New York City

MTA to Start Testing Standing-Only Cars on Subway

The MTA will begin testing standing-only subway cars as part of its emergency subway stabilization plan.

The pilot program will start on the S line (the Times Square shuttle) and the L line, which has seen an "extraordinary" amount of crowding, according to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota. 

"We need to find a way to get more people off the platform and into the subway cars," Lhota said at the news conference announcing the plan Tuesday. 

Certain subway cars will have seats taken out and reconfigured as standing-only cars, and the outside of the cars will be marked a different color. The makeover should add 25 seats per car.

Lhota cited Boston's "T" as an example of a capacity-challenged city system that was able to get more people into trains by creating standing-only cars.

"When you go to platforms that have lots of different passengers on the platform -- in the morning at 96th Street on the west side, or anytime of the day you want to get on the 4, 5 or 6 at Grand Central Terminal -- the crowding is extraordinary," said Lhota. 

The L line in particular has seen major crowding issues with the exploding population in Brooklyn, he said. 

Subway rider Andre Blake balked at the plan, saying that limiting seat access deprives some people: "I think it's kind of foolish, you've got women who are pregnant, you've got elderly folks, you finish a long day at work, you wanna get a seat on the train."

But Shasha Mitchell said "it'll make a lot more room, it'll be very convenient for people who are rushed and want to get off the train." 

There's no immediate timeline for the pilot program, and Lhota said "this is not something we can tomorrow or next week," but he said he wants to have the overall $836 million stabilization program implemented within the next year.

An MTA spokesman said some trains on the L already have flip-up seats designed specifically for the R-160 cars.

The subway stabilization plan also includes cleaning the entire underground system to remove debris and cut down on fire hazards and adding cars to some subway trains where station platforms can handle it. Lhota said the second phase of the plan would focus on modernizing the system, a much more massive and costly undertaking, and would be outlined in the coming weeks.

Each day, more than 6 million people ride the New York City subway, which dates to 1904. The MTA plan comes as riders have dealt with delays, mechanical failures, power outages and even derailments. 

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