September 04, 2007

Transportation Hell

One of the things I really looked forward to when I was planning my move to NYC was being rid of my car. I don't like driving in traffic and I don't like spending much time attending to my own transportation. Taxis are just too expensive to take on a regular basis and sometimes it's really frustrating trying to catch one. In an ideal world, I would be chauffeured around. Unfortunately, I have to deal with the subway and buses here.

For the most part, I am actually pretty impressed with the NYC subway system. It takes you all over the place. It runs 24/7/365. In 2005, they had a ridership of 1.45 billion passengers.

For the most part, I'm impressed and satisfied. Maybe... 85% of the time.

But I would guess that about 15% of the time, I have some sort of complaint about subway service. Non-air conditioned cars. Surly MTA employees. Unintelligible announcements. Poor communication between stations -- more on this in a moment. No means of knowing when the next train will arrive. Late trains. Overcrowded trains.

Why do the trains break when it rains?!?! Oh, because tunnels flood. TUNNELS FLOOD.

Why do the trains break when it snows?!?! I can't answer this one because by all accounts that I've heard, we had a mild winter last year and no really heavy snow storms.

Let's be clear: I'm on a rant tonight because I encountered one of the most frustrating incidents to date.

I entered the R/W station at Prince and Broadway this evening at a little after 9pm and prepared myself for the 30 minute ride back to Queens.

I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited.

An N train zoomed by -- strangely on the local track -- but didn't stop. Prince is a local station, which means that express lines like the N & Q don't usually stop there. The local trains even have their own tracks in many stations.

And I waited.

A Q train zoomed by, also on the local track, and didn't stop.

And I waited.

Since I finished my last book, I forgot to put a new book in my bag, so the waiting was pretty much pointless.

I think I waited 30 minutes before a train showed up. Bothersome, yes. Worthy of flying into a rage, no. No, not yet.

Well, the train was slow, but eventually made it to Lexington and 59th. For those unfamiliar, that's the last Manhattan stop before the N/R/W train goes to Queens.

Then, the train sat for about ten minutes and the conductor guy comes on the PA and says, "There was an incident ahead of us, so we're delayed."

We waited for some 15 minutes and the guy comes on and says that the train is not going to Queens. It's going to go back to Brooklyn -- the opposite direction I want to go.

So, I sigh and get off the train to wait.

We wait for about 30 minutes in the station without air conditioning or even fans and then another train finally backs down the uptown track and stops at our station. This new conductor says he's going to Brooklyn, too. He also tells us that there is no N/R/W service to Queens. If we need to get to Queens, we have to go back to Times Square (4 stops back downtown whence most all of us came.) and catch a different train to Queens as our final destinations dictate.

At this point, I am greatly vexed, but I get on the train and we head to the next downtown stop.

Before we even get to the next stop, though, the conductor comes on and says, "We've resumed normal service to Queens. If you'd like, you can change trains at 57th St. to get back on the N/R/W to Queens, or you can proceed to Times Square as previously described."


We get to 57th St. and there is a train heading back to Queens, but we're now all on the downtown platform, which means we have to cross to the other platform. By the time we do, that other train is gone.


We stand and wait.


We wait.


We wait for probably ten minutes before another train, which does finally take us to Queens as planned.

A trip that usually takes me 30 minutes took me over TWO HOURS.

1.45 Billion riders at an average of $2 per ride is $2.9 Billion in money from riders. They get subsidies from the city/state! What the HELL are they doing with all of this money?!?!?

I am willing to pay as much as $4 per ride for CONSISTENT, RELIABLE service. I want the MTA employees to be informed about incidents so that they can communicate effectively to customers. Oh, and I want customer-facing MTA employees to speak coherent, intelligible English. Second languages would be appreciated, particularly Spanish. I want fans in the subway stations to keep the urine saunas to a minimum. I'm sure there are other things, but I am going blind with rage over this again.

Ok. It's late. I need to relax, be calm, and go to sleep.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at September 4, 2007 11:50 PM | TrackBack

Ah, the beauty of mass public transport. And New York is supposed to have the best in the nation! :P

I was stranded by the bus system in my city on so many occasions I lost count. They're always either too late or too early or don't arrive at all.

Wonder why I put up with the cost of car-ownership? I'm reminded every time I see people at a bus stop when it's over 100F during the day here in Phoenix and buses come once every 30 minutes or so.

Posted by: Tom Rexton at September 5, 2007 02:06 AM

Owning a car in New York City, though, is almost the most ridiculous thing in the world. There's the gas and the tolls and the alternate side parking even in dead of winter when the snow plows push snow up and over your car and so you get a ticket even though it is physically impossible to comply with the alternate side parking laws. And parking tickets in NYC are insane.

My roommate has a car, but he doesn't go into Manhattan often. Instead, he drives out to Long Island where he goes to law school. That makes sense to me, sort of.

And one of my good friends has a car. But she has family in Philly and Delaware. She also manages a client in Philly who requires frequent face-to-face visits, so her car also makes sense to me.

For me, though, a car would be a foolish expense.

Last night, I should have just left the subway and caught a cab back home. I was hot and tired and really not in the mood for all that. I just didn't think it could go so wrong.

Posted by: Flibbert at September 5, 2007 08:59 AM

"Owning a car in New York City, though, is almost the most ridiculous thing in the world."

In a nutshell, that's why I would never live there. For all their bluster, the big cities are basically outdated socialist money-holes that use coercive government to prop up their overcrowded nonsense. They are the NASA of landscapes: full of big, impressive-looking things but rotten with statism to the core.

Towns like Phoenix, where I live, were designed by and for people who have the sense to want to travel by private means. Of course, the trouble is that the state still owns the roads and the EnviroMarxist New-Urbanists get themselves into city councils and do crazy things like fund trains and buses and cut funding to roads, where funding belongs.

Want to piss of an EnviroMarxist? Just get him started on "The Sprawl." They get as hysterical as if someone had said the word "Bush." (I don't like Bush - but his name does make them hysterical is all)

I have a whole series on it up on my "Best of 2006" back at The Night Watchman. I can't link it given your spam filter, though, since the word "free" is in the url. You may want to consider revising that filter, Flib.

Posted by: Inspector at September 5, 2007 07:13 PM

I completely agree with your assessment of the political environment of NYC. It's ridiculous. I'm constantly amazed by all the rules and laws I find out about here.

I would say that much of life here is predicated on the assumption that one must get permission from the government to act, rather than the government getting permission from the citizenry in order to act. It's an outrage!

But I absolutely adore the city in spite of that and the infuriating subway system. I love that there are subways under the city and the big, huge buildings. I love that during a business day, there are over nine million people packed into a space of 26 sq. mi. a large chunk of which is used up by a big ass park. I love the bustle and noise. I like that there are so many stores and shops and things here.

If I moved to another city, I'd have to trade some of the things I enjoy and pick up some other things that I do not enjoy at all. Like owning a car.

When I get children, I might move away.

Posted by: Flibbert at September 5, 2007 08:14 PM

You wouldn't be the only one to heart NY. That's your prerogative.

I'm just saying that the whole thing has "brought to you by Statism!" stamped on it.

It's a fool's paradise, but I'm not saying that makes you a fool. It's just that there is a required asterisk.

Posted by: Inspector at September 5, 2007 09:08 PM

Oh, and on the car comment: The only reason it is not enjoyable is because the New Urbanists are pulling the levers of the transportation system and have engineered things against the car. Traffic jams are Soviet Breadlines all over again.

Don't blame the car for that: blame the commies!

Posted by: Inspector at September 5, 2007 09:10 PM

Um. Saying it's a "fool's paradise" really is kind of saying that I'm a fool. I'm really not sure how to otherwise take that remark.

And it's not brought to us by statism, it's brought to us in spite of it.

But I'll tell you what: if you figure out how we can set up our own country, I will go live there and help figure out how we can get some people to build some big buildings there.

Posted by: Flibbert at September 5, 2007 09:26 PM

I'm not having trouble with "free." Why doncha email me the URL? I'd like to read your post.

Posted by: Flibbert at September 5, 2007 09:49 PM

Here is my best of aught 6, with The Marxist Attack on the Car at the top.

As for countries, well, who knows. Statism messes up so much, it'd be almost impossible to speculate. But I do know this: remove the statist laws designed to preserve them, and there would be mass flight from the cities to the sprawls. There already is, in fact, despite all of the New Urbanists' best efforts to thwart it.

Oh! And as for fool's paradise: you're not the fool who made it. You're just living there. Feel free to fiddle all you want as Rome burns. As long as you're savvy to it.

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