Subway Side Doors A Partial Success (1909)

From nycsubway.org

The New York Times · February 17, 1909


The New Subway Car Tried Yesterday.

Subway Side Doors A Partial Success

First Test Shows Time and Crowding Saved, but Subway Officials Don't Like Them.


Possibility of Many Accident Suits If the Guards Are Not Careful—-Some Clashes Over New Device.

The Public Service Commission's new idea in side door subway cars was tried out yesterday for the first time. Their operation, at least from the point of view of the members of the commission's staff, which witnessed the tests, was a success, though it could be seen that improvements were possible. On the other hand, the Interborough officials maintained that the experiment proved that there were several disadvantages, and that practically no time was saved by the operation.

Differences between General Manager Frank Hedley of the Interborough and Bion J. Arnold of the commission, as well as between Alfred A. Gardner of counsel for the Interborough, Mr. Arnold and George A. Damon, an assistant to Mr. Arnold, were a feature of the first trial trip of the train of eight cars, each of which had the extra doors. Toward the end of the first trip, which was made just before the evening rush hour began, Mr. Hedley was asked how the cars were working.

"Rotten," was his response.

The train left the yards at Lenox Avenue and 148th Street shortly before 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and made the trip to Brooklyn and back. The real test came on the return journey, when the train reached the Brooklyn Bridge a little before 4 o'clock. The rush crowd was beginning to gather then, and, in fact, the train picked up a large crowd on lower Broadway.

Each of the cars is equipped with four additional doors. These doors are about four feet from the old doors, toward the centre of the car. There are two new doors on each side of the car, and the theory of the plan, as worked out by Bion J. Arnold, the Public Service Commission's Subway specialist, is that by insisting on passengers alighting from the cars through the new doors and boarding the cars through the old doors a "circulation" of passengers can be maintained and the clash between boarding and allghting passengers, resulting in inconvenience and delay, be done away with.

One Flaw Alleged by Company Officials. The new doors, which are wide, are controlled by the guard on the car platform by a pneumatic device operated by a lever. As soon as the experimental train, on its return trip from Brooklyn, became crowded, so that passengers were standing, it was obvious that the guard must have difficulty in seeing from the platform whether the new door within the car was clear, so that he might close it with the pneumatic device. It was this state of affairs that impressed Mr. Hedley. Both he and Mr. Gardner, the Interborough's counsel, were anxious about this when the train reached Fulton Street.

"The guard cannot see the door, and some day some one is going to get hurt," said Mr. Gardner.

To this Mr. Arnold made reply that the guard could see the door and operate it perfectly in non-rush hours, but that in rush hours it had best be operated by one of the platform men on the station platforms.

In talking with Mr. Hedley about this point, Mr. Damon said that the constructor of the car had informed him that the new doors were built in such a way that they were directly in the guards line of vision.

"You know that isn't true." said Mr. Hedley. "If he said that I don't believe him."

A great deal of similar argument took place between the company officials and the commission's representatives in the course of the trip. Meanwhile the public was getting its first experience with the new cars. It must be said, too, that intending passengers learned easily, and the amount of confusion on the first trip was small. The passengers entered by the old doors and left by the new ones, and only now and then would a passenger run for the wrong door. In such cases the guards, either on the train or on the station platforms, stopped them. In some instances assistant engineers of the Public Service Commission barred the new doors as soon as the last passenger had left the car, preventing entrance that way.

Although the company had promised to co-operate with the commission's men in every possible way, it is a fact that the platform men at the stations in no case attempted to close the new doors. They were ready and willing enough to help in closing the old doors, through which passengers were entering the cars, but the new doors were left entirely to the car guards, whom Mr. Hedley maintained could not see what they were doing.

In this connection both Mr. Arnold and Mr. Damon insisted that with a crowd as big as that which besieged the new cars on the train's first trip, the platform men should close the doors, and they insisted that there were facilities for this. Mr. Hedley stated that there were no such facilities. It was said that the platform men had not been instructed to close the new doors.

A Saving of Twenty Seconds. It is Mr. Arnold's theory that the new cars will save time in cutting down the time at which the trains must stop at the stations. On the first trip north the Grand Central Station was reached at 4 o'clock, and the time of the stop was noted. Mr. Damon is authority for tho statement that the usual duration of the stop there is sixty seconds. Yesterday, when the experimental train stopped there, it was observed that the loading and unloading operation had been completed in forty seconds. The dispatchers gong was sounding at the time the last door closed. Seemingly the train should have left the station, showing a gain of twenty seconds. It did not leave the station, however, until the sixty seconds had elapsed. The reason for this was not learned, though it was suggested that the block light might have been holding the train back.

The experimental train made another trip north just before 6 o'clock. On this trip the doors did not work so well, and the "circulation" was not as good, for the reason that the people were packed so tightly in the cars that they couldn't "circulate" to advantage. It was noticeable, too, that with the crowd pressed pretty close against the new doors inside the car the guard did have considerable difficulty in seeing when to close the doors by the pneumatic device.

One of Mr. Hedley's suggestions was that both doors be used both for exit and entrance, being opened at the same time to allow the passengers to alight. This, he says, will double the present capacity for loading and unloading, whereas under the plan proposed by Mr. Arnold the capacity is only really doubled where the number of passengers alightlng is equal to the number entering. Mr. Hedley pointed out that, as at Fourteenth Street, there was scarcely any advantage in the new doors, when there were but a half dozen passengers to a car to alight, while there were twenty or thirty trying to get aboard. It is possible that Mr. Hedley’s plan will be tried.

Says New York is Behind Chicago. One of the passengers was heard to remark:

"Well, I see New York is just getting what Chicago has had for years."

The new cars do not differ materially from the old ones, except that the seats have been removed where the new doors were cut through, leaving each car with eight seats less than before. and with comfortable seats for two between the edge or the new doors and the bulkhead between the car proper and the platform. The standing room is slightly increased by the new arrangement.

Commissioners Wlllcox, McCarroll, and Maltbie rode on the first trip over to Brooklyn. Each Commissioner declared the experiment a decided success. If the commission as a whole is sufficiently pleased with the new style of car it will doubtless order that all the steel cars, at least, be equipped with the extra doors and that such new cars as are purchased have them installed. This will mean the expenditure of something over $1,000,000 by the Interborough, and it is expected that the company will make a fight in the courts on the question.

Hi-V 3421 was one of eight cars converted to the extra side door configuration described in this article. A different design, with a third door cut into the center of the cars, became the standard arrangement of IRT subway cars to this day.

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