Escalator under water at the South Ferry subway station.

Pumping out the South Ferry station tracks.

South Ferry

Flooded Battery Park underpass.

South Ferry

South Ferry

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A Look Inside New York's Underwater Subways

The submerged public transit system is awe-inspiring to look at. But what’s more important is what happens next time—because there will be a next time.

For those readers not in New York (or even those who just haven’t felt a need to do any urban exploring), check out these pictures from the MTA’s Flickr stream that expose the true insanity of the subway flooding wrought by Sandy. It’s not as if there is some water in the tracks; the stations are completely inundated.

While we ogle this ruin porn, the MTA is doing valiant work removing the water from the stations and getting them back online. Many of the underwater tunnels have already been pumped of water, though the total amount that needs to be pumped could be up to one billion gallons (that’s more than twice the amount the entire United States consumes every day).

What’s more important, though, is the future of the subways in the city—and really in any other coastal metropolis. We’ve written before that more frequent storms and subsequent flooding might make living on the coasts simply too expensive, but before that happens, we’ll need to find a new way of thinking about how we deal with these unexpected events.

A subway system for a future where storms like this happen every day won’t be a system that doesn’t flood. The worst possible weather conditions we can predict won’t be right: nature finds a way of destroying our strongest assumptions. Instead, we need to design a subway system that we know will flood, and is resilient enough to deal with it.

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