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MTA Arts & Design/Cheryl Hageman
Image: Courtesy MTA Arts & Design/Cheryl Hageman

Five key things to know about the new 42nd Street Shuttle

After nearly three years of construction, riders will finally get to enjoy the major improvements.

Written by
André Wheeler

The corridor below 42nd Street — which connects the major hubs of Grand Central, Bryant Park, and Times Square to each other — has long been an under-appreciated workhorse for the MTA system. During pre-pandemic times, it is estimated that more people passed through the corridor in a single day than the entire daily ridership of the Boston subway and bus system. But while extremely convenient and vital for scores of riders the free transfers were, admittedly, never really that pleasant to perform. On Friday, however, expansive renovations and improvements will officially come to the section connecting Bryant Park and Times Square. One of the most noticeable changes will be aimed at beautification: A set of surrealist, colorfully-hued mosaics conjured up by the artist Nick Cave will be unveiled.

Overall, the vast improvements are geared towards improving both the general experience and efficiency of transferring. And if you’re a transit-nerd like us (shoutout NUMTOT), you’re probably hungry for details about what changes to see and enjoy during your next trip, especially when the completion of major MTA projects feels too far and in-between for New Yorkers. Here are five important things to know about the MTA’s large-scale renovation of the 42nd Street Connector. 

Nick Cave created the mosaics based off his distinctive “Soundsuits” and video recordings 

This is not the first time artist Nick Cave has used the MTA system as a launching pad for his art. Back in 2017, the artist staged an experiential showing of 30 life-sized “horses” that broke out into “choreographed movement” inside the Grand Central Terminal’s iconic Vanderbilt Hall. The project was presented in part by the MTA Arts for Transit. For his decorations of the new 42nd Street Connector walls, Nick Cave turned to his infamous Soundsuits, which The New York Times describes as “wearable fabric sculptures made of materials such as twigs, wire, raffia and even human hair,” for inspiration. Cave photographed multiple photos of his various Soundsuits in active motion and then used those photos as basis for the mosaics, which were made by Mayer of Munich, the world’s oldest architectural glass and mosaic studio.  

The renovations increases accessibility for wheelchair users 

Accessibility advocates have long pressed the MTA to majorly improve access and ease of use for riders who use wheelchairs. Out of the 472 MTA stations in New York City, only 135 are wheelchair accessible — that’s only 29 percent. With the improvements to the 42nd Street Connection, the passageway will finally be wide enough for wheelchair users to be able to use without difficulty. The accessibility improvements include new elevators in the Grand Central Station and the creation of one larger island platform between two tracks at the Times Square (which will simplify the navigation and increase safety for customers of all abilities).  

The 42nd Street Shuttle will run faster

The modernization of the 42nd Street Shuttle train includes an extension of the track that will allow the MTA to run longer cars during peak times, increasing capacity by 20 percent. And riders can now take advantage of a new connection to the Shuttle through the Bryant Park entrance. 

The project cost $1.8 million

As a result of the Senate passing a hefty $1 trillion infrastructure bill this summer, New York is expected to receive at least $10.7 billion in federal funding. Key, large-scale construction projects could blossom out of the aid. Senator Chuck Schumer said the money could go towards several major projects benefiting the New York metropolitan area, including the completion of the perennially delayed Second Avenue Subway and reconstruction of rail tunnels underneath the East River. In addition, there is a chance congestion pricing could finally take affect given New York state has a new governor and will also, soon, have a new mayor. For once, things might be looking up for MTA riders.

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