Industrial design firm Pensa has developed a proposal for New York City to transform how subway stations are designed in response to COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic has done a highly efficient job of illuminating an urgent need for changes to systems in our daily lives, including how we get from point A to point B. Pensa, a New York City based firm, has spent their time in quarantine asking the question, why is the subway station largely still stuck underground?
In a recent press release, Pensa writes that "while NYC and MTA are taking measures to make transit safer with nightly cleaning and social distancing, those changes don't address the fundamental problem: subways and buses put crowds into small enclosed spaces...We should be considering the most impactful ways to use this space to benefit the public." Pensa's extensive proposal includes a reimagining of subway platforms, plazas, and stations with novel new features within the city's public transportation system. For example, stations were re-designed to include open-air waiting areas so MTA customers can head underground only when they know a train with capacity is arriving.
A perspective drawing of Pensa's redesign for the outside of a subway station
Street-level stations are also designed to get customers to their next destination seamlessly, whether it's by subway, bus, taxi/car sharing or bike sharing. The plan for the outside of the station includes hubs for cabs to wait as well as readily available bike stations.
A plaza redesign includes train arrival information and spaced outdoor seating
Finally, Pensa considered how to keep customers busy while they wait for trains to arrive. Their designs include a plaza experience featuring easy to clean furniture commuters can sit or lean against, easy-access WiFi, and outdoor spots to shop, eat, or grab something to go while they wait. The studio's open-air concept is certainly a redesign that would be welcome due to the risk of infection waiting for the train in an indoor station, but also as a general relief during New York City summers when stations are particularly stuffy.
Mark Prommel, Pensa partner and design lead, says the firm has been working hard to contribute their skills to efforts within the city related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the manufacturing of face shields offering open source designs for intubation shields in hospitals. "We felt that focusing on public space could have the most benefit to the most people, and no matter what, we kept coming back to the transit system," Prommel mentions. "There were so many questions about what public transit would look like moving forward. We started by focusing close to home in New York City. NYC and the MTA were taking commendable measures to make the transit system safe in the early return to daily riding and commuting."
Pensa is currently in talks with the city regarding their public transit designs, but their PR team states it's still too early share progress on their plans.