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Nick

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  1. Times Square lost Trip Planners at the entrance on 42 St. slightly west of 7 Av./Broadway, in the space before paying a fare. I think they've disappeared in a few other places I often pass through. When Trip Planners go, it's because the entire On The Go kiosks go, which means their other services also go, including kiosk-based neighborhood maps. Kiosks come in two kinds, one with a Trip Planner and one without (they're from different contractors), and I'm not sure what's happening with the kiosks without Trip Planners (perhaps someone would like to ask). My guess is that both kinds will go, leaving only what's on the website, and maybe not even that. While it's prominent on the new website, if software maintenance cost is discouraging the MTA, the MTA won't want it anywhere. (Maintenance was definitely needed, including for usability, without which people who are not nerds won't use it.) If that was a discouraging factor, they'll likely revert to a klunky old-fashioned system of street indexes and paper maps for 511 operators, back-room system planners, and so on, with the public having to call 511, and I've had bad experience with slowness with that system. Neighborhood maps on walls likewise went but I don't remember from which stations. They seem to be absent from stations that have had substantial interior makeovers. In one newly renovated station, something that went up was up in duplicate, presumably as a convenience for users, but without that station having a neighborhood map. I vaguely think that was in Brooklyn, but I'm not sure. On the other hand, digital nontouch neighborhood maps are up in an apparently newly-renovated station at 28 St. on the IRT #6 line in Manhattan. I ride subways as part of work and often go somewhere I infrequently ride to, which makes remembering the stations of weeks ago unlikely. I haven't been in the Bronx or Queens in a long time, so those are probably not what I'm recalling.
  2. I paraphrased from the MTA's email to avoid a copyright issue (@Union_Tpke). A state or local government or agency owns the copyright. I had asked about the Trip Planner and the neighborhood maps in separate inquiries to MTA.info at about the same time and their reply was only on the former, but I've observed the partial loss of the neighborhood wall maps and so I'm guessing (as stated) that they're on their way out from stations. If maps online are outdated, please tell MTA.info. However, when I use them, occasionally a street's new name is not on the map, but it's not often. Almost all street names are stable for decades. Maps being online is not a substitute for their being in stations, where we can't always go online.
  3. The Trip Planners, interactive local maps, and On The Go kiosks in subway stations are becoming scarcer and may disappear altogether. According to the MTA, in an email reply to me after I sent the observation via their MTA.info contact system, touch screens weren't getting much use and, compared to that, maintenance cost was too high. They're adding digital displays, but without interactivity. I wish the kiosks would simply have been moved a few feet and expanded to all stations and places like Penn Station, and I've suggested that, but I don't know what I would have recommended given low use. I thought they were visible enough to prospective users, and adding marketing would compete against marketing for other purposes, so I don't know what should have been done. Some kiosks are being displaced by advertising displays that seem to be selling well. I'm glad for the revenue stream helping to pay for the subways. The trip planner had problems and there wasn't enough program patching going on, it didn't give any directions if the nearest subway or bus was over a mile from the destination (I can walk that and taxis and bikes are unrecognized alternatives), and many stations didn't have trip planner kiosks. All that likely discouraged some subsequent use, but the problems weren't usually unrepairable and I usually could get good location and route info for a destination. The 511 phone system has been far too slow to be of any use to me even when I need it, customer service booth staff for years haven't had maps beyond what the TA gives to the public, my basic phone's browser is virtually useless, and in the U.S. nearly a quarter of adults don't have smartphones. The Trip Planner is still on the MTA.info website home page. They've replaced the underlying mapping service from Microsoft with Google's and the one or two times I've reported a mapping error to Google Google has been corrective. I generally prefer Google over Microsoft, so I'm glad. I never figured out who makes the trip planner software itself. I doubt the MTA did. It's likely used by many U.S. cities. The most I've figured out is that some company used to make it but no longer does. When I looked, no one claimed credit for either creating or maintaining it. Someone at the MTA did respond to issues with advice. Printed neighborhood maps will, I guess, stay on some stations' walls, but not all stations have them. I guess that as stations get renovated those maps will disappear. They probably also won't get updated as street names change (but that isn't often anyway).
  4. Some buses have automated announcements outdoors that verbalize the destination sign. Twice, I've heard usability errors that would often confuse people thinking of boarding. I've reported both to MTA.info. I wouldn't know if the errors were corrected. Perhaps other people hear similar errors and might report them. Here are the two I heard: --- A bus was headed to W 37 St. The system said "double-you". It should have said "west". On another day, after I reported the first bus to the MTA, another bus made the same error. --- A bus was on the B36 route. It was announced as the "Bounty 36" or "Bouncy 36" (probably "Bounty 36"). It should have said "Bee 36". By the way, the latter bus was not bouncy. I stood in it for a short ride and it was just fine. An algorithm to govern pronunciations would be complicated, because, for example, "E" would be pronounced differently in different contexts. If the destination happened to be "Alfred E Smith Park", we should not say "Alfred Emanuel Smith Park" or ever "Alfred East Smith Park". The likelihood is that the best programming method is to write an algorithm, search the vocabulary for what is not accommodated by the algorithm, tweak the algorithm, search again, tweak more, and so on. This costs money.
  5. I hope these won't be stored-value cards. In other words, I assume the MTA will keep on its servers and not on the card the authoritative record of the balance on a pay-per-ride card or how much of the between-rides wait period is left on an unlimited card. Otherwise, having a contactless card get read by a non-MTA reader could reduce my remaining balance or impose a wait, probably without a notice we'd recognize. Faraday cage for me. Carrying two wallets is acceptable. Entering efficiently is nice, but I'd rather make everyone wait while I get my card out of its Faraday cage. Or I'll get it out only a moment before, enter, and put it away. I won't get the efficiency but entry shouldn't be slower than now, unless the plan is to have fewer turnstiles because entry would be faster and then we fumblers will take longer than now. @RFIDSecur: Cards being untuned, sensed at no more than half an inch away or possibly up to two inches away, may not depend on the gap being empty airspace. In my PATH experiment (above), a gap of nearly 2 inches filled with paper (700 pages) and 4 book covers was scanned through. I did not run the same experiment on multiple cards or at multiple turnstiles. @RFIDSecur: Instituting contactlessness for the MTA won't, by itself, spread contactlessness to many other institutions. I think I've seen only two brick-and-mortar retailers that won't take cash. One other retailer said about half of its transactions were with plastic, so the other half weren't. @INDman: "99.9% of the time when people get multiple fares deducted when trying to enter the system, happen because they don’t read the display of the turnstile and they tap . . . their card too many times." Yes; but the system should be designed for how people would use it rather than demanding more from people than they understand. Most people are not geeks. Occasional users, such as some retirees and most tourists, will have the overcharge problem more. A conflict is that a pay-per-ride card may be usable for multiple immediate rides, perhaps for families; so we may not want to prevent multiple uses in a short time front. Perhaps a solution is that a person with this problem who does not need multiple use can be allowed to preset the card to forbid two rides in a short time frame, even better if the owner can reverse that later at will. @checkmatechamp13: Whether "you can log in and check your card's balance and see where you swiped": I asked a customer service rep (and I think the MTA online) about that and was told it can't be done by someone like me (a passenger who has a MetroCard) or even by the customer service rep in a station booth. But I don't buy using a credit card, and maybe it can be done for some MetroCards, albeit not all. I assume police, MTA auditors, _et al._ can get the history at public terminals, like if a passenger tells an inspector that they paid before boarding as required for a few MTA bus lines but has lost the paper proof of payment.
  6. Interesting. I'm used to the term "guard rail" being for something taller, meant to catch a fender, not a wheel, but the term here has an additional meaning. On the elevated Brooklyn Q/B line at Sheepshead Bay, these rails don't go the whole length and part of where they don't go is part of a curve, which I assume would have a higher risk of derailment than would a straightaway, due to the train's momentum, so their ending short is a little surprising. The Times Square shuttle has them on all three tracks, but not laid the same, and the shuttle at Grand Central does not have them. On the shuttle, there's one rail just far enough from one running rail to accommodate a wheel flange. I guess that could be for the same purpose, protection of infrastructure, but with a different design. The shuttle design seems to depend on holding the wheels with little lateral leeway but on one side only, the other running rail having no guard rail near it, but if the one guard rail is strong enough then two are not needed. I've also seen the narrow space elsewhere, I think on the East River bridge carrying the B, but only for a short length. Many of the guard rails have a design that look like they're meant to catch something under the train, because they bend slightly inwardly near the ends and the ends are curved downward (and painted yellow). Whatever they should catch may be aligned to be outside of these guard rails. They don't put the down-curve ends on rails just being stored. I don't think that's necessarily for wheels except during a derailment, but maybe for a switch under a car, because sometimes there's a black metal box (perhaps electrical?) mounted between the running rails and the guard rails both terminate just before the box and resume just after it, and that would be a problem for wheels not in an emergency. I think I've also seen rails, I guess guard rails, that were very thin on top, but not for long lengths. The same tracks before or after would have regular-thickness guard rails. Thanks for answering my curiosity.
  7. @Deucey: Nearly a quarter of Americans do not have smartphones, as of nearly a year and a half ago (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/ (URL accessed tonight). My guess is that the percentage who don't have is higher among people who ride subways. My experience is that my basic cell does not work in all stations and I would expect that to be true of smartphones as well. It's good that the MTA provides Trip Planners in stations; I've made some suggestions via MTA.info but overall they need better design and better software maintenance. I wish I knew how to encourage that.
  8. The headway is typically 2 minutes 24 seconds to 3 minutes as of last September, at least where the system uses fixed-block signaling (almost the entire system still using it), although I don't know if that typicality was a minimum or an average. "CBTC can run 40 trains per hour per line, or a train every 90 seconds. Due to physical limitations in the system, the best the subway can hope to see with a CBTC system is probably around a train every 120 seconds, or 30 trains per hour; still, that’s an improvement over today’s subway, which typically runs only 20 to 25 trains per hour." This is according to Rich Barone, of the Regional Plan Association, according to The Village Voice, September 7, 2017 (https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/09/07/meet-the-century-old-technology-that-is-causing-your-subway-delays/ (as accessed 4-22-18)). The L line has CBTC and the #7 line is being fitted with it, according to the same Voice source, so I don't know if the #7 has shorter headways yet. I just took the L twice in the pm rush hour and the actual headways were sometimes about a minute. In answer to my opening post, we mostly do not have 90-second headways, if we have any besides on the L, but trains may be switching tracks so that same-minute arrivals are not likely dangerous.
  9. @LGA_Link_N_train: Systems should be designed for the way people will often use them, not the other way around, when possible. For example, early in space travel, NASA figured out that an astronaut's panic button should be different from all other buttons even if its internal design is like most other buttons and even though astronauts are highly trained, practice a lot, are motivated, and are screened, unlike MTA passengers. So, the panic button might be red, big, isolated from other buttons, and responsive to a different hand motion. In general, for the general public, try not to need a manual, because even high-tech geeks tend not to read one until they're mired in a major foul-up. Design the system to be intuitive and, in general, more people will use it, use it more often, and report more satisfaction and people will be more satisfied with the MTA, and more usage will support more service and/or lower fares. @Deucey: The subway system still has a few coin phones for people who have no cells and international visitors may have phones that don't work here (I'm not allowed to use my cell outside the U.S.). I have a basic phone. I just tried the phone's browser. I got to a blank page titled Google Maps. In 4 minutes and 45 seconds from when I turned the browser on, there was not yet any field for typing anything. The page was still blank. My previous phone had a browser so bad I wouldn't use it even in an emergency. The phone does what I need it to do (mainly calls, texts, voicemail, and tell the time) and was $10 when new, and without a discount. I have no idea how to have Google text me travel info; I can find out but most people won't know, so that wouldn't help them, and any system should serve them without demanding too many Olympic leaps.
  10. @itmaybeokay, good point about the shine. @RR503, interesting. I plan to keep my eyes open, since some elevated sections lack them and I wonder if those sections are less dangerous. Maybe it has to do with not crashing into the platform as hard rather than not falling to the street, especially since they'd only protect the street (@itmaybeokay) if the derailment is minor long enough for the rails to work.
  11. @bobtehpanda and @LGA_Link_N_train: Trip Planner works for many trips, but it works more often if you know the limitations and workarounds. Its basic concept is very good. @QM1to6Ave: If you have access to Google Maps, fine. I don't in the subway unless I open my laptop and get a connection with transitwirelesswifi.com and not all stations support that.
  12. @HenryB, okay; at least that should reduce that particular risk. I assume it doesn't matter how the cardholder stacks them but only that the machine detects multiple cards, but I guess that would still be a problem if a user has one card in a front pocket and another in a briefcase (e.g., an employer's card), only the wrong one is detected, and so the wrong one gets charged because the user doesn't understand how the system works (most users won't). I guess it's a Faraday cage for me.
  13. I depend on the Trip Planner, because my phone's browser is too lousy for use. It's likely many people use the kiosks. I don't use it for walking. But if you're going from the Bronx to a Brooklyn address and the address is more than two miles from the nearest subway station, the Trip Planner denies that there's any way at all to get from the Bronx to your Brooklyn address. It assumes you won't walk more than two miles and so it basically acts as if you should stay home or take a taxi the whole way from the Bronx to Brooklyn. And that's if the walking distance menu is set to the maximum. It might be set shorter. And the menu is not displayed in subway On the Go kiosks.
  14. Just curious. Besides the weight-bearing rails (whatever they're called) and the third rail, I see, in some but not all active locations, other rails bolted down at short intervals and electrically connected end-to-end, which suggests that they're not there just for storage. If storage was the only reason they're there, I doubt they'd need as many bolts to prevent lateral movement and they wouldn't need to be electrically wired. The additional rails usually look well-worn, not shiny. Sometimes, one is inches from a weight-bearing rail with nothing next to the other weight-bearing rail. Sometimes, there'll be two additional rails between the weight-bearing rails but with neither one so near a weight-bearing rail. Sometimes, the ends will be rounded leading to the top surface, suggesting something under a car gets tripped. An example is visible in What are the additional rails for? What are they called?
  15. At the IRT #7's new station at 34th Street in Manhattan, the tracks continue south. Is there a yard, is it just for a few trains to park in midday, or is future growth with more stations being planned?

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