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The Subway Problem: Brainstorming Solutions With Our Graduate Community

Featured in the SVA Graduate Newsletter

News that the L train would not be completely shut down was, for any L commuter, a dream come true. But as any New Yorker knows, the subway system as a whole leaves something to be desired. We tasked four writers to ask students and alumni from very different fields to come up with solutions for improving the subway. They dreamed up inventive, funny, practical, socially conscious and aesthetically pleasing solutions.

Retro Style from SVA Artists
by John P. Kazior, 2019 MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism

“Inconsistent Wi-Fi avail­ability can hinder a traveler’s access to MTA information, which can often lead to delays and time lost,” replies MPS Branding student Ericka Garcia Valiente when asked how she would improve the subway experience. “It would be good to try and mend those holes in communication, to talk to subway commuters to better understand individual needs and wants. It would be beneficial to think of the MTA as a brand more than just a transportation service. The MTA could provide those who might be facing delays with different experiences, like curated, live performances—as there is no shortage of performers willing to bring their show to the subway.” —John P. Kazior, 2019 MFA Design Research, Writing and Criticism

You'll Hope for Subway Delays
by Sneha Mehta, 2019 MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism

MFA Fine Arts alumnus Shohei Kondo suggests a radical aesthetic makeover of the subway. “The subway cars right now are inconvenient and dirty—but I would give up wishing for a system that worked better if the experience looked better,” he says. “I’d like to see subway cars covered in graffiti and graphics like the classic ones in the iconic movie The Warriors (1979). That would make the subway so much more interesting to travel in. The artistic styles of SVA alumni like Keith Haring and KAWS would suit this project perfectly. In any case, whether the subway can be made more attractive or not, the MTA should install an air purifier in each station.” —Sneha Mehta, 2019 MFA Design Research, Writing and Criticism

Soothing Straphangers
by Emily R. Pellerin, 2019 MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism

Adrian Michelle Smith, MPS Art Therapy student, has been riding the subway for five years. Evading the purely practical, she reaches for sensory solutions to improve the MTA experience. “More soothing colors, like purples, blues, could help people,” she proposes. It could “calm them down when it’s rush hour.” From changing the color scheme to offering art supplies on board, Adrian’s approach is to create relaxing environments that function as creative outlets. “You know how in airplanes there are stations to listen to music?” she asks. In Adrian's subway car utopia, there’d be a headphones-only section for the musically inclined. “They listen to classical or jazz, and they just zone out.”

Underground Recharge
by David Shuford, MFA Art Writing

Jesse Firestone, of MA Curatorial Practice, currently resides in Ridgewood, Queens, and he cherishes the cityscape view from the M train’s elevated tracks. Jesse’s response to how he would improve the NYC subway experience involves curating quality-of-life improvements within the transit system: “All subways should have SAD lamps installed to provide riders with vitamin D in the wintertime—if [the MTA] can add all those advertising monitors to stations, they could make this happen!” Jesse adds, “I would also promote info kiosk usage in stations, and change all subway car seats to folding ones to save space.”

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