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Recently, we decided to call the phone numbers on the doors in the New York City subway and the result was…pretty funny. But, there were a lot more doors we’ve been taking photos of over the past few months. Have you ever wondered what the scrubber room is? What Third Rail Operations is? Here’s a look at all the funny shapes, sizes and signs on the doors within the subway system.

The Scrubber Room


UntappedCities_MTASubwayArtCardsThe 2014 MTA Art Cards installed on an E train. Shown: “Robots” by artist Susan Farrington

In addition to the polar vortex, January was the month for the installation of three new art posters in the subway as part of the MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design, a program that has been going on for well over thirteen years.

The New York City subways are known for many things, and at Untapped Cities, we’ve been showing you all the art you can see on your daily commute today and what you’ll see in the future on the Second Avenue Subway. Each weekday over five and a half million people ride the subway, and that’s a whole lot of eyeballs looking for a place to alight.


Charles E. Morehouse Signal Learning Center-Signal Training School-MTA-Operations Training-14th Street-A:C:E-Subway Station-NYC-001

You’ve probably noticed the whimsical Tom Otterness Life Underground sculptures while at the 14th Street A/C/E station, but did you notice the MTA Signal Learning School? Heralded by a traffic light that actually changes colors, the official name of the school is the Charles E. Morehouse Signals Learning Center. According to a nearby plaque, Charles “exemplified the commitment to excellence that is the trademark of maintenance of way-signals” from 1953-2002.


dead end-stop light signal-cities 101-nyc-untapped cities-002

Yesterday a thread came up on Reddit in which the user asked, “I noticed this light at the end of a dead end street. What is the light for?” We thought it would be a perfect Cities 101 topic to talk about traffic signals and what purpose these lights serve. As a few commenters posted, these lamps are an added precaution to signal drivers that the street ends. In dangerous road conditions, such as low visibility, these lights come in handy where typical “Dead End” signs would be hard to see. (more…)

Transportation_SAS_NYC_Bhushan Mondkar_Untapped Cities-003Second Avenue Subway Station Rendering, Image courtesy: MTA 

Imagine an “intelligent” multi layered public transit system seamlessly weaving through New York City and beyond. Imagine walking out of a smart, sustainable subway station adorned by dynamic and captivating artwork and walking to the nearest Citi(car) rack to ride a soft, fluffy car to your office. And no! You don’t have to worry about finding a parking space! You just fold it back into the racks!

This was the Utopian journey that a group of some 50 transit buffs embarked upon during an enthralling discussion ‘Transportation and Second Avenue Subway” led by a visionary set of panelists- Judith Kunoff, Chief Architect, MTA New York City Transit, Sandra Bloodworth, Director, MTA Arts for Transit and Dr. Mitchell Joachim, Co-Founder, Terreform ONE.


Artwork renderings for Second Avenue Subway Stations at 96th Street. Commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design. Image via: Sarah Sze.

Working alongside the MTA architecture team in bringing beauty and inspiration into new Second Avenue Subway line is MTA’s Arts for Transit and Urban Design department, led by artist and curator Sandra Bloodworth. Building on the MTA’s nearly three-decade history of enlivening subway and commuter rail stations with mosaics and sculpture, the agency has commissioned art that accompanies riders from the sidewalk to the platform and helps shape spaces.