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Transit Furniture Sign O’ The Times

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NEW YORK — The American obesity epidemic always seems most visible in my native Midwest — but evidence of the national widening can be found in this New York City subway bench, spotted this week at the Spring Street C E station in lower Manhattan. We have here a standard wooden MTA platform-level waiting bench…only with one of the between-person dividers removed. And finished over. To accommodate the New American.

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Liz Clayton is a former Toronto resident who now lives in New York City and occasionally postsĀ  dispatches for Spacing.



  1. I’m gonna go out on a limb and blame this instead on the MTA’s chronic state of disrepair and laziness, you give them too much credit.

  2. I agree with Kevin, the MTA probably just made a quick fix to a broken arm rest.

  3. Lets not forget that obesity effects Canadians and Americans equally statistically… and yes, the MTA is in a chronic state of disrepair but it works & gets you far more places quickly for less money than the TTC.

  4. While New York is pretty progressive on obesity issues — they forced fast food places to post calories on their menus this year, and next year are actually going ahead with a plan to tax soft drinks with sugar (i.e. Coke but not Diet Coke) — this one is not obesity related. The dividers are there to keep the rampant homeless population in the subway system from sleeping on the benches. One or two does the trick, so if another is broken they just don’t replace it and the next time the bench gets revarnished they go over the spot.

    MTA is, by the way, considering some massive fare hikes that may actually begin to challenge Toronto as the most expensive major transit system in North America. We’ll see if they go through…

  5. Also agree with Kevin. If this were some kind of official policy, I think you’d see this at more than just a few stations.

  6. For the record, I wasn’t actually suggesting it was part of a new policy to maintain all the benches in extra-width conditions, just commenting on a social subtext within the city’s underbelly.

    That said, if the new sin taxes on pop bottles and iTunes downloads will be funneled back into the MTA, it would make sense to encourage people to drink more Coke!

  7. I agree with many others on here that this is simply a “torn away arm rest”.

    We all know there’s a weight problem in the America’s and i get your social sub-text, but i don’t think that torn arm rests have anything to do with this subject.

    Anyway, interesting point of view. At least it’s starting discussion. That’s what blogs are for.

  8. A missing arm rest on a subway bench is hardly evidence of the “national widening” of the American people. You’re looking for “social sub-texts” where there are none. Please, don’t post such drivel unless you know what you’re talking about. Thanks.

  9. It reminds me of the love seats in movie theatres in Germany.

  10. Interesting way of looking at it… a bit of imagination is the cornerstone of good writing. It would have seemed banal if Liz had taken the literal interpretation: “MTA in chronic state of disrepair.” This way we can at least laugh a little.

  11. Ah, I remember how, back in the 70s and 80s, American snack food carried the same high-octane desirable-exotica cachet (to Canadians) that Asian snack food has today. Now, it just just seems lurid, and even looks lurid, seemingly imprisoned by the increasingly undereducated underclass demo which its packaging is geared to.

    Just generally, re American style mass marketing/mass appeal/mass anything: “mass” seems increasingly like a metaphor for the have-nots in a two-tier society…