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Transit Looks Into Feasibility of Upgrading Older Fleet

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Courtesy: The New York Times

 

Transit Agency Weighs a Digital Upgrade for Aging Subway Cars

 

By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM

Published: June 16, 2011

 

New York City Transit is looking for a way to bring some of its older subway cars into the digital age.

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Michael Appleton for The New York Times

 

The upgrade, if put into effect, would bring automated station announcements and digital route displays to more than 1,700 aging subway cars, including the entirety of the B, D, and Nos. 1, 3 and 7 lines.

 

Those amenities come standard on the system’s blue-hued modern trains. Currently, the most high-tech signage on a B train is a plastic roll sign operated via hand-crank.

 

To subway officials, intent on improving the passenger experience, the change would bring clearer, real-time travel information to riders tired of screechy intercoms and static maps.

 

But the end of live announcements could signal another step in the creeping dehumanization of a subway system already shedding station agents and, on some cars, train operators.

 

It was only a decade ago when the first futuristic new trains landed on the Lexington and Seventh Avenue lines, bearing a stiff, robotic oeuvre of automated announcements — the first time since 1904, when conductors called out “Step lively!” to boarding passengers, that a human did not inform fellow humans about a coming station.

 

“You hate to see the human element go out of these things,” said Harry Nugent, whose wordplay as a conductor on the No. 1 line earned him book offers and radio work. As his train lurched into a station, he was known to offer an invitation over the intercom: “Hey, you need a lift? I’m going uptown.”

 

Still, Mr. Nugent, now retired and still silver-tongued at 81, conceded that an automated system had its advantages.

 

“When I first started in the subway, I would have been delighted with that, because it would have been less pressure,” he said in an interview. “Conductors didn’t particularly enjoy making announcements, and as I used to say, the announcements they made were probably the equivalent of the graffiti on the side of the train.”

 

If passengers can better understand what is being said, he added, “well, that probably makes it easier all around.”

 

Few conductors today take a cue from Mr. Nugent and, say, describe the 66th Street station as “eight or nine feet beneath Broadway and probably an octave under Lincoln Center.”

 

And more often than not, subway conductors sound less than enthused about their monotonous task, delivering the requisite transfer options in a jumbled rush, equal parts impatience and boredom. And errors are, well, only human.

 

“I haven’t heard the robot make a mistake,” said Andrew Albert, chairman of the New York City Transit Riders Council. “I have heard the human make a mistake.”

 

Neither a timeline nor an estimated cost for the upgrade was available on Thursday, mostly because the transit agency still needs to determine if the idea is feasible.

 

Conductors who still make live announcements are constrained by a blue agency handbook, which lays out the dozen or so phrases they are allowed to say over the intercom. The guide once warned that there was “a very fine line between clever and obnoxious.”

 

Some riders, enjoying the amenities of more modern trains on Thursday, said they did not especially mind the changes.

 

“I would have nostalgia for the old way if it worked all the time,” said Vilian Ivantchev, 23, a guitarist and music student who has lived in the city since he was a teenager. “But sometimes you can’t hear it. The automation is always clear.”

 

“This is more George Orwell,” Joel Leyden, 56, who was raised in the city, said on an uptown N train. “But as long as it works, that’s the bottom line.”

 

Matt Flegenheimer contributed reporting.

 

 

Let's see where this goes.

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seems like a waste of money, what more will the digital screen say on the outside that the rollsign doesn't already say. Out of the lines they suggested, only the (;) signs change, and they tend to just keep em as is anyway.

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seems like a waste of money, what more will the digital screen say on the outside that the rollsign doesn't already say. Out of the lines they suggested, only the (;) signs change, and they tend to just keep em as is anyway.

 

Dont read into it too much, it's more about reducing labor cost than any real desire to move the entire fleet into the digital age.

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Dont read into it too much, it's more about reducing labor cost than any real desire to move the entire fleet into the digital age.

 

the 160s still require two people tho

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Actually... I'm okay with this idea. It makes me frustrated that sometimes I'm on the (R) and I hear "thmunhunboun R Lexnext". Some conductors always mumble their announcements so I can't hear what they are saying.

 

BUT on the other hand, I wouldn't want any new "automated train announcements" since they screw up half the time anyway & the longest that these "Old-tech" trains are going to stay is until 2025!

 

Thats right, only 14 more years until the R68's are retired!

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This always kind of did make sense. It would basically be the "mid-life rebuild" for the 62/68 fleet, which we assumed would be unnecessary with the better care and SMS these cars had, compared to the 26-46 fleet.

 

What it looks like to me is a cheaper alternative to ordering that many more new cars. Now, they would only have to replace the 32's and 46's, and the 62's and 68's would be brought up to par with the NTT's, and thus more life could be gotten out of them. since they were taken more care of (not in the condition of the 44 and older) and built with more rugged stainless steel to begin with, then you could probably get a lot more life out of them.

 

If they do this, then they must be willing to really redo the systems, because when I suggested just adding digital signs, they said there were not enough pins in the couplers. They should also take the time to remove the unused cabs (may have to move the handbrake), and remove the panels from the end walls, to expose the windows (the unused signs are already mostly removed), so that you could see into the next car like the NTT's.

 

They too said that would be too much work, but apparently they are changing their mind a bit, if they are really considering something like the digital and automated technologies. Hope they finally make the move to RGB technology. (anyone seen the cool little "ticker" signs in the window of the Champs in Times Sq?)

It would also make it not so bad for whichever line (likely the (6) has to give up it's NTT's to the (7) for the R188 program, and get the 62A's back.

 

As for automated announcements, 20 years ago already:eek: they had wired a 68 on the (Q6Av) with it!

There is also space in the 68's at least, for some of the same computer equipment the NTT's have. There were tests done with 2500-3 several years ago, while the 143's were just coming in. So you actually had a (L) T/O job that started at CIYD and worked with a 68 on the mainlines all day.

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the 160s still require two people tho

 

Yea, though when I say labor costs I mean the costs of replacing damaged rollsigns (and the costs of paying vendors to replace them), the costs of having someone go back and forth adjusting rollsigns to display the correct information (which helps with lines like the (B), (D) and (N) which frequently swap trains), etc.

 

Those things may seem marginal when looked at individually, but the costs do add up over time.

 

I would welcome the improvements, but they would be better off getting new cars altogether.

 

True, though the only problem is that these trains have a good 15+ years of life left in them (sans anything akin to the R44s popping up).

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I thought labor costs meant trying to remove conductors from the (L) once again, been trying that for years.

 

More the 42nd Street (S) (and wouldn't be surprised if the (7) came up also).

 

If anything, now is a good time for the unions to look at any line that the (MTA) may deem "opto ready" if they decide to go through with these changes.

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seems like a waste of money, what more will the digital screen say on the outside that the rollsign doesn't already say. Out of the lines they suggested, only the (:P signs change, and they tend to just keep em as is anyway.

 

B) I jumped onto a (B) yesterday @ Lafayette because all the side signs I could see at the time were done wrong. I suppose I could have just waited but since the train was there and it was a 50/50 chance of being a (D) in my mind I didn't really have time to make sure since it could leave at any second. I guess I can see what the TA is trying to do here. But it would really only be necessary for the (B) and (D) since they share a lot of track. the (1)(3) (except during GOs) and (7) basically dont mix at all.

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Don’t see the need to put automated station announcements and digital route displays on the (7)<7>- The (7)<7> is already getting them at the end of this year/start of 2012, when the orders for the retrofitted R142′s and the brand new R188′s start to come.

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So what are they up to? Are they turning the R62's, and R68's signs into something similar to the LCD signs on the R44's and R46's? Or is it going to be based off the LCD's of the R160's?

 

This (R46's)

d600ada67a1b72b659e9ebaf93d7_grande.jpg

 

Or is it this (R160's)

Image022.jpg

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As for firing C/R's, it's actually a good idea for the future, looking at it objectively. How many systems in this country have 2-person subway train crews? Now, I understand the union's argument about safety and all that, but what's the use of a C/R who isn't supposed to leave his/her cab? It is a bit dangerous to have a T/O driving a train manually AND making announcements at the same time, so they should be kept at least until the R68's are retired.

 

But conductors on the (L) are a waste. While you have a motorman sitting around waiting for a problem to occur, why not have him/her make announcements?

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Other systems isn't as heavily used, have straight stations and have shorter trains as well. The reason places like Union Sq (4)(5)(6) are so unique is that the station itself is something unlike subway stations in other cities or countries.

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Don’t see the need to put automated station announcements and digital route displays on the (7)<7>- The (7)<7> is already getting them at the end of this year/start of 2012, when the orders for the retrofitted R142′s and the brand new R188′s start to come.

 

But this is for the cars those R142As and R188s are replacing, not the line.

 

If they go through with this, why don't they go whole hog and completely overhaul the things... new interior design and everything, something akin to what Eric B suggested. Or would that be too cost-prohibitive?

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The old saying fits perfectly, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

 

I know foamers on here will be screaming. My take is that if this amount to a 'midlife' rebuliding' of the R-62's and R-68's that saves the (MTA) hundred of millions over buying added new trains for a bit. It also helpful as the remaining R32's and R42's in next couple of years are retired forever, so be it.

 

Not to mention finally put 'bucket seats' on the (1)(3) and (7) lines the lines that still have R-62's.

 

A train like the (B) since it goes to multi terminals doing the day, really does need at least the LCD signs.

 

So buddy Princelex got to disagree on that one.

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