Mid-week reading: strategy games, housing politics, fossil fuel subsidies, and the benefits of bike lanes

Welcome back to mid-week reading, which is (happily) becoming a more intermittent feature. One of the most interesting things I’ve recently read was Jonathan McCalmont’s exploration of anarchist scholar James C Scott’s arguments about the way that governments interact with their people: “Seeing like a state: why strategy games make us think and behave like brutal psychopaths“:

Cloaked as they were in the trappings of religion and medieval warfare, it was all too easy to overlook the morally dubious nature of the games’ relationship between players and in-game characters. Indeed, it was not until the release of Bullfrog’s Syndicate (1993) that the political savagery of the strategy genre became fully apparent. Stripped of the moral fig leaf of historical context, Syndicate asked us to assume to role of a corporate CEO who used cybernetically enhanced slaves to battle rival CEOs for control over a virtual environment that enslaved the entire human race. For the first time, players were asked to embody not mythical beings or historical princes but ruthlessly exploitative capitalist tyrants. The fact that playing a corporation was no different to playing a god or a warlord merely served to drive home the moral message: You are a complete bastard

What all of these games have in common is a tendency to make even the most liberal of gamers behave like brutal tyrants. For the player of strategy games, little computer people serve only as a means to an end. We do not care about whether or not our little computer people are happy, we only care about whether or not they are productive. If they are not productive then they are in our way and little computer people who get in the way of their players tend to wind up brutalised, enslaved and dead.

Second, on a different note, Tim Watkins (Pundit) reflects on the government’s reaction to the Auckland housing crisis. While the article’s a few weeks old at this point, Watkins’ points are still worth considering:

What’s become clear is that Auckland’s problem is no longer a land supply problem, it’s a house supply problem. The Special Housing Areas have opened up over 50,000 sections according to the government, but only 1000 houses have been built. Even Auckland Council estimates six and a half years worth of land is ready to build on. What’s missing is a will (or requirement) to build, tradie capacity and, arguably, a government commitment to a mass building programme.

Instead, what we’ve got from National seems to be an admission any fix on Auckland house prices is years away and what matters to them now is spreading the blame.

Watkins also highlights infrastructure as a key problem:

Auckland Council is in a bind on infrastructure. Not that you’d know it from most of the debate, but it’s willing to sprawl somewhat. It’s problem is the lack of roads, rail, sewers, footpaths and the like on the outskirts of the city and an inability to pay for it.

Auckland Council is maxed out on debt; if it borrows more it suffer a credit downgrade and the local government authority that borrows on behalf of councils simply won’t let it do that, as I understand it. It can’t raise rates, because they’re already high and they’d suffer a revolt. Thy want to introduce congestion charges, but the government won’t change the law to let them.

Third, the Economist offers a good analysis of the opportunity that current low fossil fuel prices offer for policy reform:

The most straightforward piece of reform, pretty much everywhere, is simply to remove all the subsidies for producing or consuming fossil fuels. Last year governments around the world threw $550 billion down that rathole—on everything from holding down the price of petrol in poor countries to encouraging companies to search for oil. By one count, such handouts led to extra consumption that was responsible for 36% of global carbon emissions in 1980-2010.

Falling prices provide an opportunity to rethink this nonsense. Cash-strapped developing countries such as India and Indonesia have bravely begun to cut fuel subsidies, freeing up money to spend on hospitals and schools (see article). But the big oil exporters in the poor world, which tend to be the most egregious subsidisers of domestic fuel prices, have not followed their lead. Venezuela is close to default, yet petrol still costs a few cents a litre in Caracas. And rich countries still underwrite the production of oil and gas. Why should American taxpayers pay for Exxon to find hydrocarbons? All these subsidies should be binned.

What a better policy would look like

That should be just the beginning. Politicians, for the most part, have refused to raise taxes on fossil fuels in recent years, on the grounds that making driving or heating homes more expensive would not only annoy voters but also hurt the economy. With petrol and natural gas getting cheaper by the day, that excuse has gone. Higher taxes would encourage conservation, dampen future price swings and provide a more sensible way for governments to raise money.

An obvious starting point is to target petrol. America’s federal government levies a tax of just 18 cents a gallon (five cents a litre)—a figure that it has not dared change since 1993. Even better would be a tax on carbon. Burning fossil fuels harms the health of both the planet and its inhabitants. Taxing carbon would nudge energy firms and consumers towards using cleaner fuels. As fuel prices fall, a carbon tax is becoming less politically daunting.

Lastly, new evidence from New York shows that protected cycle lanes, in addition to being safer and more enjoyable for people on bikes, can also improve life for people in cars:

When New York City first started adding new protected bike lanes in 2007, some drivers made the usual argument against them: Taking street space away from cars would slow down traffic. After years of collecting data, a new report from the city shows that the opposite is true. On some streets redesigned with protected bike lanes, travel times are actually faster. And it turns out the new lanes have a range of other benefits as well.

For pedestrians, the bike lanes make walking safer by shortening crosswalks and making crossings more obvious to drivers. Pedestrian injuries have dropped an average of 22% on streets with bike lanes. Not surprisingly, cyclist injuries have also decreased; on 9th Avenue, for example, even though far more bikes are on the street, cyclist injuries have gone down by 65%.

For cars, a better traffic flow comes partly as a side benefit from a safety feature added with the bike lanes. Cars turning left now have pockets to wait in—so they’re less likely to hit a cyclist riding straight, but they also stop blocking traffic as they wait.

“Having that left turning area, where you’re able to get out of the flow, you can see the cyclist, the cyclist can see the turning vehicle, you can pause and not feel the pressure from behind to make a quick movement,” says Josh Benson, director of bicycle and pedestrian programs for the New York City Department of Transportation. “That’s a major major safety feature of these type of bike lanes. But it also helps the flow.”

Time for a car free Domain?

If New York can make most of Central Park car free, then why can’t we do the same with the Domain. That was my thought when watching this video from Streetfilms.

Last week, people walking and biking on the Central Park loop had to worry about taxi drivers and car commuters motoring through the park as a rush hour shortcut. This morning was different: Above 72nd Street, you could ride your bike, walk your dog, or go for a run on a safer, quieter path with a lot more elbow room.

Officials and advocates celebrated the permanent expansion of the park’s car-free zone under sunny skies this morning. While traffic is still allowed in the heavily-used southern section of Central Park, today’s ceremony marks a big step on the path to completely car-free parks.

Effective today, the Central Park loop north of 72nd Street is permanently car-free, except for emergency and service vehicles [PDF]. In Prospect Park, the West Drive will go car-free next Monday, July 6 [PDF]. Traffic will continue to be allowed at various hours on the Central Park loop south of 72nd Street, and during morning rush hour on the East Drive in Prospect Park.

Car Free Central Park

The Domain might not quite be Central Park but it’s the closest thing we’ve got and in my view we need to be better use out of it by making it more inviting and people friendly.

Auckland Domain

Of course before we can make it more people friendly we need to improve how people can access it. Currently it’s very hard to do that if you’re coming from the city as it can be very unpleasant to do so if you’re not in a car. The most logical route for people coming from the city is along Wellesley St but absurdly that has no pedestrian access. That should hopefully improve soon with one of the projects funded out of the government’s Urban Cycleway Fund being a connection from Victoria Park to Grafton Rd.Auckland urbancycleways map 2015-18

That will some aspects of one of the core features of the City Centre Master Plan come to life, Move 6 – The Green Link – which is shown

CCMP - Linear Parks

I suspect that not all aspects of the green link will yet be built as some parts – like around Albert St – are reliant on the completion of the CRL

Victoria St Linear Park

With improved connections from the city centre it would be possible to jump on a bike in the centre of town and for a relatively easy 5-10 minute ride be in the heart of the Domain for lunch.

What do you think, should the Domain be car free?

An 8-bit Subway Delay Story

A great 8-bit video from New York’s MTA showing how incidents on PT can quickly lead to long delays plus what can be done to mitigate them. Of course we don’t quite have the same frequencies as the New York subway but the same principles apply. Warning, the music is quite catchy.

The video comes from this post which also has more information on how the subway performs and what is being done to reduce delays

h/t Mike George

Sunday music: Talking Heads on cities

A blast from the past: the Talking Heads’ ode to urbanity, “Cities”. This is from the band’s fantastic concert film Stop Making Sense:

The Talking Heads emerged from 1970s New York. The city itself wasn’t doing so well at the time – like many other large American cities, it was struggling with deindustrialisation, white flight, and a crime wave. But it was a fantastic time and place to make music. Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa were originating hip-hop; Television, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, and the Ramones were putting together punk rock.

People were swapping ideas and innovating. Things were happening. That’s what happens in cities.

Talking Heads frontman David Byrne realised how important urban places are to creativity. A few years ago, he wrote a great book about cities and streets, drawn from his experience touring all over the world and riding around cities on his folding bike – it’s called Bicycle Diaries.

Citi Bike Rides visualisation

Citi Bike in New York has been spectacularly successful and incredibly popular since it launched in May last year.

Just a few months later tens of thousands of trips per day were already being taken on the bikes. Below is a fascinating visualisation covering trips users made over two days.

At long last, we have documented trips on Citi Bike. Rides are displayed as point-to-point journeys (not routed in the street grid – yet) and are rendered in color based on whether the rider was an annual or casual user.
This visualization was produced using journey data from Tuesday, September 17th at 12 midnight and Wednesday, September 18th at midnight. Approximately 75,000 rides were taken in these two days.
The weather was mild, with highs in the 60s and lows in the 50s. No rain at all was recorded.

Postcard from New York

As far as cities go, New York is *the* superlative. At once soaringly vertical and unfathomably broad. Dense and constrained, yet with an expansive commuter belt spread over three states. A place where local neighborhood hangouts sit a block away from global institutions.

I found New York to be a surprisingly homely and friendly place. The people are gracious and polite, helpful and personal in a way that belies a population counted in the tens of millions. Curiously I felt safer and more welcome in midtown Manhattan than I have in most other places. A real enigma of a city where the sense of wonder extends far beyond the garish lights of Times Square.


One could write volumes on transport and urbanism in New York, and indeed people have. There is a gift shop in Grand Central Station that stocks a library worth books on such topics. There are four current issues on the planning of Central Park alone. If you want a history of New York’s municipal reticulated steam supply there is a book on precisely that. If you are interested in the subway there are about a dozen. Nonetheless, I thought I would write this post as some observations on using the New York subway quite intensively for the best part of a week.

It is almost the oldest, almost the biggest, and almost the busiest metro system in the world. Like the old and great systems of London and Paris it is the complex product of over a hundred years of iterative development, grand schemes, failed ventures, mergers, reorganization, investment and neglect. Like the rest of the city, the subway is paradoxically superlative: equal parts brilliant and terrible.

To start with the good:

The subway system is both very extensive and very intensive. By extensive I mean that it extends right across the five boroughs of New York City, with many long lines stretching out to some of the farthest suburbs. By intensive I mean that it has many closely spaced stations, with stops located convenient to seemly everywhere. Together this means the system has great accessibility for travel all over the city, particularly because it also integrates very well with frequent buses on the surface. Yet again, the most metro intensive cities in the world also have very intensive bus systems. Remember that, and repeat it regularly.


Normally the combination of frequent stops and long lines would have the unfortunate result of slow speed and lengthly travel times. However in New York they have avoided this problem with one of the great and unique features of the subway. Most lines are actually configured as two pairs of tracks, either side by side or on two levels. This allows them to run two service patterns per line, a ‘local’ that stops at every station along the way, and an ‘express’ that skips all but the major destinations and interchanges. You can pick between the high accessibility or the high speed, and indeed the normal thing to do is to transfer from the local to the express at the first interchange, then back to the local again after skipping most of the intermediate stops. In this way you get the full accessibility and full speed, and most stations are set up with the local and express stops on either side of the same platform to make doing so very simple. While this is a great approach I doubt it is something we could ever do in Auckland, as it takes a city like New York to make it work. For a start you need to be able to afford four tracks and double sized stations, and also you need very long lines to make it worthwhile. But more than anything, you need the patronage to be able to sustain two parallel metro lines running at very high frequency on the same corridors all the time. There are only a few cities in world that can do that.

That brings me to the next point. The New York subway has exemplary service levels. Each service pattern, of which there are frequently two or three per line, runs at very high frequencies right across the day. Trains every three or four minutes is the norm, even outside of peak hours. And the kicker? The system operates twenty four hours a day, seven days a week for the most part. This underlines the sheer importance and value of the subway to the function of New York. It isn’t a system intended to get commuters to Manhattan on weekdays, it isn’t a system intended to take the edge off traffic congestion, and it isn’t a system intended to provide a last resort for the poor and unfortunate who have no other options. Rather, the subway is simply a system intended to transport people around New York, whatever the time, whatever the destination, whatever the reason and whoever the traveller. This is something we need to aim for in Auckland, not the metro system itself, but the transit system that works any time for any reason and any person.


So now the bad. As I suggested above the subway is a product of its history, which naturally has resulted in various foibles and problems.

Despite the abundant network connectivity, connecting between lines is usually a convoluted and lengthy process. Transfer stations are most commonly a collection of separate platforms of various ages and designs linked by labyrinthine passageways, staircases and occasional street level links. Many span multiple levels and even multiple city blocks, undoubtedly the result of fitting in new lines and tunnels over the years wherever they could be accommodated. Way finding within station complexes is difficult to say the least, and simple connections can become a frustrating claustrophobic experience.

Furthermore, because most of the stations were cut out of the street corridor and can have me than one level, the ceiling heights are universally low, little more an two meters in many cases. This adds to the claustrophobic feeling (as does the dank stuffy air from the lack of air conditioning), but more insidiously it means that there is little scope to hang much wayfinding signage in places where it can be easily seen. The labyrinthine station designs make it both impossible to intrinsically see the obvious path to the other platforms, yet simultaneously the low ceilings prevent fixing the problem with good signage.

Stairs are many and varied on the subway. This means the system is not accessible by wheelchair and difficult for those with prams, luggage and the like. Many stations are built only with access via four narrow staircases, each set on one corner of an intersection. This can mean a whole trainload of people trying to get up one little staircase against the flow of others trying to get on. Furthermore most stations don’t have a concourse level, so changing platforms can mean exiting up to street level to cross the road and head back down the other side.

The final thing, well the whole network is a bit scuzzy. Dirty, run down, crumbling, rusting and waterlogged. It’s in need of an almighty makeover it will probably never get. I’d hate to think of what the cost of simply painting the stations and patching up broken tiles would be, let alone rebuilding and renovating the hundreds of stations.


So in summary the New York Subway a paradox, at once decrepit and exemplary. Incredibly useful, valuable and effective, yet thoroughly unpleasant and confusing to use. Excellent service levels in a horrible environment, an ugly and awkward icon the city could not function without.

New York’s transformative transport commissioner comes to town

This is a guest post Christina Bellis from Frocks on Bikes

It’s not often you hear “transportation bureaucrat” and “celebrity” in one phrase, but Janette Sadik-Khan has shaken up one of the world’s most famous cities – and most famously dense – and started it flowing again.

Her approach is profoundly common-sense but – unsurprisingly – it’s quite uncommon. It’s a “have a go, see what happens”.  The Department of Transportation (DoT) does things to New York’s transport-scape that are “radical”, and does them as temporary trials – with paint, cones, orange-painted drums, cheap furniture. There is a lot of communication, monitoring and assessment, and the promise that if it doesn’t work it’s abandoned.

New York is a tough gig. Like many other cities we can name, it’s been car-centric for decades and marginalised other transport modes – to the point where it’s “radical” to argue that their contribution (and share of city space) should be greater.

On becoming Commissioner of Transportation in 2007, Sadik-Khan promptly began doing profoundly “radical” things with a strong mandate from the Mayor of New York.  These initiatives are freeing up New York’s famously car-congested streets, hitherto hostile to pedestrians, bikes and buses alike.  It’s been controversial, but to many people’s astonishment the addition of bike lanes, bike hire, pedestrian space and bus priority has not only made the city dramatically more liveable, it’s made all New York’s traffic more mobile.  “You have to design your streets for everyone. The cities that have safe streets, that are easy to get around, are the ones that will grow and thrive in the 21st century”, says Sadik-Khan.  It’s something that New Zealand’s traffic engineers seem to hear, but not actually understand – meaning our urban and transportation design tends to languish in a 1950s paradigm that’s gradually choking our cities while gobbling scarce resources. One of the main reasons: the social and political barriers that see forward-thinking design branded “anti-car”, “greenie” or “utopian”.

We could learn a lot from the way New York has started to push back the car-focused hegemony.  Under Sadik-Khan the DoT is quickly and cheaply piloting new things, boldly and on the right scale – e.g. a trial pedestrian area in the places people actually want to go, rather than a space that’s chosen because it’s not in high demand for parking.  But they’re trialled in a way that people clearly understand to be temporary.  The materials are cheap and look transient – orange barrels, cones, paint, cheap furniture, astro-turf.  There’s lots of communication with the public and neighbours. And the city’s transport system is being re-designed with people’s mobility and the city’s liveability at heart – not vehicles’ mobility.

The result? Success on three fronts:

  1. Because the pilots are chosen and executed well, they’re genuine trials of a decent example of the initiatives. Where they’re good, people actually use ’em.  The trials are heavily monitored, and the ones that work go to the next stage of implementation. (Those that don’t are quickly and openly rejected, without city officials nervous of losing face for having committed lots of money and reputation to it.)
  2. Good design, plus clearly temporary materials and lots of communication, prevents the fear that “They’ve already decided” which all too often results from even innocuous initiatives in New Zealand. Without the public fearing that “They’ve already decided”, there’s less angst at the outset from those who’re opposed in principle. The pilot initiatives have a chance to demonstrate their merits with the “undecided majority”, and if they’re heavily used, the evidence speaks for itself and makes the tradeoffs more compelling.
  3. There’s no “mode vs mode” approach – it’s about getting people around New York in a way that makes the city work better for people.  It’s recognising the ways the different modes contribute, and reconciling them on the ground – buses, bikes, taxis, private cars, pedestrians, commercial traffic – so they each contribute fully to the city’s transport ecosystem.

So, there are some clever people in New York’s DoT and a bold innovator at its head.  But New Zealand transportation engineers and local authorities are bright people, and no less intelligent than their New York counterparts. And our small budgets compared to New York’s are even more reason to start thinking intelligently about our transportation – and intelligently about how we trial, select, design and implement things.  We might be surprised how quickly the “radical” can become acceptable, preferred and mainstream.

Driving and sprawl are killing you

An article in the New York Times a few months ago summarised quite nicely recent research into connections between transport modes and health outcomes:

Millions of Americans like her pay dearly for their dependence on automobiles, losing hours a day that would be better spent exercising, socializing with family and friends, preparing home-cooked meals or simply getting enough sleep. The resulting costs to both physical and mental health are hardly trivial.

Suburban sprawl “has taken a huge toll on our health,” wrote Ms. Gallagher, an editor at Fortune magazine. “Research has been piling up that establishes a link between the spread of sprawl and the rise of obesity in our country. Researchers have also found that people get less exercise as the distances among where we live, work, shop and socialize increase.

Obviously there’s nothing really new in the fact that obesity creates significant health problems and that our car dependent lifestyles have created a culture where people have to go out of their way to exercise – and therefore many just don’t get around to it. What’s perhaps most interesting though is just how related obesity rates and other health problems appear to be with our urban form and our transport choices:

“In places where people walk more, obesity rates are much lower,” she noted. “New Yorkers, perhaps the ultimate walkers, weigh six or seven pounds less on average than suburban Americans.”

A recent study of 4,297 Texans compared their health with the distances they commuted to and from work.It showed that as these distances increased, physical activity and cardiovascular fitness dropped, and blood pressure, body weight, waist circumference and metabolic risks rose.

The report, published last year in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine by Christine M. Hoehner and colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas, provided causal evidence for earlier findings that linked the time spent driving to an increased risk of cardiovascular death. The study examined the effects of a lengthy commute on health over the course of seven years. It revealed that driving more than 10 miles one way, to and from work, five days a week was associated with an increased risk of developing high blood sugar and high cholesterol. The researchers also linked long driving commutes to a greater risk of depression, anxiety and social isolation, all of which can impair the quality and length of life.

It’s not just in the US, similar results come from a Swedish study:

 A Swedish study has confirmed the international reach of these effects. Erika Sandow, a social geographer at Umea University, found that people who commuted more than 30 miles a day were more likely to have high blood pressure, stress and heart disease. In a second study, Dr. Sandow found that women who lived more than 31 miles from work tended to die sooner than those who lived closer to their jobs. Regardless of how one gets to work, having a job far from home can undermine health. Another Swedish study, directed by Erik Hansson of Lund University, surveyed more than 21,000 people ages 18 to 65 and found that the longer they commuted by car, subway or bus, the more health complaints they had. Lengthy commutes were associated with greater degrees of exhaustion, stress, lack of sleep and days missed from work.

Fortunately it’s not all bad news though. The trends we’re seeing with fewer young people getting driver’s licenses than earlier generations, contributing to the general decline in per capita driving over the past 7 or so years offer some hope to researchers that perhaps we’re finally “turning a corner” on many of these trends:

In her book, Ms. Gallagher happily recounts some important countervailing trends: more young families are electing to live in cities; fewer 17-year-olds are getting driver’s licenses; people are driving fewer miles; and bike sharing is on the rise. More homes and communities are being planned or reconfigured to shorten commutes, reduce car dependence and facilitate positive interactions with other people.

Dr. Richard Jackson, the chair of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, says demographic shifts are fueling an interest in livable cities. Members of Generation Y tend to prefer mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods and short commutes, he said, and childless couples and baby boomers who no longer drive often favor urban settings.

While there is still a long way to go before the majority of Americans live in communities that foster good health, more urban planners are now doing health-impact assessments and working closely with architects, with the aim of designing healthier communities less dependent on motorized vehicles for transportation.

Now, about that Unitary Plan that enables a huge amount of sprawl and the Integrated Transport Programme loaded up with poor value roading projects.

The Metamorphosis of New York Streets

A great video from Streetfilms showing how the streets of New York have changed over the last few years with primarily quick and cheap transformations that have re-prioritised space around pedestrians and cyclists.

There’s nothing more dramatic then looking back five or ten years at Streetfilms footage (some of it a bit low-res) to see how much the livable streets landscape of New York City’s streets have changed. In this wonderful montage that even makes us cry check out the transformation of Times Square, Herald Square, the Brooklyn Waterfront and many other places that out-going NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and her staff have intrepidly installed.

We have similarly high hopes for Mayor de Blaiso as he takes office today and look forward to what he and his new NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. As much as has been done, the large majority of our streets still need reforms, we need drastic policy change, slower speed limits and traffic calming for our most vulnerable citizens. Hopefully, this short gets them excited to top the transportation record of the Bloomberg administration.

Please note: this is but a short sample. Seriously, we could have put together a one hour version!

We really need some of these types of changes to happen in Auckland so come-on Auckland Transport, get your act together and stop being so worried about the flow of vehicles.

Improving the PT user experience

Public transport systems in cities all around the world comes in many different shapes and sizes. However there seems to be one thing universal to them all, the locals who use them daily always think they can be better. There are systems in some cities that we would dream to have in Auckland but it doesn’t make them perfect. One of the great things about the Internet is it lets people share their ideas for improvement. In New York one designer is trying to improve things with some suggestions. Here is a description of what he is doing.

For the next 100 Days, I will propose various improvements to the New York City Subway, which in 2012 had 1.6 billion riders, and should be seen as the best subway in the country, if not the world. I’ll be exploring various ideas, from UX, Environmental, Co-Branding, Audio/Visual, and more, including potential interviews with MTA employees, all in an attempt to create discussion.

As you would expect not all of his ideas would apply to Auckland and positively a number of them have, or are being addressed already as part of electrification. He is currently up to #60 so I thought I would share my  favourites so far.

This one probably doesn’t need too much explanation (although not that many stations actually have toilets – which they should have).

14. Bathroom Door Opener
So opening a bathroom door has always been a gross thing. It’s even worse in the current station bathrooms…why not just use a pedal system that can be connected to the door’s internal mechanism, to pop the door open when you’re done?

It would be nice just to have set dwell times

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.

I would find this one more useful than the real time system we have now

25. Train Positions
“Ahh crap, I just missed the R train…where’s the next one? Oh, 28th street! Awesome!”

This would be far more useful than the pitiful excuse we call passenger displays currently

30. Info Panels
It’d be great to have panels streaming live data about the system and the city. Seeing the weather outside can help me prepare accordingly, seeing a live feed of the tunnels will let me know if I’ll deal with any delays, and some live entertainment can either show off local television, or display info about local businesses to help break the monotony of the trip.

We are starting to see some of these pop up but could do with more

36. Neighborhood Guides
What kind of things are in a neighborhood? Where are they? Interactive kiosks in tourist heavy areas could answer these questions, and display helpful videos about important New York landmarks, like the World Trade Center. Users could use the interactive map to find restaurants & other local businesses. A camera attached to each kiosk helps dissuade vandalism.

This one may take a bit of work but would certainly be useful during the peak periods. Of course our new trains also allow access between the carriages which should help with spreading the load.

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.

We have been told we are getting wifi on our new electric trains so I have left that off but this one could be useful, nothing worse than using your phone/tablet to kill some time in the process draining the battery.

47. USB Power
With newer trains, the subway will utilize the kinetic energy created by braking. USB power stations could borrow some of this energy, so that riders with low batteries can charge up for 50 cents, all by tapping your RFID Metrocard.

Another little thing that would help with directions for new users

58. System Diagrams on Platforms
Inspired by the subways in Barcalona, there should be a revised system in how the subway diagram is shown. Make it big, make it obvious. This way, travelers know where they’re going.

Those are some of my favourites, any others you think would be appropriate. Also what suggestions would you make for Auckland?