AROUND THE QUADS
Subway Project Offers Ideas for
By Lisa Palladino
Students who participated in The Subway Project, part of a
fall seminar on transportation in New York City, presented their
research findings on and recommendations for changes to the three
subway stations that serve the University to Executive Vice
President of Administration Emily Lloyd on November 28. Front row,
from left: Sarah Taylor '02, Joshua Lucas-Falk '02, Emma Oppenheim
'03 Barnard, Sonja Lee '02 Barnard, Bethany Pappalardo '02, Noam
Maggor '02GS and Eugene Sit '02E. Back row, from left: Ryan Wilner
'03, Erin Roth '02 Barnard, Sara Rubenstein '02, Kaylan Baban '02,
Max Joel '03, Brian Phillips '02 and Noah Brick '03. Not pictured:
Ted Gardner '02 and Carolyn Yerkes '02.
can the three main subway stations that serve Columbia be improved?
That was the issue tackled last fall by 16 students from the
College, SEAS and Barnard, who participated in a seminar, "The
Shape of New York: Transportation and Urban Development," taught by
Professor Hilary Ballon, chair of the Department of Art History and
class culminated in The Subway Project, a collaborative effort
among the students, mostly majors in architecture, art history and
urban studies, who formed three task forces to examine the subway
stations on Broadway at 116th, 125th and 168th Streets. After
extensive research into the history of the stations and their
current condition, the task forces made recommendations to improve
the stations. Under the guidance of Marian Pagano, associate
provost, the students designed a survey and collected data from
close to 1,500 riders. The survey results informed the students'
recommendations concerning lighting, access and circulation,
platform conditions and the overall identity of the
November 28, the students presented their findings and
recommendations for improvement to Executive Vice President of
Administration Emily Lloyd. Guests at the presentation included
Charles O'Byrne '81, first vice president of the Columbia College
Alumni Association, and Roger Lehecka '67, chair of the planning
committee for the University's 250th anniversary celebration
— the event that prompted Ballon to create the
planning the seminar, Ballon wanted to involve the students in a
group project — they do enough solo projects, she reasoned
— that would produce concrete results for the University. She
knew that as part of its anniversary celebration, the University
hoped to renovate the subway stations. Ballon approached Lloyd,
essentially asking, "What information would be helpful to you?"
After getting her answers, Ballon embarked on what she described as
one of the best classes she has ever had. She was "dazzled" by the
outstanding research and work done by the students, and was
particularly proud of their presentations, which included
PowerPoint visuals and other graphics that outlined the station's
histories, an assessment of their needs and a design study that
suggested ways to tie the stations to the University community
using visuals within the stations.
are examples of the recommendations for each station:
116th Street. 1) To celebrate the historic and
distinctive character of Morningside Heights, install signs with
information about neighborhood landmarks and educational
institutions at entry level of the station. 2) In order to open up
a view of the tracks and to reveal the destination of a passenger's
journey from the moment that he or she goes underground, remove the
wall opposite the ticket booth that extends between the two
staircases. 3) Relieve congested conditions on the downtown
platform by moving the newspaper stand away from the staircase and
by opening a second entrance/exit at 115th Street.
125th Street. 1) Illuminate the landmark viaduct that
supports the elevated track to call attention to the beautiful
structure and enhance an important intersection at street level. 2)
Highlight the subway's emergence above ground by removing obstacles
in the ticket booth and on the platform that block views of the
168th Street. 1) Improve the labyrinthine quality of the
station by providing wayfinding signs, especially to the hospital.
2) Improve access and relieve congestion around the elevators by
building escalators to the tracks. Currently, elevators provide the
sole means of access to the Broadway subway, which is exceptionally
deep at this station.
Bethany Pappalardo '02 was drawn to the seminar for several
reasons. "It's one of those classes that makes Columbia
extraordinary, and that only Columbia can provide," she said. "We
live in a fascinating, continually astounding city, and a class
like this is an incredible way to take advantage of it and to be
aware of it.
"There were a few things that made The Subway Project such a
memorable experience," Pappalardo continued. "Working so closely
with a group of peers was fantastic and something that we rarely
get to do, especially for such a long-term project. Another was the
freedom that we were given and the trust that Professor Ballon had
in us. It was a rather large undertaking and, although the
guidelines were set out for us, it was up to the groups to decide
how to use these guidelines to make this project
Kaylan Baban '02 loved the sense of the "real world. Although
we learned a lot about the subway system and the city, it was not a
strictly academic exercise. Working on a real problem of
significant magnitude, with a group of people with complementary
skills, through every step of the process, was an incredible
experience. At the end, there was such a sense of achievement and
satisfaction — and excitement at the thought that our
proposals could be implemented."
added, "As a graduating senior who will likely be facing similar
work conditions in a future career, it is a big boost to know that
I can work with a group of colleagues to accomplish something like
this — and enjoy it!"
Ballon, who called the project "very unusual ... a wonderful
class," will present Lloyd with a summary report of the students'
findings that Lloyd will then be able to pass on to those outside
of the University, such as community boards.