These subway stations are going wireless — but there are some strings attached.
The state will use three Brooklyn train terminals as a testing ground for new, high-tech depot designs, but first it has to close the stations for half a year, officials announced on July 18. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to gussy up the R train’s Prospect Avenue, 53rd Street, and Bay Ridge Avenue stations with free wifi, phone chargers, and train countdown clocks in a test run before it rolls out the amenities to 28 other transit hubs across the city, Gov. Cuomo and the state-run agency announced. When work is done, subterranean straphangers will be able to surf the web with unlimited juice, but the most important enhancement is the humble timer, one rider said.
“The countdown clocks will be ideal,” said Bushwickian Abby Clifford, who works off the 53rd Street stop and said the R train’s indeterminacy is its biggest drawback. “It’s more frustrating when you have no idea when the train is coming. When you know, it seems much less bad.”
In addition, the fancy new stations will feature more efficient lighting, new art, and digital displays letting people know if trains are on time before they swipe into the system.
The agency will shut the three stations for up to six months to do the work — an apparent adjustment to its previous promise to temporarily close stations for six to eight weeks when it announced general plans last winter. The authority did not respond to questions about the construction time frame.
Riders were split whether the closures were worth the trouble.
The temporary inconvenience is welcome if it means a better commute in the future, one rider said.
“Hey, if they’re shutting it down for good reason, that’s okay,” said Rosabel Rodriguez, who uses the so-called “Rarely” on her commute from the Bronx to Sunset Park’s Sixth Avenue.But another rider doesn’t want to suffer six months of service changes just so she can charge her phone while she waits around for a train, she said.“That’s gonna mess up my commute,” said Bronxite Brandy Smith, who comes to Sunset Park for nursing school. “I charge my phone daily. No way — not six months just to charge my phone in the train station.”
Officials also announced the transit authority will purchase 1,000 new subway cars — many of which will link together using accordion-like connections found on the agency’s Select Bus Service in order to “create longer, open spaces, allowing for greater passenger flow movement and increasingly capacity,” transit honchos said. The authority will also install canopies above the station entrance stairwells, screens displaying service updates above the stairs, and a neighborhood map outside each entrance, officials said.
The authority will put the R train project out to bid this week and will look for contractors for the other 28 stations over the next year, agency reps said.