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Ever since I was a high scool student programming on a Commodore 64, I thought that the New York City Subway system could benefit greatly from technology.  All the way back then I tried, in vain, to create an electronic version of the Subway map and dreamed of a more high-tech system.

So imagine my surprise and geeky delight, when last Thursday morning I boarded a Queens-bound N train at Union Square that was made up of what, I have since learned, are called the R160 subway car.  From the outside, these look almost identical to the cars used on the L train (which I belive are R143 cars), but inside there’s something much different.

The R163s have special electronic strip maps…every station on the map is displayed via LEDs, rather than simple light bulbs on printed maps:


Take a closer look at the train route and destination info in the panel to the left of the map:


That square is actually a video screen, and it displays messages and full motion video announcments from the MTA alternating with the route info.

Anyway, as the train moves along its route, the station that the train just left disappears off the map, and everything scrolls to the left.  The train shows the next 10 stops (or the current one and nine more), as well as several “further stops” and the very last stop (if necessary).  It also tells you how many stops away each station is (and for the “further stops” that has to be calculated):


How cool is that?  By the way, I hear it’s now illegal to take photographs in the subway.  Oh well.  Here are links to some other lawbreakers who took photos and videos of the R160 and “FIND” (Flexible Information and Navigation Display — the official name of the electronic map): Photos


Posted on Sunday, May 20, 2007 10:54 PM | Back to top

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