Those Transfer Signs Could Destroy the Subway System

efficient passenger project subway transfer signage nyc mta

To get to work, I take the R to the C, so in the morning I walk down the R platform and stand just where I have to stand in order to walk out at Jay Street into the escalator to transfer. But I’m not the only one: as the local crawls down the Fourth Avenue corridor, many commuters prepare to transfer at that particular station to those particular lines, small crowds forming around the doors—crowds so thick some days it makes it difficult to get off of that car, making you realize it would have been more efficient, though counterintuitive, to have gotten into basically any other car than the one you did.

So when I heard some misguided “Good Samaritan” had begun posting notices along the L line, advising passengers which cars to enter to make certain transfers, I was horrified. If the Jay Street transfer was so crowded just from street-smart commuters, imagine attracting a few more clumps of straphangers? Most of the criticism online has been about how knowing where to get on to make the most graceful transfer is learned (and thus earned) knowledge not to be doled out for free. Which, whatever. My chief concern, in this situation and in life, is whether crowds of people are moving most efficiently, and this half-considered scheme isn’t how you achieve that goal—it’s how you cluster too many people around one place, how you overcrowd. Ultimately, it’s how you bring chaos to the subway system in the name of order.

Who’s behind the signs? “The Efficient Passenger Project.”

For the first and surely last time in my life, I’m actually siding with the MTA. As reported by Gothamist:

The MTA… has vowed to remove the unauthorized signs. “These signs have the potential to cause crowding conditions in certain platform areas and will create uneven loading in that some train cars will be overcrowded while others will be under-utilized,” says MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. “And yes, regular customers don’t need these signs to know which car they should enter.”

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