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Bringing public transit into the 21st century

New York Subway by Lok Yiu Cheung on

I think we’ve hit peak millennial.

Last Friday the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, announced that 30 subway stations will be redesigned and that “millennial-friendly amenities” would be added throughout the system

As you might guess, this includes adding phone chargers in train cars and buses and wifi throughout all the stations (by the end 2016). They will also be replacing the MetroCard with an all digital fare system that will include mobile payments.

But the reality is that this isn’t about being millennial-friendly. This is about joining the 21st century.

Here in Toronto, we finally have our PRESTO card working on all streetcars and in almost 40% of the city’s subway stations. This is a huge improvement over our laughable and antiquated token system, but it’s not enough. I really hope the next rollout is a mobile app that will allow everyone to pay with just their phone.

We also have wifi in about 30% of our subway stations, but again this is not enough. By the time you get authenticated (do you need to have Twitter now?), your train is usually arriving and then you enter a tunnel where no wifi exists. We need to be looking at the entire tunnel network. (Related topic: LinkNYC

I say all this because I am a big supporter of public transit. Despite all the positive things I write about Uber, ridesharing, and driverless cars, I do not believe that they will eradicate the need for a strong transit backbone. This is fundamental to our city building efforts. 

So let’s do our best to delight people when they take transit.

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