Old NYC Subway Cars Become Thriving Aquatic Reefs

Posted on November 13, 2013

New York City is home to over 6,000 subway cars. As the decades pass, wear and tear inevitably renders hundreds obsolete, leaving the city with the dilemma of their disposal. For many years the outer boroughs were dotted with subway graveyards, but in 2001 the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI) had a better idea. Given the decline of natural reef systems in their coastal waters which had hurt the fishing trade, folks at MARI were happy to take 714 of these cars off New York's hands and put them to aquatic use as artificial reefs. The first of these is located about 16 nautical miles off the coast of Maryland's Slaughter Beach. It spans about 1 mile, resides 80 feet below the surface and has been dubbed "Redbird Reef", named after the redbird model of train cars which were dumped there.

Of course not everyone was initially thrilled with this idea. Various environmental groups expressed concerns about pollution and adverse ecological effects. But their doubts were silenced once they saw the positive impact the trains were having on the ocean floor. The cars quickly became covered in barnacles, and coral formations and began to attract a massive community of fish in an area which had once been a barren underwater wasteland. The fishing trade began to thrive again, attracting 10000 visitors a year compared to the meager 400 that once ventured there. The project has enjoyed so much success that there is currently stiff competition for NYC's retired subway cars as other states clamor for their quota of municipal junk. The demand has been so great that New York State will no longer be exporting these cars in 2014, opting instead to use them to enrich their own coastal waters.




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