Train Seats May Go in NYC Subway Overhaul

July 26, 2017 Updated: July 26, 2017

Plans for New York City’s long-overdue subway upgrades have just been announced, starting with tackling overcrowding on trains—by reducing the number of seats.

Following a 30-day audit, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) says it is looking to increase passenger capacity by removing some seats from the subway cars, among other things, to stabilize the reliability of subway services.

Following a train derailment incident in Harlem in June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the MTA had 30 days to revise its operations and present a plan to address the immediate problems hampering the system’s day-to-day operations.

According to the City of New York, “Over the last five years, subway delays have more than doubled, from around 28,000 per month in 2012 to more than 70,000 per month today. Only 63 percent of trains are now running ‘on-time,’ a drop of more than 15 percent since 2012, meaning longer waits and less-reliable travel times.”

Subway passengers ride a crowded L train in New York City.  (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Subway passengers ride a crowded L train in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota announced a two-phase subway action plan at a press conference on July 25. Lhota said Phase One will commence immediately to address the critical issues that cause around 79% of major incidents. The work will focus on improvements to signals, tracks, and power, which together cause around 54% of incidents. Additional personnel will also be deployed to carry out flood and fire prevention, station upgrades, and car maintenance.

Phase 2 is aimed at streamlining system-wide improvements that fit the MTA’s long-term modernization plans through upgrades to signaling and communications technologies, as well as the purchase of new subway cars.

“We’ve got to take this system and get it out of the late 19th century,” said Lhota. More details will be announced over the coming weeks.

A pilot program to test the effectiveness of seat removal will take effect on the L line and S 42nd Street Shuttle only. The change is expected to increase passenger capacity by 25 commuters per car.