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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Did Your Transit System go through a "Brutal" Stage?

  Many complex systems, living and non-living, can be viewed as going through various stages.  This can also be applied to nations, organizations and so much more.  Thus a system could be viewed as being  at a new born state, going through a childhood, leading to maturity, adulthood, middle age and old age.  Can the same viewpoint be applied to your transit system or a particular line?  In my unscientific, not researched view, I believe that the New York City Transit System ( bus and subway ) went through such a stage roughly from 1963 to the late 1980's.   We are not assured that a system cannot revert to such a stage again.   What is a brutal stage? Is it a stage of economic loss,  grafitti covering everything and no hope?  This may be part of it.   During this period at least for the New York Transit System, some extensions took place (Crystie Street, Sixth Avenue, Essex - Lafayette) and so on, but many lines were abandoned: ( 3rd Avenue El in the Bronx, the Myrtle Avenue El in Brooklyn, The Bowling Green Shuttle on the IRT, the east end of the BMT Jamaica Line, the Culver Shuttle and so on ).  One aspect of Brutalization would be dealing with the passenger comfort environment.  I noticed that from the 50's on, the use of windows on buses and subways in New York City decreased.  Windowed wind screens, made of wood and glass, were a fixture of many older elevated stations.  When these wind screens became shabby, they were replaced by ugly sheets of metal.  Windows on the IND Prospect Park Line viaduct (Smith-9th Street and 4th Avenue) were cinder blocked up.  Any light coming into the subway (Fourth Avenue Line) was blocked up by making ventilation grates narrower.  Standee windows, on buses, were eliminated and comfortable seats near windows were eliminated.  In the picture below, taken from , a GM Fishbowl bus with advertising panels is resting at the end of the subway system at Stillwell Avenue - Coney Island in Brooklyn in the 1970's.   A  marked West End train is above (R27-30 ?) and the Coney Island gas tank is towards the left hand side of the photo above the West End subway train.

The bus below, with lighted advertising panels, with the J&B Liquer ad was an iconic bus during the years around 1964 - 1980's, specially in Manhattan.   It was nice to look at but the advertising panels hid the view of standees in the fishbowl.  The seating was not so comfortable as well.  The top photo comes from and  is from the Richard Panse collection from 2008.  This was taken at the 2008 Bus Rodeo at Floyd Bennett Field.  The bus is a fish bowl with standee windows and a interesting seating arrangement.  I believe the red seats in the back on near the windows.  Buses similar to this in the 1960's to 1970's in New York had a U shape seating configuration with no seats near the window accept the last two at the back left and right windows.  If the bus had advertising panels like the one below, the standee windows were gone.  Let me see, no air conditioning,  hard to see where you are going if you are standing because nothing is visible at eye level, no seats near windows, hard seats, diesel oil smell... what a good transit experience!  If you sat in the back going over a broken street at a hill in the Bronx, you had a bumpy ride and you may hit the ceiling!  Now that is brutal transit.

To be continued....

My other examples of "Brutualization":

  1. Not using destination signs in the front cap of trains.  When the R-32 and R-38 cars were rebuilt in the 1980's, the former front destination sign areas were covered over and replaced with a early digital LED  single number or letter fixture.  Older equipment simply had the front destination window covered over.
  2. Not using the lighted destination indicators on the side of trains.  As things got bad in the late 1960' and on, cars that had lighted destination sign indicators, which lighted the destination, were simply not used.  The bulbs were not replaced and such cars, such as rhe R-10's that had green lighted signs, and other car types, such as the R1-9's, R-16's to the R-38's, simply did not work anymore.  Was this a union issue or perhaps the bulbs were very hard to replace.  Rebuilt equipment, such as the R-32's that run today have side destination curtains but are not back lighted.  Incidentally, the dot matrix signs are wonderful, but if you need to the know the destination, such as Church Avenue or Coney Island in the PM rush on the F trains, you need the dot matrix sign to recycle for some time until you get to see the destination.
  3. Reduction of glass areas in the cars.  The R-16 to R-38 cars started to have less window areas.  Particularly the R-44 or R-46 cars at the end of the cars.  Why?  If you look at some of the older type of equipment, such as the BMT Standard B types, and the R 1-9 class, even the door pockets had windows.
  4. I know that many railfans are devoted to the BMT and IRT "Red Bird Class", which covered various equipment types from the R-16 to to the R-30.  I found these cars very hot in the summer and as a young railfan of less then ten years old, you could not see the tracks from the high windows.  The view from the Low V's, BMT Standard Cars, IND R-1 to R-9's were much better.
In the photo below, taken from the website, a Joe Testagrose photo taken on 2/12/1978 shows a marked up "B" train of R-38 cars at the Bay 50th Street Station on West End Line.  Notice that the route indicator "B" is in the right window where the destination sign formerly was located.  Notice the blank left window above the doorway.  By this time, the side destination signs no longer light up.

This is my opinion folks.
Tramway Null(0)

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