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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/MTAtrain

Three modest proposals for fixing the NYC subway system

By Clayton Guse
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Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke at the first-ever MTA Genius Transit Challenge Conference, the kick-off event for an initiative that will award three $1 million prizes for the best ideas for fixing New York's subway system. In his speech, Cuomo declared that the MTA was in a state of emergency, and announced an executive order that would allocate an additional $1 billion to the authority's capital plan.

We at Time Out New York are no urban planning experts, but we have seen the melancholy in the eyes of travelers when they join the huddled masses and painfully endure another subway delay. We've seen the photos of train wheels loosely held together by a zip tie. We've witnessed the derailments; the endless delays in sweltering train cars trapped beneath Lower Manhattan, and we can't help but lay awake at night, pondering a solution to this mess. Granted, we're also very, very interested in scoring one of those $1 million prizes (news flash: journalism isn't the most lucrative profession). 

So, dear New Yorkers, here are three modest proposals for fixing the subway system. None of them go full Jonathan Swift and suggest we eat the city's babies, but each could be just crazy enough to be the revolutionary solution that the MTA needs right now.

Make it pneumatic

In the late 19th century, a fellow named Alfred Ely Beach unveiled a two-stop subway track in New York that ran on pneumatic power (you know, like those tubes that suck up your checks at a bank drive-thru). His concept was never rolled out extensively, but it seems like the city has reached a point at which conventional rails have failed us. It's time to gut the entire system, and move from electric to "woosh" power. The practical implications of turning the New York City subway tunnels into a pneumatic tube system isn't important. What is important is that commutes would literally suck, giving New Yorkers yet another transit pun when the system gets gummed up. 

Literally throw money at the problem

Listen, subway construction in New York already costs way, way more than pretty much every other comparable metropolis on Earth. Fixing this mess is not going to be cheap, and it's almost certainly not going to be efficient. In lieu of investing Cuomo's extra $1 billion into signal updates and track repairs, the MTA may as well just dump all the cash straight onto the tracks. The greenback debris would cause track fires, riots and (hopefully) turn the subway tunnels into a dystopian underground civilization, which sounds a hell of a lot better than clawing out of a sweltering F train car after being stuck for an hour. 

Just say "fuck it" and let the whole system collapse

New York's subway has reached its current state of disrepair due to decades of neglect and underfunding. If the powers that be continued to ignore key investments and infrastructure improvements, it wouldn't be any kind of revolutionary strategy—it'd be business as usual. At this point, we might as well just call it quits. After all, rising sea levels are poised to put the entire city underwater in the coming decades, so we might as well cut our losses and invest Cuomo's cool billion into the weirdest sex party imaginable. 

Carpe diem, NYC. 

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