Friday, April 4, 2008


When I started this blog, I didn't (and still don't) intend it to focus exclusively on mass transit issues, but with congestion pricing on the verge of passing (or failing) and my taking up cycling, it's a theme very much at the forefront of my mind. Here are some other random thoughts on the subject:

  1. I started driving reluctantly in my mid-twenties, while I was living upstate, starting graduate school, and realized that mass transit connections between home and campus were so poor that driving was the only practical way to go. Two years before moving here, I gave up vehicle ownership and entered a shared car arrangement with a family member. When I moved here, I gave up all car use, except when I'm upstate.

  2. Yes, I get frustrated when the trains are (pick one or more): delayed, re-routed, running weird schedules, moving slowly, stopping inexplicably, and a 45-minute door-to-door trip ends up taking 90 minutes. Not to mention when they're packed to the gills; you're being harangued by the same street preacher day after day; your neighbor, despite wearing earphones, is playing music at such a volume that you can hear it clearly, or (worse) is playing music through a cellphone with NO earphones. It happens all too often. But I'm grateful not to risk my life in car everyday, be free of the stress of traffic, have 90 minutes of daily reading to enjoy, AND save on all the costs of car ownership (average $7359.96 per year according to this site).

  3. Subway trains have a dedicated track, so can't they run faster than the current system average of 18 mph? Faster train service would provide a great incentive to get more drivers off the road (if I can get to where I need to go faster, cheaper, and safer than driving, then mass transit becomes a very attractive option).

  4. Regional rail: besides having faster trains, a well-designed regional rail system across the five boros--one that does not assume that every mass transit rider's main concern is to get to the hub of midtown/downtown Manhattan--would be a boon to the entire city's economy. For example, to travel from Inwood to Williamsburg is about an hour. To Brighton Beach: 90 minutes. Greenpoint? I shudder to think. A rapid regional rail system that, say, had 2-3 stops in each boro, with the stops connecting to local transit, could make a trip from Brighton Beach to Wave Hill far more feasible and could encourage, say, folks from Brooklyn to hang out in the Bronx, etc. The Parisian RER might provide a model.

  5. Speaking of connections, how is the MTA getting around compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act? (Here's what they claim.) So many stations (and station entrances) are without elevators and have features (such as full-body turnstiles) that make it difficult to access if you're in a wheelchair, have crutches, or are simply encumbered (with a stroller, bicycle, packages, etc.). The most awful example I regularly encounter is the IND stop at 34th St - Penn Station. Now, here's a stop where it's guaranteed there will always be numerous individuals (if not the majority) encumbered with suitcases and other items, and yet there is no elevator (or even escalator) that permits a smooth transition from the subway platform to the station. Nope, it's stair city.

  6. Add more lights to the Greenway, particularly north of the George Washington Bridge, damn it! It's almost impossible to see the path at night, especially with traffic driving in the opposite direction, and yours truly has already spent a night in the emergency room and had several doctor's visits as a result.


will H. said...

One reason they run the trains slower is because it results in less wear and tear on brakes etc. so the MTA saves some money. Also, liability - around a decade ago a J train accident happened on the Williamsburg Bridge and after that they slowed the trains going over the bridge to a crawl, of like 15 mph. The MTA is extremely opaque and top heavy (aka corrupt) and basically doesn't want people to know these things, so they revert to the old saw about old signals and "other issues"
But the fact remains in the 1940's they handled a lot more people with a much more "vintage" stock!

Urbanis said...

Will, thanks for providing some context to this problem.