Introducing my genius comic book idea: Subway Superheroes! The series follows the daring adventures of a handful of good Samaritans who improve transit riders’ lives with acts of courage and creativity. I know it might sound kinda cheesy but, unlike X-ray vision and Spidey sense, this stuff actually happens.
Who could forget D.C.’s very own Phantom Planter, whose Dupont Circle garden was unceremoniously ripped out last year by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority? He now has company in New York City, a group that’s dubbed itself the Efficient Passenger Project.
Since the EPP launched two weeks ago, its M.O. has been to sneak signs onto subway platforms along New York’s L train. These plaques, which ape the look of official Metropolitan Transportation Authority iconography, direct passengers to the best places to board trains depending on where they plan to transfer. As every transit rider knows, hitting that sweet spot can make the difference between catching a train and just missing one.
But EPP isn’t expecting a thank-you note anytime soon. The official MTA response is that the signs need to go because they’ll lead to dangerous overcrowding.
The current status? “We’re still putting them up, and they’re still taking them down,” says an anonymous spokesman for EPP.
This could go on for a while: He says the group has made a vast collection of signs to replace the ones that inevitably disappear. And there are “two other phases” of the project coming up that may or may not involve signs.
Before we speculate about any sequels, time to cue the origin story. EPP’s beginnings can be traced to a momentous visit to the Times Square station. “I saw two signs pointing in opposite directions for the same destination,” the EPP spokesman says. “And I thought, ‘There needs to be a better way of presenting this information.’ ”
The exact same epiphany could have come during a trip on our Metro system. How many times have you been on a train and not been able to tell which stop you’re at by looking out the window? Or seen exits on opposite sides of the platform and been unsure which would take you closer to where you want to go? Or had to dash to board the train because you were standing too far back?
Metro will never get around to doing anything about this stuff. They’ve barely been able to keep up with changing the map to include the Silver Line. (In January, a bunch of botched signs that had the Blue Line traveling to East Falls Church were installed and then hastily taken down.)
“If somebody sees something that needs fixing, they should fix it,” EPP Guy says.
Sounds like a rallying cry for the Subway Superheroes.