When American transit agencies ignore the world’s move to open gangways

» Virtually every new metro or subway train purchased by transit agencies over the past ten years has been built with open gangways—allowing passengers to walk from one end of the train to the other. Except in the United States.

New York City’s Second Avenue Subway project, which in its first phase will bring transit service north from 63rd to 96th Streets in Manhattan, will provide many benefits for commuters, offering three new stations and much easier access from the Upper East Side to western Midtown. It will reduce congestion on the Lexington Avenue Subway (4/5/6) by as much as 13 percent—a boon for commuters on the single-most-used transit corridor in the country. And it will respond to the simple fact that New York City is growing quickly; it has added half a million people since 2000 and continues to expand.

But the Second Avenue Subway project has its issues—notably the fact that at $4.5 billion, it’s outrageously expensive given its 1.7-mile length. Given these construction costs, few projects of this magnitude are possible. So what alternatives do congested, growing cities like New York have to increase the capacity of their transit systems?

All around the world, cities investing in their metros—a term I’ll use here to describe systems like New York’s Subway, the Bay Area BART, and others—are choosing to include open gangways on their trains.* It’s a simple concept to understand: Basically, people who board a train are able to walk from one end of the train to the other without opening doors or stepping outside of the train.

Open gangways provide a number of advantages: One, they expand capacity by allowing riders to use the space that typically sits empty between cars. This added capacity means that a metro line can carry more people with trains of the same length. Two, it allows passengers to redistribute themselves throughout the train while the vehicle is moving, reducing problems associated with many people boarding in the same doorway, such as slow exiting times and poorly distributed standees. Three, it increases safety at times of low ridership by increasing the number of “eyes” in the train. There are no obvious downsides.

Open gangways offer passengers the benefit of an improved, less congested, and safer environment as compared to trains with individual cars, the standard you’re used to if you live in the U.S. And it’s no surprise that transit agencies all around the world are choosing open-gangway trains for virtually every new vehicle purchase. This is documented in the following map, where green cities represent places where the metro systems run at least some trains that are all open-gangway. Those that are red do not. Click on the map for a higher-resolution, larger version.

I used the World Metro Database to help me create the map below and the table at the end of this article, but the Database is out of date and, in some places, incorrect and as a result, I collected the information shown here one agency at a time. The vast majority of metro systems are investing in trains with open gangways.

Yet American transit agencies have ignored the concept. New metro trains have been or are being purchased in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, among others, but they all continue to be built with individualized cars, with no open gangways. It’s as if the agencies simply have not gotten the message. Only Honolulu, which has a new purpose-built metro currently under construction, will adopt this technology. Perhaps the other agencies will get the message once that system opens in two years.

I wrote about this issue six years ago, interviewing representatives from New York and Washington transit agencies to ask why their new trains did not feature open gangways. The responses were anemic: In Washington, a spokesman told me that the agency had “no plans to change it just to change it,” as if the concept of open gangways was frivolous. In New York, I was told that open gangways would only be possible if “we have a budget for Research and Design for an entirely new subway car.”

Others have suggested that the handicap in the U.S. is that transit agencies have specifications that make them incapable of handling such vehicles. Some say that U.S. agencies need trains with short cars, but the Paris region features a commuter train with open gangways with cars that are shorter than even the notoriously short Chicago L vehicles (43’5″ versus 48′). Some say that the maintenance expense would be too high to transition to these trains (since maintenance facilities might have to be altered to handle cars that are permanently affixed to one another), but many of the European agencies, with metro systems just as old as those in the U.S., have been able to accommodate the trains in their facilities, probably with the assistance of the train manufacturers. Some suggest that these trains would be more expensive, but evidence suggests otherwise.**

London, which has resisted adding open gangways to its “deep tube” fleet (it has such trains already on its “sub-surface” lines) because of issues with tight curves, has recently come around to the concept. In its future metro vehicle feasibility study, London found that open gangways were not only possible, allowing walk-through trains, but that they would increase train capacity by up to 10 percent, while reducing train weight and energy consumption.

When I analyzed this subject in 2009, I didn’t realize the degree to which the world standard had shifted. 75 percent of non-U.S. metros now offer open-gangway trains in their fleets, representing systems as varied as the brand-new networks in China to the ancient facilities in Berlin or Budapest. The last time Mexico City, Madrid, Oslo, or Amsterdam bought a train with individual, separated cars was back in the 1990s. Even our compatriots just across the border in Montreal and Toronto have come around. Every major train manufacturer offers trains with open gangways off the shelf. What is holding U.S. systems back?

Back in 2013, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced in its long-term capital needs assessment that “consideration should be given to” trains with open gangways. We’ve heard no more on this subject in the intervening time, despite some positive coverage of the news.

Yet the agency, like others around the country, has the opportunity to address some of its problems through the purchase of these trains. On the congested Lexington Avenue Line, which I discussed at the beginning, about 45.6 feet of each train’s 513.3-foot length is used up by the empty four feet between each car and the 10 feet reserved for the cabs at the center of the trains.

That means that, if the Lexington Avenue Line were transitioned to trains with open gangways, the line could gain almost an entire car-length of capacity on every train. That’s practically as much relief as the Second Avenue Subway will provide—at the cost of trains that would be purchased anyway.

Open gangways are hardly the end-all be-all of transit operations. They won’t guarantee better service or necessarily attract more riders. And they may not be able to resolve some issues, such as the fact that Washington’s Metro runs trains of different car lengths on each line.

But the fact that every U.S. transit agency—with the exception of Honolulu’s—has failed to adopt to this trend and has no plans to change, raises important questions. Just how much are the management of these transit agencies isolating themselves from world best practice? This is hardly an isolated case. The fact that transit agencies around the world are transitioning infrequent suburban rail operations into frequent regional rail services seems to be lost on most U.S. commuter rail agencies.

If the problem is simply a lack of knowledge, that’s no excuse given the existence of this website or Wikipedia or countless other sources. If the problem is petrified management, stuck in an older technological age and unable to try something new, staffers at those agencies should be working to convince them of at least the possibility of change. If the problem is some sort of U.S.-specific regulatory problem enforced by the federal government, let’s work to adjust it.

I’m skeptical that this technology is just “not possible” on historic U.S. systems; it’s been adapted to too many places around the world in all sorts of conditions for that to be the case. But if the problem is that transit agency management simply doesn’t care enough to adjust their operational standards to respond to improvements that can be offered to passengers, well… it’s time to kick the bums out.

* You could call trains with open gangways “articulated,” but this typically refers to a specific type of gangway, often where the truck (the bogies, where the wheels are) is right below the gangway. A traditional train would have two trucks supporting each car (a 10-car train would have 20 trucks), but an articulated train might have every two cars sharing one truck, such that a 10-car train could have as few as just 11 trucks, vastly reducing weight and energy consumption.

** For example, I compared two contracts conducted in the early 2000s with one metro manufacturer, Alstom. In 2001, Paris bought 805 metro cars (each 49.6 feet long, in open-gangway train configurations) for €695 million. In 2002, New York bought 600 subway cars (each 60.2 feet long, without open gangways) for $962 million. When converted to U.S. dollars (at the July 2001 rate of 1.16 dollars to the euro) and inflation-adjusted to 2002 dollars, the Paris contract was $820 million. This means that, per foot of subway car, Paris paid $20,535 and New York paid $24,200, despite the fact that New York’s contract included, as this article notes, lots of empty space!

World metros, showing presence of open gangways on train fleets
Sort by clicking on column headers.
CityCountryOpen gangways?ContinentYear open gangways addedLast train purchased with individual cars
AlgiersAlgeriaYesAfrica2011n/a
CairoEgyptNoAfrica
YerevanArmeniaNoAsia
BakuAzerbaijanYesAsia2014?
BeijingChinaYesAsia20041999
ChangshaChinaYesAsia2014n/a
ChengduChinaYesAsia2010n/a
ChongqingChinaYesAsia2005n/a
DalianChinaYesAsia2003n/a
GuangzhouChinaYesAsia
HangzhouChinaYesAsia2012n/a
HarbinChinaYesAsia2013n/a
Hong KongChinaYesAsia
KunmingChinaYesAsia2012n/a
NanjingChinaYesAsia2005n/a
NingboChinaYesAsia2014n/a
ShanghaiChinaYesAsia
ShenyangChinaYesAsia2010n/a
ShenzhenChinaYesAsia2004n/a
SuzhouChinaYesAsia2012n/a
TianjinChinaYesAsia20061984
WuhanChinaYesAsia2004n/a
WuxiChinaYesAsia2014n/a
XianChinaYesAsia2011n/a
ZhengzhouChinaYesAsia2013n/a
TbilisiGeorgiaNoAsia
BangaloreIndiaYesAsia2011n/a
ChennaiIndiaYesAsia2015n/a
KolkataIndiaYesAsia
MumbaiIndiaYesAsia2014n/a
New DelhiIndiaYesAsia2002n/a
TehranIranYesAsia
FukuokaJapanYesAsia
HiroshimaJapanNoAsia
KitakyushuJapanYesAsia
KobeJapanYesAsia
KyotoJapanYesAsia
NagoyaJapanYesAsia
OsakaJapanYesAsia
SapporoJapanYesAsia
SendaiJapanYesAsia
TokyoJapanYesAsia
YokohamaJapanYesAsia
AlmatyKazakhstanYesAsia2011n/a
Kuala LumpurMalaysiaSemiAsia
PyongyangNorth KoreaNoAsia
ManilaPhillippinesSemiAsia
MeccaSaudi ArabiaIn planningAsia2019n/a
SingaporeSingaporeYesAsia1987n/a
BusanSouth KoreaYesAsia
DaeguSouth KoreaIn planningAsia
DaejeonSouth KoreaYesAsia
GwangjuSouth KoreaYesAsia
IncheonSouth KoreaYesAsia
SeoulSouth KoreaYesAsia
KaohsiungTaiwanYesAsia
TaipeiTaiwanYesAsia1997n/a
BangkokThailandYesAsia1999n/a
AnkaraTurkeyYesAsia
IstanbulTurkeyYesAsia2000n/a
IzmirTurkeyNoAsia
DubaiUAEYesAsia2009n/a
TashkentUzbekistanNoAsia
ViennaAustriaYesEurope20021993
MinskBelarusIn planningEurope2016?
BrusselsBelgiumYesEurope20071999
SofiaBulgariaNoEurope20051998
PragueCzech RepublicNoEurope
CopenhagenDenmarkYesEurope2002n/a
HelsinkiFinlandYesEurope20011982
LilleFranceIn planningEurope20151999
LyonFranceNoEurope
MarseilleFranceNoEurope
ParisFranceYesEurope19921986
RennesFranceSemiEurope
ToulouseFranceSemiEurope
BerlinGermanyYesEurope19951993
HamburgGermanyYesEurope20122005
MunichGermanyYesEurope20001995
NurembergGermanyYesEurope20041993
AthensGreeceSemiEurope
ThessalonikiGreeceIn planningEurope2018n/a
BudapestHungaryYesEurope
BresciaItalyYesEurope2013n/a
MilanItalyYesEurope20091991
NaplesItalyNoEurope
RomeItalyYesEurope20051999
TurinItalySemiEurope
AmsterdamNetherlandsYesEurope20131997
OsloNorwayYesEurope20051994
WarsawPolandYesEurope20002009
LisbonPortugalYesEurope19991998
BucharestRomaniaYesEurope20021992
KazanRussiaNoEurope
MoscowRussiaIn planningEurope
Nizhny NovgorodRussiaNoEurope
NovosibirskRussiaNoEurope
SamaraRussiaNoEurope
St PetersburgRussiaNoEurope
YekaterinburgRussiaNoEurope
BarcelonaSpainYesEurope
BilbaoSpainYesEurope1995n/a
MadridSpainYesEurope20021998
ValenciaSpainYesEurope
StockholmSwedenSemiEurope
LausanneSwitzerlandYesEurope2008n/a
GlasgowUKIn planningEurope
LondonUKYesEurope20102011
NewcastleUKSemiEurope
DnepropetrovskUkraineNoEurope
KharkivUkraineNoEurope
KievUkraineNoEurope
MontrealCanadaIn planningNorth America20151980
TorontoCanadaYesNorth America20112001
VancouverCanadaSemiNorth America
Santo DomingoDominican RepublicYesNorth America2009n/a
MexicoMexicoYesNorth America20021998
PanamaPanamaYesNorth America2014n/a
AtlantaUSANoNorth America
BaltimoreUSANoNorth America
BostonUSANoNorth America
ChicagoUSANoNorth America
ClevelandUSANoNorth America
HonoluluUSAIn planningNorth America2017n/a
Las VegasUSANoNorth America
Los AngelesUSANoNorth America
MiamiUSANoNorth America
New YorkUSANoNorth America
PATHUSANoNorth America
PhiladelphiaUSANoNorth America
San FranciscoUSANoNorth America
San JuanUSANoNorth America
WashingtonUSANoNorth America
Buenos AiresArgentinaYesSouth America2013
Belo HorizonteBrazilYesSouth America
BrasiliaBrazilNoSouth America
Porto AlegreBrazilYesSouth America
RecifeBrazilYesSouth America20121985
Rio de JaneiroBrazilYesSouth America
SalvadorBrazilYesSouth America2014n/a
Sao PauloBrazilYesSouth America20021999
SantiagoChileYesSouth America19971987
ValparaisoChileNoSouth America
MedellinColumbiaYesSouth America20091995
LimaPeruYesSouth America2011n/a
CaracasVenezuelaYesSouth America
MaracaiboVenezuelaNoSouth America
Note: This list may have errors and it is incomplete; please comment if you identify any issues. The list only includes heavy rail services, not light-rail-grade services, such as the Frankfurt U-Bahn.

Image at top: Potential future London Tube, from Transport for London. World map of metros based on world map base SVG by @F1LT3R of Hyper-Metrix on Wikipedia.

Edit, April 11: I updated values for Moscow, Kazan, Kiev, Kharkiv, Sofia, and Novosibirsk to reflect the fact that they do not currently have metros with open gangways.

74 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • David

    The mentality in this country is very parochial. If it wasn’t invented here, it doesn’t exist. I live near Boston and have ridden the MBTA since I was 4 years old. The Green Line is their subway/surface light rail line. Since the 1970s, I’ve watched them replace the PCC cars with more modern light rail vehicles but I always wondered about the “wasted space” between cars in 2 and 3-car trains. Sure, the articulated cars each had more capacity but there still seemed to be wasted space. People “in the know” in Boston said the curves were too tight for some more advanced vehicles (the curves at Boylston Street along with the Kenmore and Brattle loops). They said the tunnels and city were too old and narrow. Then I went to Dublin a few years ago and saw their LUAS trams. Dublin is, by some reckoning, about 700 years older than Boston and THEY have trams that can navigate tight 90-degree turns in Dublin’s narrow streets quite nicely.

  • I am old enough to remember when walking between cars in the New York subway was entirely common and accepted. I believe it was discouraged out of concern for safety. I know that the Washington Metro told riders from the beginning that walking between cars is a safety hazard.

    I suspect there’s some connection with the creeping mentality in our society that any spontaneity is a safety/security hazard. You see it in diverse settings: helicopter parents, ever-more-prescriptive zoning, Amtrak’s airplane-like boarding procedures.

    • Andre L.

      Walking between articulated rail cars is dangerous, and indeed the leading cause of debilitating injuries and death on (New York) MTA rail system.

  • The curves are an excuse. The tightest curve on Paris M1 has radius 40 meters; the tightest in New York has radius 45 meters.

    • Aren’t the Paris Metro cars also significantly shorter? And does that curve statistic include things like switches, which often get used during service changes in New York? We already have issues with mismatching door locations on platforms (in regards to potential PSD installation), and in addition most of the replacement cars have already been bought; at the very least, the IRT is not slated to get new cars to replace the last non-NTT cars til the 2020s.

      • No, they’re as long as IRT cars. The IND has wide curves (the minimum is 350′), and since minimum radius is proportional to the square of car length, there are only two BMT curves that are even potentially problematic for 18-meter cars (see list here). Longer cars the subway shouldn’t be running anyway because they don’t have enough doors. But the IND could handle them as well.

        The curve statistics include curves on trackage used by out-of-service trains; the sharpest curve is at City Hall, which is not revenue track.

  • martarider2010

    I’d be willing to wager that US metro systems see more… anti-social behavior by passengers.

    If you have passengers that are fighting, or reek of urine, etc, individual cars allow you to get away from all that whereas open gangways don’t. Someone vomits in an individual car, you can rope that off an run the train to the end of the line. Someone vomits in a gangwayed train, stinks up the entire train.

    I suspect most US transit bigwigs intuitively “get” this, but they’re smart enough not to actually say it directly, since “single cars contain uncivilized behavior” would inevitably be twisted by the twittersphere to be “manager of such-and-such agency is A RACIST,” to be followed (as all good liberal causes are) by death threats and unemployment.

    • Christopher

      I think you are so right! Thanks for posting this very valid counterpoint.

    • Rob

      This is exactly what I was thinking. Compartmentalizing passengers contains negative behaviors.

      Open gangways also made me think of the problems at places like a stadium where lack of compartments led to people being crushed to death. Here’s an article about it: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/02/07/crush-point

      Not sure if these are truly valid reasons to counter the good arguments made by Yonah for open gangways, but they could be on the minds of transit officials.

      • Andre L.

        Trains are very unikely places to suffer from stampede and crowd crushing, if only because they don’t have choke points or dead-end retention spaces. They are lined with doors.

      • calwatch

        How are some of these other cities with way more ridership doing it then? With cameras in the rail cars this becomes less of an issue since anti-social behavior can be monitored and dealt with. You could start by combining combinations of cars. For example BART has certain combinations that are used: 5 car sets that are connected to be 10 car sets during peak, the 3/6/9 combination used on the Richmond-Fremont line, etc. Just open gangway the appropriate number of cars and connect the multiples as usual. It will help distribute people evenly.

    • Andreu

      Pretty much this thought is bunk. Because you haven’t been to Madrid or Barcelona right after a Clasico game at either Bernabeu or Camp Nou. Or perhaps any matter of city saint festivals throughout Europe. Drunken passengers, sick passengers, all of them ride the subway as well. Anti-civic/civil/social behaviour is everywhere and it’s not a matter of something special about Europe, Asia, or even Latin America.

    • Kenny

      I would have said the opposite – with open gangways, you can easily get away from the smelly person or vomit, while with the closed cars, you’re stuck with them. On BART I would often switch cars to get to a more pleasant one, while LA Metro doesn’t have any connection between cars.

      • irvin dawid

        My thoughts exactly. I would add that it’s difficult to open doors at times, making “escape” less possible.

    • What Kenny said. SNCF is moving toward open gangways on commuter trains precisely because passengers expressed fear of crime. With open gangways, they can easily move away from people who make them uncomfortable. With closed gangways, they’re stuck. Open gangways also ensure that there are more passengers within sight, which reduces fear of crime: compare walking on the street alone at night and seeing one person, and walking on the street alone at night and seeing five other people who are not in a group.

      • al

        The visibility (eyeballs) aspect is important, but if there is a fire or smoke condition or a stinker, a closable fire/smoke door is a good idea. One would get 99% of the benefits of enclodes gangways while adding a factor of safety.

  • On Ottawa’s O-Train, you can currently walk between cars.

  • […] Transit systems with open gangways are in green, and systems without are in red. Click to enlarge. Map: Transport Politic […]

  • […] When American transit agencies ignore the world’s move to open gangways (The Transport Politic) […]

  • JJJ

    America is an exceptional place. American exceptionalism means spending more to get less, because that’s how it’s always been done, and no is the default answer to innovation.

  • arc

    Philadelphia still uses tokens… TOKENS! Do you think American systems are actually going to adopt this anytime soon? It would be a great idea, if it were to happen though.

    • Colin

      arc says “Philadelphia still uses tokens…”

      So? Toronto, Ontario’s Toronto Transit Commission still uses tokens (www.ttc.ca/Fares_and_passes/Prices/Buying_tickets_tokens_and_passes.jsp), and has started using open gangway trains on the Yonge-University-Spadina line, just on that line (the most heavily used line in the system, and the one that gets the newest/best equipment). Estimates are the new trains allow for 8% more passengers per train.

      • Tom West

        Toronto is the process of phasing out its toeksn in favour of a smartcard system. (It’s already in use on subway and streetcars, and is being rolled out to buses this year). Tokens will be gone shortly after.

        • Colin

          True. The Toronto Transit Commission announced their plans to phase out tokens in June of last year, after I wrote the the above comments. Still for a (little) while yet Toronto has both tokens and open gangway subway trains (the latter still only on the one line, the Yonge-University-Spadina line, or as it has been re-named Line 1).

  • BART does have open gangways, even though it’s marked red on the map. And I haven’t seen an indication that the new cars won’t have it as well. Does anyone have that evidence?

  • Lee

    Poor New Zealand doesn’t even get to be on the map. We have two urban rail systems (in Auckland and Wellington) – both sort of metro/commuter rail hybrids. Both utilise multi-car EMUs with open gangways (Auckland just transitioning to them at the moment).

  • Dexter Wong

    I think it would be quite a stretch for SFMTA to want cars with open ends, considering that their rail system has evolved from streetcars running in a tunnel and on city streets. The most you could expect would be a door between cars.

  • Jake H

    Just curious – what are the operational constraints of open gangway cars? I would tend to think the real reason for resisting open gangways is more of a resistance to change than anything else. But, my first thought after reading this was about how these systems will reduce the number of cars during off-peak hours. Can open gangway trains be reduced in length without having an entirely separate train? If it is, is it an easy process? If not, would the solution be to keep running peak-hour sized vehicles during off-peak hours?

    • Chris C

      Why would you need to run smaller trains during off-peak periods? Here in Toronto they don’t change the length of the trains at different times of day. The very idea seems silly. They just run less frequently. For instance, the Yonge-University and Bloor-Danforth lines run every 2-3 minutes during peak times, and every 4-5 minutes during non-peak times.

      • Jake H

        I believe a combination of both is occurring – decreased frequency and shorter trains in off-peak hours. I know here in LA the Red/Purple line trains run every 5 minutes in peak periods and every 10 minutes off-peak, and the off-peak trains are also shorter. I believe I have observed a similar phenomenon with the BART and DC Metro. In LA at least, the shorter cars in the off-peak are more than enough to accommodate ridership. So what I’m wondering is, say you are trying to convince LA Metro to use trains with open gangways, what is the counterargument to these kinds of operational concerns?

        • It’s possible to have smaller open-gangway sets making up an entire train. For instance, you might make a six-car train two three-car open-gangway sets, or three pairs with open gangways.

          • xavier d.

            A real life example of that is on Paris commuter line H :
            We have 2 open-gangway 112 meters sets coupled together at peak time, and only one during off-peak.
            It seems to work very well (except you have to anticipate the position of the shorts trains on the platforms, or you’ll need to run when the train comes)

    • Max Wyss

      Changing the train length during the day requires switching, and complete brake tests after separating and after rejoining. This requires qualified staff. There are operators which actually shortened the trains for the evening, but they reconsidered, because it cost less overall to just keep the trains unchanged.

  • Caltrain has open gangways – when it’s boarded at the SF depot. This is very helpful for late boarders – they enter the first car (closest to the platform entrance from the station) because all other car doors close a few minutes before departure. Passenger then walk through the open doors to find a seat in a less crowded car.

    One caveat- there are vestibule doors that are airtight closed – you just have press or kick the “open” lever.

    The inter-car doors remain open until a conductor walks through the train, closing the doors. All Caltrain consists have 5 cars.

    Of course, Caltrain is not a metro, it’s commuter rail. But now that I’ve learned a new term, I wanted to apply it to my own commute!

    • Caltrain doesn’t have open gangways because there are doors between cars. An open gangway makes the train feel like one long tube, and there’s no barrier (locked or unlocked) to move between cars.

  • Yonah:
    Check out this YouTube regarding open gangways for the cars to run on NY’s Second Ave. subway:
    “OpenBVE NYC: Why Open Gangways In Between Cars Would Be Impractical for the R211”

    • Only accurate if the trucks are not located under the gangway. Modern open-gangway trains have shorter cars with gangways located over the trucks. This prevents the problems seen in the mock-up.

      • Max Wyss

        Also think about all the articulated light rail/streetcar vehicles which have been built within the last 50 or more years. In most cases, the articulation is supported by a bogie, but there are other designs where the supporting bogie is under the end of one carbody, supporting the articulation and the end of the other carbody.

        Also, weren’t there a few articulated trains on the New York subway some long time ago?

      • Andy Sapuntzakis

        > Only accurate if the trucks are not located under the gangway

        Jacobs bogies require new rail yard equipment / configurations for (dis)assembling train sets. I’m sure it can be done, but it probably requires coordinating multiple budgets …

  • Miles Bader

    This article seems to be trying to draw some sort of stark contrast between the magic fairy wonderland of “open gangways” and the evil swamp of completely sealed cars…. But in reality there’s more of a continuum of car connection types, from truly sealed off cars, to cars with connecting doors that are slightly dangerous to use in motion (NYC), to cars with connecting doors that are completely safe (and can be left open with no issues), to complete open gangways that give the illusion of a single continuous train.

    The benefits accrue as you move up the continuum, not all at one point…

  • […] at The Transport Politic, Yonah Freemark wonders why American transit agencies have ignored open gangways. Looking at available data, Freemark finds that nearly every transit agency except those in the […]

  • Red

    Over at Second Avenue Sagas, a commenter makes an excellent point: in case of breakdowns, having completely separated cars allows you to retire one car from service rather than a whole train or linked set. NYC is pretty constantly in a mentality that the state is about to yank all transit funding and return us to the 1970s. So having independent cars helps us prepare for the inevitable breakdowns when the MTA can no longer maintain or repair cars.

  • Mark Dowling

    Toronto should be marked as partial, since the T1 set I rode home does not permit inter-car movement.

  • Jerard Wright

    One of the biggest areas I noticed between the married pair vs articulated gangway are the systems that are fully invested in incorporating them are systems in which they are near maxed out (Sao Paulo, Paris, Montreal) and are trying to squeeze every last remaining inch they can to the network and can run a full platform length train for over 20 hours of the day and the trains will be full.

    Newer systems that are investing in the articulated gangway are mostly automated to where they are going to run their frequency to best match the demand they need so its a waste of time to decouple and recouple the train if you are running the trains remotely.

    US most still used the married pairs have a practical need to shorten and lengthen the trains needed for the times of the day. Also in some cases like Chicago where an accident or damage is done to one car they simply disconnect the married pair and attach it to another unpaired unit. There’s also the maintenance issue with Shops needing a full platform length bay to hold the trains some agencies do it a married pair at a time.

    • Nathanael

      “the systems that are fully invested in incorporating them are systems in which they are near maxed out ”

      NYC is beyond maxed out on the Lexington Avenue Line (456). Boston is pretty near maxed out on multiple lines. Neither of them seems to be looking at articulateds…

  • Yonah, lots of mistakes on your systems’ list. None of the metro systems in Russia or Ukraine actually features open-gangway trainsets. Moscow has only articulated cars (27-meter long, three trucks) on 4 out of its 13 lines, while regular 19-meter cars on all other lines (see the absolutely correct statistics page at the link at my name). Same with Kazan: just a few 27-meter-long cars with an articulation in the middle, but no open-gangway trainsets, and the bulk of the roster comprised of the standard 19-meter cars. Novosibirsk has no articulated cars or open-gangway trainsets whatsoever. Neither does Kyiv or Kharkiv. Among the entire former Soviet Union, only Almatu has open-gangway cars, and no other metro system. They may be an experimental train or two here or there, but no mass orders and no regular service.

    When it comes to the open-gangway trains, the former Soviet Union is pretty much like the U.S. Or, to be precise, the United States are becoming more and more like the Soviet Union, with too much red type and too much exceptionalism ingrained in human minds…

    • Thanks for the comments — I was hoping someone would help make sure that the data from Russia and Eastern Europe was correct. So I appreciate any clarifications, which I will correct above.

      For verification, the trainset I identified as having open gangways in Moscow and Kazan is the Metrovagonmash 760 (for Moscow) and the 81-740 (for Moscow and Kazan). Are these trains not actually in circulation? Or are they trains composed of articulated units without open gangways (which I would have identified as “semi” in the table above)?

      The trainset I identified for Kiev and Kharkiv is the 81-7021, which based on the picture has an open gangway. Is this only between two cars and not a full open gangway?

      For Novosibirsk, I used this photograph as confirmation.

      Again, many thanks for any clarification you can provide.

      • Yonah, answering your questions:

        1. Moscow – the open gangways configuration of 81-760/761 has been ordered (I think), but not produced or delivered. Given the financial situation in Russia, it may take years before these cars actually operate in service.

        2. Moscow and Kazan – 81-740/741 are just separate articulated cars. That is: you cannot pass from one car to another, but you can pass from one half of an articulated car to the other half – just like in many light-rail vehicles in the U.S. These are separate cars, each 27 m long (i.e. under 90 feet), with three trucks, one of which being under the only articulation. These cars are operating on four out of twelve lines in Moscow and on the only line in Kazan (mixed with older cars in the Kazan’s case).

        3. Kiev and Kharkiv – 81-7021 has been produced in quantities of something like one or two trainsets only. They have been “testing” them for almost a decade, but neither city has funds to make an order. And the trainsets have their own problems, that’s why both Ukrainian cities continued buying Russian cars until the well-known events last year. Situation with rolling stock in both Kiev and Kharkiv is pretty dire – the cars are very old, and there is a clear lack of them. Trains are full at all times of the day (worse than in Moscow, where ridership is significantly higher), and they have no cars to add to relieve overcrowding and reduce headways.

        4. On the photo from Novosibirsk, these are standard 81-717/714 cars, which are separate cars with doors. In fact, you can see that a door between the cars is open on the photo you provided. These doors are permanently locked when trains are in passenger service and can only be opened by drivers, who carry keys in case of evacuation.

        By the way, the same applies to Minsk: they may talk about ordering, but nothing has been ordered yet, and they are still buying the standard 81-717/714 Russian cars. The last time they purchased a few Russian trainsets was just last year.

        To summarize, (1) there are no open gangway cars in regular service anywhere in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, etc, (2) there are articulated cars 81-740/741 in Moscow and Kazan, but the articulation is NOT between different cars – it is between the two halves of the same car, with no articulation or passage between cars, – (3) all other cars are the standard 81-717/714 cars with locked doors between different cars, with no possibility of passage (this is the cast majority of the rolling stock).

        • > (this is the cast majority of the rolling stock).

          I meant “the _vast_ majority”, of course.

        • And one more thing: Sofia does not have open gangway cars either. They have Russian 81-717/714 and 81-740/741 cars, none of which can be considered “open gangways”.

          • Thank you very much, Yuri. I have updated the information and map to reflect what you’ve written. FYI, for places like Kazan with separated articulated cars, I have referred to them in other cities as “semi” on the table and blue on the map, so I have adjusted Kazan in that way.

            • > FYI, for places like Kazan with separated articulated cars, I have referred to them in other cities as “semi” on the table and blue on the map, so I have adjusted Kazan in that way.

              Well, then, you might want to show Moscow the same way, as 81-740/741 also operate there on a third of all their lines.

    • Nathanael

      “Or, to be precise, the United States are becoming more and more like the Soviet Union, with too much red type and too much exceptionalism ingrained in human minds…”

      The US sure is becoming USSR-like. The endless waste on the military budget, while we *lose every single war we get involved in*, is perhaps the most obvious. The KGB-like behavior of the NSA, CIA, police, et al, is pretty obvious too. The domestic effects are only starting to show up.

  • vin

    The US long ago ignored the world’s move to high speed rail what makes you think they would ever care about open gangways.

  • vin

    The US long ago ignored the world’s move to high speed rail what makes you think they would ever care about something like this.

  • Scott Brody

    Unfortunately the issue of open gangways is one of many aspects of good design that aren’t understood by US transit agencies. Arguably the worst issue in the US is transit systems inability to create universal symbol based wayfinding systems. A few months ago, I suggested to UTA that they include an airplane symbol on their map so that people with limited english proficiency can navigate more easily. This hasn’t happened and it speaks to the broader issue of American Exceptionalist attitudes in design. In NYC, it is my understanding that a pictorial wayfinding system was developed but isn’t being used. Meanwhile in NY Penn station, there are 3 poor quality wayfinding systems in use because the agencies can’t seem to be able to coordinate.
    Other foolish American transit issues include many US transit systems having maps with a scale only in miles. All these issues speak to the question, why have US agencies been so reluctant to adopt successful world standards?

    • Bob Davis

      Regarding maps of US transit systems with scales only in miles. Theoretically, kilometers (and other metric units) are legal in the US, but Americans are rather conservative lot, and will be dragged into the Metric/SI world only with great reluctance. Americans THINK is inches, feet, yards and miles–going Metric is like learning a foreign language. Even in England, where the metric system has more or less taken over, I’ll hear characters in British contemporary TV shows speak of a person’s weight with “Oh ‘e weighs about 14 stone.” (196 pounds, or 90 kilograms)

  • Andreu

    Things that I’ve heard as potential issues from maintenance/ops that perhaps prevent moving directly to open gangway trainsets.

    1. Tight s-curves/switching
    2. Fleet requirements increases from moving from paired to unitized/open gangway train sets

    Related but not directly:
    3. Impact safety concerns with mixed series fleets with light low-floor/open gangway versus heavy high-floor closed-gangway trainsets.

    For older systems: essentially the policy issue is that they don’t feel they have the ability to purchase a whole new fleet and _transition_ for a complete line to these kinds of cars without some sort of internal opposition.

  • Charlie

    The MBTA in Boston is purchasing new Orange and Red Line subway cars. Many advocates asked them if they could get open gangway trains and were told that they had considered them but they like the flexibility of being able to take individual cars out of service more easily with the closed cars. Is this a good reason?

  • Luke Kieselburg

    The Chicago Metra is the country’s most expansive commuter rail system, and they have open gangway cars, not just at stations, you can transfer cars at any point during the ride.

  • DBX

    @Luke Kieselburg; corridors between cars are not what is being talked about here. What’s being talked about here is more or less turning the train into one continuous articulated car, rather like the CTA does with its articulated buses. So, instead of a narrow passageway between cars, it’s the entire width of the car, with seating quite possibly at any point.

    The CTA, incidentally, ripped up its RFP for the next batch of cars for the el and posted a new one with an open spec, including opening the option of equipment that’s not compatible with existing cars. Hopefully at least some bidders will come forward with open gangway equipment, which would be appropriate for the Blue and Red Lines and go a long way to help alleviate peak overcrowding. In fact, the technology has advanced far enough that it would probably even work on Frank Kruesi’s leftover tight curves on the Brown Line.

  • ntarpon

    This is comment from Japan. I research the gangway condition of USA metro system and found this article.
    This article is not correct and the author does not study and research carefully the condition of the world. Therefore, what this author insist is not appropriate and not supported by the reality of the world.

    When the style and condition of the gangway is discussed, it is necessary to consider whether the train system is underground one or not. The open gangway between cars provides good view and it is increasing all over the world. However, it has big disadvantage to protect the diffusion of smoke in case of fire in the train. It is very important to consider the measure for smoke if the metro system has underground part.
    In 2003, the fatal fire accident was occurred in the subway system of Dague City in South Korea and 192 persons were killed.
    After this accident, the regulation for the fire in underground railway system was totally reviewed in Japan and the open gangway between cars has been prohibited for underground metro system since 2004 when the new regulation was issued. The self-close sliding door at the gangway is obligatory for underground metro, which is effective as a fire/smoke compartment.
    In Tokyo metro (underground part is dominant), the train with open gangway was once applied in Chiyoda line in 1990’s, which was one of 13 underground metro lines in Tokyo, however, this train was disappeared after this regulation was issued. It is same in other underground metro system in Japan (Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Sendai, Yokohama, Kobe and Fukuoka City). In these subway systems, the passengers can move to other car through the gangway with the self-close sliding door.
    The design of the self-close door is improving and the state of the art sliding door provides both the good view and safety for smoke. It is shown below.

    http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A1%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB:Inside-Tokyometro1000-02.jpg

    Even in some other countries, it is carefully studied whether the open gangway for new underground metro system can be applied or not.

    Sincerely,

  • Dexter Wong

    Vancouver Translink is purchasing Bombardier four-car trains with open gangways for Skytrain.

  • johndmuller

    As has been mentioned, there are some geometry issues related to the location of the (non end-of-train) trucks such that the lateral overhang around curves would be greater than a non articulated car with its trucks some distance from the end. This might or might not cause problems, depending on how close to minimum clearances the non articulated rolling stock was. As mentioned, such problems could be mitigated by making the cars shorter, up to the point where the distance between trucks was the same as the existing non articulated cars. At that point, each car could have actually less capacity than a non articulated car, albeit with almost no wasted space. Thus, it might be necessary to add one or more of these shorter cars to each train to reap the rewards of higher capacity per train. Whether or not the full station length could be utilized would depend on the exact numbers.

    Another issue, which I haven’t seen properly addressed in this thread is the weight issue. You mentioned that the weight of the trains would of course be less since there are so many fewer trucks per train. Unfortunately, it was not taken to the next step which is that the weight applied to each truck would of course be greater since there are so many fewer trucks per train. In fact, each of the articulated trucks would be carrying the weight of a full car (2 half cars) instead of just the weight of one half a car – twice as much weight if the cars were still the same length. This is a non trivial issue and could lead to greatly increased wear and tear on wheelsets, tracks, switches and whatnot and increased chance of failure.

  • Drew

    My bet is that the Transit Management companies or departments have “rooted”(i.e. corrupt) financial ties to the manufacturers they’ve always bought from. This is just a hunch with no empirical evidence to make this assertion, but what other reason argument could be made for ignoring an international standard that makes sense after reading a quick article(I have heard talk of this on NPR as well). A lot of these “leaders” in management positions aren’t really interested in leading their Transportation departments, just in burnishing their political cred and moving on to the next big step…yeah I’m cynical about this but look at the US transportation system as a whole…it’s a huge mess. This is not just the politicians fault though, it’s a nexus civic apathy and distraction(ex. emails and culture war fights) and a public that is so sold on it’s own individualistic narrative sold by car manufacturers that it has trouble locating the value of public transit to begin with. It’s a sad state of affairs, but until the people of the US know what’s best for themselves we’ll continue to get second rate service from politicians and “leaders” that don’t really give a damn.

    • Nathanael

      Nope. The *very same companies* which the US agencies are ordering from make open-gangway trains for other agencies. *It’s the exact same manufacturers*.

  • […] to empty cars safely. The design is used heavily in Europe, making NYC look a little behind its time. A design worth implementing? Absolutely, but is it enough? While public transportation has many […]

  • Dexter Wong

    HART in Honolulu will have four-car trains with open gangways. The first one was shown to the media on May 2.

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