A graphic artist tackles the New York City subway: Part I


Randall John Gregory II (or Randy, for short) is not only a graduate student at the School of Visual Arts, but he is also an innovative thinker and designer for the masses. Recently, we think Randy has been putting his design skills to good use in the realm of mass transit. He has put together not just one or two designs, but 99 different proposals to improve the New York City subway system. Most of his proposals are low-cost and easy to implement, and can help the MTA go a long way in improving the safety and comfort of their riders.

Randy is a designer specializing in brand development, front end web development/design, layout, print design, experimental design, user experience, and consultation. His work related to Subway Improvements has been published in New York Magazine and on several other blogs including his own 100 improvements to the New York subway.

We would like to thank Randy for sharing his work with our readers and allowing us to present it to you in a slightly different order than he has it on his blog site.

Visit www.randygregorydesign.com to see his other work.


Platforms and Stairs

The following proposals are designed  to improve platforms and stairs.

55. Stair Lighting

55. Stair Lighting

Generally, the lighting at outdoor stations leaves much to be desire. And in bad weather, it’s easy to lose your footing. The installation of lights in the stairs would provide some piece of mind, and also improve the overall ambiance of those stations.

63. Station Colors


There is a certain industrial feel to the subway stations. Some stations, like Union Square, are completely gorgeous in their layout and design, and the new stations, like Fulton Center, are incredible in their scale & move towards a friendlier environment.

However, many stations could benefit from some color, namely the color of the lines they represent.  BDFM could be painted in brilliant Pantone 165, and the 7 line could have swirls of purple throughout the line, adorning walls and columns alike.

79. Edge Sensors


At my talk at hyperakt, it was suggested that there should be some kind of system to prevent people from getting too close to the edge. This system would feature some sort of sensor built into the edge, that when obscured by a foot, the line would illuminate brightly, alerting the rider or personnel of the station that the user is too close to the edge. This way, precautions could be taken. If there is a police presence, they could be alerted as well, in case of violence or potential suicides.

 44. Stair Mesh


When it rains in New York, typically water gets tracked into the subway, and usually ends up on the stairs, making gross puddles…but what if there was a way to conserve that water? If the stairs were built with a high-grade water absorbency system, that could collect the liquid and let it drain for processing, we could have drier stairs & another way to keep the stations clean, along with another source of water, once purified.

23. Designated Directions on Stairs


At first glance, this could be seen as a hopeless gesture. But in countries like Japan, this works. People see the arrows, and follow accordingly, minus rush hour.  A man can dream, right?

18. Escalator Markings

18 Escalator Directions

If you’re kind (or observant), when you use the escalators, the rule is “stand on the right, walk on the left”. Subtle reminders like these markings would help remind users of this rule, and keep busy New Yorkers moving.

21. Express/Local Markers


We’ve all had that moment where we step up on the platform and wonder which train is which. There is existing signage, but it’s not the best. The addition of visual markers like these would make it easier to differentiate.

22. Notifications on Platforms


Once again, playing off of the concept of not knowing which train is which, why not have massive typography on the ground of the platform?  This mockup also shows the proposed “blind line”.

 19. Directional Lines

19 Dirctional Lines

Throughout the system, we’re directed to trains via a system of signs. These signs can be confusing in certain stations, like Union Square or Grand Central, where there are multiple signs for the same station in different locations. Perhaps a series of guidelines on the floor can help guide users throughout the underground

 49. Solar Panels on Outdoor Stations


The installation of solar panels on outdoor stations can help power the grid of the subway, and as an extra source of income, the MTA could sell earned energy back to the city.

37. Protective Barriers & Doors

37 Protective Doors

Last year, there were 139 deaths on the subway. By looking at the numbers of deaths per station MTA can pick the stations with the largest number of fatalities and install the protective doors. In certain Asian countries, they have walls in place that keep people away from the tracks. These walls could also serve for advertising purposes, and eventually, provide an environment for air conditioning.


Following are the proposals made by Randy to improve the cars.

38. Car density

38 Car Density

It’s a real pain when you’re standing on the platform, and the car you always get on is full. So then you have to run to the next car, not knowing if it’s going to be full or not. And sometimes, you miss the train, causing even more tension & anger.

Live tracking, based on the weight of the cars, could determine this info. When you get to the platform, you can check the screen, and figure out where to stand. This results in better distribution of riders. 

24. Subway Timers


One of the biggest problems the subway has are people attempting to squeeze into the car as the doors are closing. This is attributed to a number of reasons, one of them being that the riders don’t know how much time is left before the doors close, which cause them to hurry to a train, endangering themselves, fellow riders, and potentially causing time delays on the entire system.

Timers located near the doors could help alleviate this problem. Start them at 30 seconds, and countdown. At zero, doors close. This way, if someone sees the train with 5 seconds left, and they’re 20 seconds away, they’ll second guess about trying to run for the doors.

53. Gym style flooring in Cars


Standing in a train car can be painful at times. Especially if you have bad shoes on, and you’re taking a long trip, like a ride to Coney Island, or the A line from Washington Heights to Midtown. A soft gym style flooring could relieve our feet from the strain of standing. Not too soft, and not too hard.

46. Bike Racks

 46.bike racks
In New York City, bike riding is huge, and with Citibike starting up, it will only get bigger. Currently, having a bike on the subway is a tedious affair, typically ending in bruised knees and angry commuters. If certain sections of the cars were dedicated to holding bikes, as seen in other cities, it would help alleviate the problem and probably encourage more people to ride their bikes.

56. Safe Inter-Car Passage
56Intercar Passage

An idea taken from articulated buses, a safe inte-rcar passage, with an actual floor and walls would help solve the problem of people falling off the train or through the passage in between trains.  This will also allow people to move from one over crowded car to the next less crowded car.  Also in case of a threat from an individual a passenger can walk to the next car and feel safe.

42. Textured Grip

42.Textured Grip
Currently, we have to hold onto metal railings in the cars. It’s really easy to lose your grip though, and when the train stops hard, you could end up loosing your grip, hurting yourself or others.  If the metal bars in the train had rubberized grips, this issue could be solved.

57. Straps 57Straps

Lately, I’ve been interested in how people stand in trains, and one thing I’ve noticed is that when we hold onto the bars, we uncomfortably try to move away from other people when our hands accidentally touch. In the past, the subway became known for having straps for people to hold onto. They were removed because of vandalism, stealing, & maintenance woes. But what if there was a new kind of strap that was durable, secure, and easily maintained?

51. LED lighting in Cars

51 LED Lighting

Currently, the MTA is updating the Verranzo bridge with energy-efficient LED (light emitting diode) lighting, which will cut energy costs by 73% and will substantially reduce maintenance costs. If the lighting in all of the cars were replaced by LED’s, we could see the same benefits, if not more. Also, the riders would appreciate the nicer lighting.

5. Subway Car Ramps

5 Subway car ramp

In the proposed handicapped areas, there should be some form of ramp, which can help the handicapped get on the train. In the existing handicapped zones, there isn’t any difference between the areas that they can get on/get off versus anywhere else on the platform.

26. Wifi

26 Wifi

26. Wifi on the trains. It helps in situations when people get stuck on the trains, so they can communicate with their jobs, friends, and family…for example, if you’re on the 1,2, or 3, and the lines get shut down because of a missing inmate. Or, keep track of your tasks/directions as you plan out your busy schedule. Or even watch cat videos on Youtube. Wifi would enable a whole new level of ease on the trains.

Furthermore, the various platforms in the station are inconsistent, so a ramp system in some form could help, despite the “gap”.

The second instalment of Randy’s design proposals for MTA would cover the two equally important aspects of the system; Signage and Fare collecting devices.

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  1. A graphic artist tackles the New York City subway: Part II | PlaNYourCity - August 23, 2013

    […] Part I was published last week this Part II is the final piece of this post. […]


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