Appointed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to develop a refreshed design vision and new design guidelines for the entire system, Grimshaw lead the design for the agency’s Enhanced Station Initiative (ESI) Program. The ESI program aimed to implement a renewed focus on the passenger experience in New York’s venerable subway system. By the end of 2019, Grimshaw completed 23 station enhancements that reflect the application of new, contemporary design standards developed specifically for New York City Transit. The enhancements to each station recognize the importance not only of the subway itself as a lifeblood of NYC, but of the common experience shared by the majority of New Yorkers who ride the rails. Improvements at each station elevate the passenger experience by bringing new materials and technology to bear while honoring the heritage of the system that has served the city for over a century.
Since the first subway trains began service in 1904, the system has been essential to the population of New York City, driving the growth, commerce and culture that has grown the city to a place of global significance. Today, 24 subway lines serve 469 stations over 662 miles of tracks, joining the city’s bus network to transport over 7.5 million passengers on an average weekday. As ridership numbers continue to grow, the MTA has set out to improve the complete passenger journey, from the moment one decides to make a subway trip all the way to the moment they board the train. More than simple makeovers, the new design vision and station design guidelines that Grimshaw developed aim to ease trips through the incorporation of technology, high-quality and durable material selections and clarified wayfinding.
While the subway system navigates a diverse array of neighborhoods, the renovations and enhancements are designed to be universally applicable resulting in a familiarity that facilitates ease of use while adapting to individual station conditions and locations.
The goals for the ESI extend beyond simple aesthetics to the functionality, efficiency and feel of the upgraded stations. Seeking to provide an elegant yet simple design uncluttered by unnecessary infrastructure, openness and visibility became important design drivers. Additionally, each station integrates new technology and industrial design elements that are capable of relaying relevant information where and when needed. The stations also serve as a canvas for the MTA Art & Design program, bringing vibrant new works of public art integrated in each station. Together the improvements and enhancements signal an attention to human experience, balancing safety and comfort with the provision of an improved customer experience that can be appreciated by subway riders and passersby alike.
New entrance canopies and totems improve visibility, safety and street presence through a design that highlights New York City Transit's world-renowned Unimark graphic identifier of the New York City subway. The canopies and totems include integrated technology that maximizes system and service information distribution allowing customers to assess information at street level and creating recognizable beacons amidst a busy neighborhood.
Entry and exit specific information supports passenger’s onward journeys and interagency system coordination. This new approach improves intuitive navigation and minimizes confusion, a way-finding system that aids learning and the building of mental maps. Information is progressively revealed and is future-proofed for a rapidly changing city and technology.
Low turnstiles, and low height glass or metal mesh railings promote openness and increased visibility. This visibility greatly improves safety, eliminating blind spots and creating havens where customers can wait in comfort, within view of MTA employees and the information they need to properly select and board their train.
Upgraded and deliberate lighting improves atmosphere, efficiency, and navigation. Visual de-cluttering improves station legibility and clarity of system navigation. Robust finishes are used for ease of maintenance. Removing paint build up from existing structural elements and refinishing them preserves and clarifies the robust and beautiful structural bones of the system.
Thoughtful art integration enhances the customer experience within each station environment, as it provides an opportunity to engage local neighborhoods with unique, site-specific visual art. This truly makes a difference in the lives of the communities where these stations are located, offering an artful experience to each and every rider while bringing color, texture and even light to the station environment. It is no mistake these installations are often the most memorable element of any given station.
Actual construction posed challenges to the agency, designers and contractors as everyone on the Design-Build team worked in close coordination to minimize the amount of time that each station would be closed. Through careful coordination both before and during construction, finished stations were completed not only on time, but early. As a critical part of the neighborhood fabric, subway stations provide not only a link to transportation, but a focus on civic life, catalyzing businesses that serve straphangers going about their day.
The combined improvements afforded by the new design vision, station design guidelines and Enhanced Station Initiative Program are amongst the MTA’s most ambitious and important endeavors that is appropriate for a world-class transit system and Grimshaw is proud to be lead designer.
Grimshaw was founded by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw in 1980. The practice operates worldwide, across all major sectors, with offices in London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Dubai, Melbourne and Sydney, employing over 650 staff.
Grimshaw has been honoured with over 200 awards for its commitment to excellence and innovation, including ‘Practice of the Year’ and ‘Building of the Year’ at the 2019 AJ100. In 2019, Founder Sir Nicholas Grimshaw was awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects.