Friday, January 29, 2016

Better subway station names

Back in October, City Council Transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez argued that some of our identically-named subway stations really are confusing and should be changed (see the full report in PDF. In general I agree; the worst are those that are on the same line in different boroughs; back when there was a 23rd Street-Ely Avenue stop in Queens, I helped a poor recent arrival on the V train who got it confused with 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.

I like how in Paris every station has a unique name, and that's part of the navigation system for the city: directions regularly include the name of the nearest Metro station. Of course that's because Paris has no grid, and grids actually make subway station naming kind of boring: do we really want stops called 23rd-Park, 23rd-Broadway, 23rd-Seventh and 23rd-Eighth?

On the other hand, I also agree with Ben Kabak that the names proposed by Rodriguez's staff are not great. They're not as bad as the DC Metro with stations like Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter, but they're still too long. I'm going to take them one at a time:
  • 7th Avenue 53rd Street: This can be just plain Seventh Avenue, because we're going to rename the other ones.
  • 7th Avenue Prospect Heights: This is in line with the MTA's push to rename stations after the neighborhoods they serve, but it's silly. The next stop on this line is Prospect Park, and there's a 15th Street-Prospect Park stop on the F and Prospect Avenue stops on the R and 2/5 lines. Why not just rename it Carleton Avenue after the street on the other side of Flatbush Avenue?
  • 7th Avenue 4th Street: This is a typo, unless Rodriguez is working with the MTA to fund a subway under Fourth Street. I think we should rename it Ninth Street, and then the Smith-9th Street station can just be Smith, and the Fourth Avenue-Ninth Street station can just be Fourth Avenue.
  • Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall: Take off the "City Hall" part, off of this and the IRT station. There's a City Hall station across the park on the R train.
  • Chambers Street-World Trade Center: Since this is part of the same complex as the E train terminal at World Trade Center, why not call the whole thing World Trade Center? Well, even the south end of the A/C platforms are pretty far from the WTC, and we'll have to make sure the #1 train station won't be called World Trade Center when it opens.
  • Gun Hill Road - White Plains Road: This can stay as just Gun Hill Road.
  • Park Place: Are people really getting this one confused with the Franklin Avenue Shuttle stop? If it's a big deal, call it Park Row instead.
  • Gun Hill Road - Eastchester Road: As Larry Velázquez pointed out on Twitter, it's not even very close to Eastchester Road. We could name it after Seymour Avenue or Hammersley Avenue, both of which are closer.
  • Pelham Parkway - White Plains Road: This is probably the best we can do. We don't want it to get confused with the other Pelham Parkway stop, but there are nine other stops along White Plains Road. so it looks like we're stuck with both of them.
  • Pelham Parkway - Williamsbridge Road: First, spell "Williamsbridge" right. We could just call this "Williamsbridge Road," but then people might think it's close to the "Williams Bridge" station on the Metro-North Harlem Line.
  • 36th Street - Sunnyside Yards: The problem with this one is it assumes that Sunnyside Yards is a destination. I mean, sure, I took Alon Levy there, but we're transit geeks. Does it mean someone in Rodriguez's office is expecting this part of the Yards to be developed soon? How about 38th Avenue instead?
  • 36th Street - Fourth Avenue: If we rename the LIC station to 38th Avenue, we can keep this as 36th Street.


BBnet3000 said...

Park Pl is across City Hall Park from Park Row. A better name might be Church St.

Alex Knight said...

The F/G runs beneath 9th St there, so 7th Ave is actually the logical name. Renaming it 9th St would be more confusing. Also, the 2 part names for the others make sense. Smith/9th is right where the line turns east from Smith to 9th and 4th/9th is a transfer station where the R stops at 9th and the F/G stops at 4th. Might be logical to just rename 7th to 7th/9th so it's consistent. You could also do 7th Ave Park Slope or 7th Ave Methodist Hospital.

WJF said...

To be honest, I somewhat prefer the two-part names, even if they are a bit redundant. To make them more explicit can remove a layer of confusion. When someone says "Seventh Avenue Station," intending it as the full station name, a reasonable person could mistake that for a shorthand name of another station. Nothing will eliminate the possibility of confusion, but I think that's a fair way to reduce the possibility.

I also think that in general multiple stations within the same complex should share a name. This wasn't mentioned here, but one example is the Lorimer St [L] and Metropolitan Av [G] stations. I think that these should share the name like Lorimer - Metropolitan to enforce the idea that this is a seamless in-system transfer. Likewise, I think that Chambers St [J/Z] should share the same name as Brooklyn Bridge - City Hall [4/5/6] (as suggested in the report) given that they are in the same complex. Having two different names for so many stations that most riders don't actually conceptualize as separate stations makes the system seem more confusing than it actually is.

James Sinclair said...

Im going to say they should have unique names.

Forget Paris, look no further than Boston. Kenmore Square. Kendall. Bowdoin. What do they mean? Who knows, who cares. What came first, the square or the station? Who knows, who cares.

Make new names, like Rockley Square, Paterson Court, Brunswick Corner, Ike Mound, etc etc.

In five years, nobody will remember the names were made up and assume they'd been around for 200 years.

neroden@gmail said...

I would actually prefer systematic names like "7th Ave - 53rd St". For *EVERY* station in Manhattan and the Bronx

For Queens and Brooklyn, the street grids are actually a source of confusion, so none of the station names should have numbers in them.

"Smith-9th" should be "Gowanus Canal".

neroden@gmail said...

Also agreed that two stations in the same complex -- if you can get between them *inside fare control* -- should always have the same name.

One of the major problems is the naming duplication in the Queens street grid -- Queens has its own Broadway and its own numbered avenues and streets. Ideally *none* of these would show up in station names. Actually, ideally the streets would be renamed.

Brooklyn has the smae problem but less so. There's probably some way to find a number-free name for all the stations in Brooklyn. I am less clear on how to do this in Queens.

I do think that stations in Queens and Brooklyn should ideally have NO street or avenue numbers; that should be reserved for the Manhattan-Bronx grid.

Anyway, the old way the stations were disambiguated was that the lines had names. You never stopped at "8 Av station". You stopped at "8th Avenue station on the Sea Beach line" or "8 Av / Sea Beach" for short.

The actual mistake was this: when the lines were given letters, the stations should have had the line names suffixed, so that we would have stations like "20 Av/Sea Beach".