Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed details of a new fleet of subway cars Monday, part of a “redesign of the MTA on every level” that will bear the unmistakable mark of Albany.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced plans to build 1,025 new cars, which will feature Wi-Fi and USB jacks and connect openly to one another. A rendering of the new train showed a diagonal stripe of yellow and a panel of blue along the cars’ exterior, the latest sign that Cuomo is color-coding his legacy into the city’s transit system.
New buses that Cuomo deemed “Ferrari-like” in March and an e-ticket app that debuted this month feature the colors that New Yorkers might recognize from a state trooper’s car or all of Cuomo’s materials—blue and what this reporter mistakenly referred to as yellow at a press conference at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn.
“The state color is not yellow,” Cuomo corrected. “Gold.”
Cuomo’s office has previously denied a rebranding of the MTA in the state colors, but Cuomo said Monday it is “fair to say you’re seeing a redesign of the MTA on every level, and when you’re building new cars and you’re building new buses, you’re building new stations, etc., colors schemes are a part of that, and the attractiveness is part of that.”
The new cars, announced as Mayor Bill de Blasio was heading to Italy for a week-long vacation, are part of the $27 billion, five-year MTA capital plan. The transit agency will also rebuild 31 subway stations across the five boroughs. Granite floors will replace concrete, and iron bars will be exchanged for glass barriers, according to the preliminary designs. At new subway entrances, the classic green globes are out, and electronic boards showing train status are in.
The governor has previously touted plans for Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad, but at Monday’s press conference he emphasized that the subways are a priority for him as well, though he would not expressly confirm his signature on the new cars.
“I’m sure [MTA] Chairman [Thomas] Prendergast, when he’s done, is going to put on every door and every train, ‘Thank you New York state for the $27 billion,’” Cuomo joked. “As long as the train is on time. If the train is not on time…”
Not all of the $27 billion actually comes from the state. New York City, the federal government, and, of course, riders also contribute to the capital plan, which includes $15.8 billion for the city’s transit system (the MTA also reaches seven suburban counties in New York). Also, the state has yet to identify the source of all of the funds it has committed, which has made transit advocates nervous.
Design experts Debbie Millman and Steven Heller, co-founders of the branding master’s program at the School of Visual Arts, said that if the color stamp is meant to refer to the governor, the signature is subtle.
“I’m a native New Yorker. I’ve lived in all the boroughs except the Bronx and I can tell you that I never once knew that the New York colors were blue and gold,” Millman said.
The e-ticket app colors looks orange and blue, she said.
“It really looks like it was sponsored by the Mets,” Millman said, whereas the buses “almost look more like the love child of the Mets and Citibank.”
Swapping classic blue-and-white buses for blue and gold seems “radical in terms of the identification of the city,” Heller said, and could have political meaning, especially in light of Cuomo’s relationship with the mayor.
“If you take into account Cuomo’s ongoing feud with de Blasio— which could be ego, it could be ideology, it could be any number of things—it’s kind of a slap in the face to a mayor to have something so overt changed on him,” he said.
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