Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Getting Around in New York

Here is another post bringing this blog to a close as the daily expression of my passion for New York. Of course, one of the joys and one of the curses of New York City is its public transportation system. When it works well, it is incomparable. To speed from uptown to downtown in a just a few minutes in one of the busiest cities in the world is a marvel. As I have said many times before, it feels like magic to disappear into the ground in one part of the city and to reemerge into the light in a completely different part of Gotham, all within minutes. Without the subway, without the ability of people to move from one remote section of the city to another, New York would be very different and significantly less dynamic.

Still, once you become reliant on the subway, it becomes very annoying when it doesn't work properly. When it is too slow, too hot, too crowded, or inaccessible altogether, it can completely alter plans, turning a good day into a bad one. Probably the worst things about subway travel are the unexpected and often unannounced closings of certain stations and even whole lines. It is never wise, especially on the weekend, to count on the subway to get you anywhere as quickly as you planned. I must say, though, that despite the terrible overcrowding, the reliability of the subway on weekdays is impressively consistent.

I suppose our worst public transportation story had nothing to do with the subway, but resulted from the foolish decision to take the bus from downtown to uptown on a hot summer night when the air conditioning on the bus wasn't working properly. Owing to street closings, special emergencies, and the generally slow pace of the bus system, it took us something like 2 and 1/2 hours to travel from Houston Street to 86th Street, a trip that should take maybe 40 minutes and that can be walked in considerably less than 150 minutes. At times, it was fun, particularly quickly bonding with our fellow passengers who were even more frustrated than we were. But after the first 90 minutes, there was very little that was amusing about the final hour of what came to be known as the Third Avenue Crawl.

I can't end, however, on a negative note. The subway has its troubles and in the economic downturn, those troubles will most likely continue to multiply. But the subway remains one of the glories of New York City. Long may it thrive!

1 comment:

  1. I've been impressed by the MTA web site,
    The home page has a table showing the current status of all the subway lines and is updated as changes occur. There is also a trip planner that can show multiple routes using bus/train/subway in various combinations and takes into account planned closures.
    For example, on our recent trip to NYC, we came in to the upper West Side from JFK on the Air Train and the E Train subway. The trip planner detailed the route and also explained that we would need to take a shuttle bus from the Air Train Terminal at Sutphin to the Kew Gardens station because of work on that part of the E line.
    Bookmark that website and you may at least know what to expect most of the time as you travel the amazing NY subway.