The Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York City is finally redesigning its subway system for the future. Or, to be like what most large transit systems have been like for awhile now.


As part of the same sweeping transportation initiatives that will reconfigure the dank hallways of Penn Station, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an accelerated timeline for several features for trains and stations that are long overdue.

By the end of 2016, he said today at a press event, the New York subway will offer:


  • The ability to purchase tickets through your phone
  • Mobile ticketing so you can scan your way through turnstiles using an app, like an airline boarding pass (but not using mobile payments, yet)
  • Wifi in stations (cellphone service by early 2017)
  • USB charging hubs on trains and in stations
  • Countdown clocks for all stations
  • Twice as many touchscreen kiosks that provide real-time service information to travelers

About 140 of 277 underground stations have wifi now so it’s no surprise that program is being expanded. But many of these other proposals are new.

Adding the USB chargers, for example, will be helpful for the riders who are now draining their batteries trying to watch Netflix during their commutes. The countdown clocks and additional kiosks are very nice touches as well.

A mockup of mobile ticketing via an MTA app

But it’s the real-time arrival info that could be the real game-changer here—if, that is, the city is actually serious about doing this. Last month, James Somers at CityLab posted an incredibly detailed investigation into why New York’s subway, the most extensive on the planet, doesn’t have this already when pretty much every other big transit system does. (Basically: an old system, a tech upgrade that never happened, and lots of bureaucracy.)



There isn’t a timeline for this part of the plan. “The MTA will also accelerate delivering real-time arrival data for all 469 subway stations” is all the announcement says. But this information would be incredibly valuable as public data for use with apps like Google Maps’ real-time transit directions, which are available in other large cities now. A place to plug in your iPhone is nice but imagine being able to plan your trip around a very late or nonexistent G train without having to go underground first.

Now that really is the future.


[Read the whole proposal for the MTA here]

Follow the author at @awalkerinLA

Image via Flickr / Jens Schott Knudsen