, over 140 underground subway stations have cellphone, data, and Wi-Fi service. This will grow to include Wi-Fi for all 277 unerground stations by the end of 2016, with cell phone service being added the following year.

MTA Mobile TicketingRemember when tokens were replaced by MetroCards? The convenience of carrying around a thin plastic card far outweighed the heavy, dirty coins. The MTA is following the lead of an increasing number of retailers and adding mobile payment methods to its subways and buses. You will be able to wave your digital device or bank card over a contactless reader to pay for your fare, just as you do when purchasing that large morning coffee. This should ease the rush hour jam at turnstiles and enable you to buy tickets online beforehand through your own account, saving even more time. This payment method will be put in place in 2018.

If you’ve ridden the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or L trains, you’ve noticed the countdown clocks. Maybe you’ve wondered why they don’t exist on other lines. Well, the MTA is installing them on the 7 line this year, as well as on lettered subway lines.

The MTA is also working on its SubwayTime app, which will soon offer streaming real-time arrival data for all 469 subway stations.

MTA wireless hotspot USB chargingUSB charging ports are being added to 200 subway cars this year, and 400 by next year. In addition, 1,500 buses will have charging access available by 2018. The MTA will also be testing digital information screens on 200 buses this year, which show information about stops and service alerts.

To improve safety for commuters, surveillance cameras will be installed on all new buses, while currently operating vehicles will be retrofitted. The plan is to have 85 percent of the bus fleet fitted with cameras. Straphangers will also see cameras installed in subway cars for the first time this year.

“Once again Gov. Cuomo is stepping up on behalf of transit riders and transit workers,” Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen said. “These projects will greatly improve the commutes for scores of riders and we’re proud to be doing our part.”

The NYC subway system is used by more than six million commuters during peak days.

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Albert Khoury
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Al started his career at a downtown Manhattan publisher, and has since worked with digital and print publications. He's…
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