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NYC Subway Plods Into 21st Century With Wi-Fi, Real-Time Info

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Governor Andrew Cuomo already revealed big plans to improve Penn Station and the Javits Center this week, so why not throw the entire subway system on top of that, too? As part of the governor's State of the State initiative, Cuomo detailed a plan of action for the MTA today (at the New York Transit Museum, no less) that includes big changes; namely, that more countdown clocks are coming sooner than expected, all subway stations will have Wi-Fi soon, and contactless payment will be a reality by 2018.

The goal of this initiative, according to a press release, is to "modernize and fundamentally transform" the MTA—the proposed improvements would not only affect the subway system, but the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North as well. Possibly the most exciting development for straphangers is the implementation of countdown clocks in more subway stations; they'll be installed along the 7 line and some of the lettered lines beginning this year. The MTA is also planning to make arrival and departure times more accessible via the SubwayTime app, which will be easier to access when all of the underground subway stations have free Wi-Fi, another tenet of Cuomo's plan. That's expected to be in place by the end of this year.

And in the "things we probably don't need but are still kind of cool anyway" category, the plan includes installing information screens, Wi-Fi hotspots, and USB chargers on both subway cars and buses, with a goal of getting 1,500 buses and 4,000 subway cars equipped with the gadgets. (It'll be handy if your phone is dying and there's a video you just have to shoot, at the very least.…) Contactless payment—i.e., paying for a subway swipe using a QR code on your cellphone, rather than a MetroCard—and mobile ticketing on Metro-North and the LIRR are also part of the plan.

"This is about doing more than just repair and maintain," Cuomo said in a press release. "this is thinking bigger and better and building the 21st century transit system New Yorkers deserve. We are modernizing the MTA like never before and improving it for years to come."

On the not-techy side of things, the plan also includes refreshing 30 subway stations using a new set of design guidelines; the goal is to make stations "easier to navigate, with better and more intuitive wayfinding." That's expected to be completed by 2020.

In response to Cuomo's announcement, the Riders' Alliance released this statement:

These are vital investments to modernize subways and buses and make the daily commute less awful for eight million New Yorkers. But in order to make them happen, Governor Cuomo has to approve the MTA capital program so the MTA can begin doing the work, and he has to identify how he plans to pay for it all. After a year of delay so far, riders need a real guarantee that the work will actually happen, and that it won't be paid for with more MTA borrowing that can lead to fare hikes and service reductions. Which, you know, fair point. It remains to be seen how these changes will be implemented—and, given the MTA's track record, if it happens on time—but the proposals are exciting nonetheless.

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MTA's $29B Capital Plan Cuts Second Ave Subway Funds in Half [Curbed]