A Conversation for New York City Public Transit System
Dr. Funk Started conversation Aug 4, 2000
Great entry, and generally good advice for people unfamiliar with the subway system. It can definitely be bewildering for the visitor, and the simpler you make things (even at the risk of inaccuracies) the better.
A few errors, however, shouldn't be overlooked, because I don't think they're hurting anyone to be corrected.
1. "No bus line ever goes from borough to borough, unless Manhattan is one of them." Not true. I know of at least one bus that starts in Red Hook in Brooklyn and ends in Queensboro Plaza in, er, Queens, and does this without going through Manhattan, and I'd be willing to get there are others. The point is well taken--that borough-to-borough transportation is a hell of a lot easier on a subway--but anyway.
2. "The bus is the only way to get around when you leave Manhattan." A bold but misleading statement. Brooklyn is rife with subway lines which have taken me anywhere I've wanted to go--and it is the various orange and yellow lines that take folks to Coney Island and the beaches there if they're headed in that direction.
3. "There is only one useful train line in Queens." Besides the 7, there are three useful sets of tracks in Queens--the N, R, and E/F (I agree that the G is not useful in Queens). The N, in fact, is terribly useful to people who live in Astoria--aside from the R, which feeds its southern borders, the N is the only train line for only people to take, and the fastest way of getting there.
4. "There is no way to buy a MetroCard once you leave a populated area." For someone that needs a MetroCard more than life itself and can't seem to find a subway station to buy it at, I've noticed that many delis all around have started selling them in the prepaid denominations or the 1 day pass-types. The delis advertise that they have them by posting a lil sticker in the window featuring a picture of a MetroCard and, if I remember right, the catchy slogan "MetroCards Sold Here" or something like that.
5. In the section on holding doors, "the longer you hold them open, the more likely your destination stop will get skipped." I swear this has never happened to me, nor have I seen it happen.
Anyway, good entry.
NYC Student - The innocent looking one =P Posted Aug 4, 2000
1. Well, if you call THAT Queens...
2. Brooklyn is better than Queens and the Bronx, but there are still areas without subways, where without the Metrocard Gold, would be double-fare zones. Queens is the extreme case, where Bayside, Jamaica, and many others must go through Flushing and the like to head into Manhattan.
3. The 7 is the most efficient line in the city, accounting for most of the MTA's profits and riderships. The F goes local all the way out, and is therefore very, VERY slow in finally reaching its intended destination. You're right about the N, though.
4. The delis and bodegas and groceries and convenience stores are in good stock only when there's a fair number of customers around (read: near a subway line). There are places in the outer boroughs which neglect to sell metrocards, so if you're leaving Manhattan, it would be good to account for Murphy's Law.
5. I've had my stop skipped many times, because the students on the 66th street stop (1 line) keep holding the doors open for their friends. Now, I'm not an advocator of police brutality, but...
Dr. Funk Posted Aug 7, 2000
1. Fair enough--I only brought it up because Queensboro Plaza is, after all, in Queens--even if it is by a hair--and more important, it links you up with all kinds of trains, including your beloved 7. I had no idea the 7 was so popular--is it because of its Manhattan stops? The few times I was on it in Queens, it didn't seem terribly crowded.
3. Under normal service, the F doesn't go local ALL the way--like the E, it skips all the stops between Queens Plaza and Roosevelt, which are instead serviced by the R and G. Except when they're working on the R/G tracks, which they're always doing, and then there's... well, let's not get into it right now.
4. Point taken--but since the entry is written ultimately for visitors to New York, not residents of it, they should know that if they reach the subway station and it is, let's say, on fire, there are other ways of getting MetroCards. Is there an entry about MetroCards yet? There should be.
5. "I've had my stop skipped many times, because the students on the 66th street stop (1 line) keep holding the doors open for their friends."
Really? That stinks. Not that I'm a veangeful or a hurtful man, but they should be maimed in some temporary but painful way.
NYC Student - The innocent looking one =P Posted Aug 7, 2000
the cattle prod comes to mind...
but then again, how many tourists leave Manhattan anyway?
An entry on metrocards? hmm... what else can you say? They slide through whatever reader is available, expire within a year of purchase, and can be bought in a rather limited order from local stores. I think I'll put up an entry comparing the wares of American and Europeans convenience stores, first. There's lots of fun to be had there...
Wait a sec... if the station's on fire, what's the point of getting a metrocard?
Dr. Funk Posted Aug 7, 2000
There's plenty to be said about MetroCards. You start with the history--that folks used to get on the subway by putting actual coins in the turnstiles, then by using tokens. Then you can talk about the godforsaken token days, as the price of tokens rose and rose, and the transit system put itself in the red. Then you can talk about how the institution of MetroCards put the transit system back in the black--by offering frequent riders a deal in the form of the unlimited cards--and increased subway ridership. Then you can end with the general uneasiness plaguing booth employees, as the increasing automation of the MTA (the central office of which still doesn't use a computer to control where trains go and when) threatens their jobs. Hmm... maybe I'll just do it myself, whenever I manage some free time...
Mr. Cogito Posted Nov 22, 2000
Great article, but I have to mention a few things.
Well, I feel that perhaps more should be stated about Express service (not just the trains with diamonds (eg, the A train)). It certainly is one of the most confusing aspects of the subway for visitors, but it is ultimately the most convenient. I have usually great experiences with express trains (late nights excluded), despite Murphy's Law. And the ride on the A up the west side of Central Park is downright exhilarating.
A mention of the lack of options for the Upper East Side (except for the loathsome 4-5-6 line) and the effect this can have on commuting there might also be good.
In terms of strategy, I find that the subway's biggest problem is that packed cars become more packed. Basically, a train gets held up (probably because somebody's holding the doors). When it reaches the next stop, more people than usual try to board, holding it up further. It usually gets worse and worse as the stops progress, until you hit the bottom of Manhattan. There usually is a practically empty train right behind, but most people are in too much of a hurry to wait. If you can, you should.
NYC Student - The innocent looking one =P Posted Nov 22, 2000
1. I'm, of course, writing this for tourists, and they tend not to leave lower Manhattan. Harlem? Washington Heights? Inwood? THE BRONX?! These have no meaning and use for the average tourist. I wasn't aware they used express trains. If they DID, and I assume it'd be the 2, 3, 4, or 5, it would seem rather straight-forward with a little studying of the map.
2. I know the 4-5-6 line is the busiest line in the city, and it also share the top spaces with the 1-2-3-9, and the 7 (40,000 people a day). All of these are noted for being IRT lines, which are also the most efficient lines in the city; just be glad the B train doesn't head to the East Side, you'd probably still be waiting there now...
I use the 6 every day to go home, and I've noticed the full-train-empty-train system, and it really doesn't matter which one you choose: If you take the first train, you push and shove and slow it down. If you take the second train, somebody else has pushed and shoved and slowed it, and therefore your empty train goes even slower.
3. That's a factor of every metro system in the world. Tourists are even worse, as they will stick their baggage in the doors and proceed to help their partners fiddle with the metrocards for the umpteen millionth time. I've actually seen an occasion where the conductor left his perch, walk through the cars half-way across the train, and physically PUSH the offending asshole off the train. Now THERE'S service...
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