Category Archives: fun stuff

Car Free Adventure to Staten Island

It is definitely summer in New York City. I decided to cool off a bit from the urban heat island that is known as Manhattan and headed to Staten Island, the oft-forgotten borough of New York City. I took the subway to the new South Ferry Station, which is totally fabulous. I would have gotten photos except the MTA police did not look too happy at the sight of my camera, and I saw no need to get arrested or detained for taking photos in the subway.

A quick walk over to the ferry terminal, and we’re off! I forgot that I lack sea legs, so I was a little shaky on the trip over because of the rocking of the ferry. I got a few great photos of the Statue of Liberty; saw the bridges – the Brooklyn, Verrazano-Narrows,  Manhattan and Goethals; and even caught a few pigeons hitching a ride to Staten Island with us.

The Staten Island Railway is one of the oldest continuously used rail corridors in the United States, so it was a treat to finally ride it. I rode the entire length of the Railway, through neighborhoods of all types – industrial, residential and commercial. Staten Island, at least from the windows of the subway car, looks remarkably like New Jersey. Very suburban and low density. I wasn’t expecting high rise towers like Manhattan, but I was thinking there’d be more dense development around the railway stations than I actually saw. Despite its name, the SIR does not use commuter rail cars – instead, they use modified R44 subway cars. The trains are shorter and some stops are flag stops only.

After riding for over 40 minutes, arriving in Tottenville was a treat. There wasn’t much to see the further south we traveled, but I wanted to switch sides on the train and see another view of the island. One fascinating thing about the Staten Island Railway is that there are no fares between most stations on Staten Island, so there are no ticket booths or Metrocard machines. People can just walk up, hop on and ride to their destination. It reminded me of “Choose your own fares!” – how much do people value the Railway but would pay if it were optional to pay, and how many would simply continue using the system without paying? To transfer from the ferry (which is free) to the Railway at St. George Station, you must pay the regular subway fare of $2.25 or swipe your unlimited MetroCard (and vice versa).

I did wonder about parking, since I know many people use the Railway to connect to the ferry service to lower Manhattan. Where in the world to they park? I didn’t see a lot of huge parking lots or decks. Perhaps people take buses to the Railway or those who commute by Railway live within walking distance of the stations.

In the end, my adventure was 3 hours long but worth the views of the city from the ferry, and didn’t cost me a dime since I already paid for the unlimited Metrocard.

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World Carfree Day – September 22

carfree

World Carfree Day is September 22. Do you have any special plans? If so, add your event online at: World Carfree Day And join the World Carfree Day Page on Facebook!

World Carfree Day is an annual celebration of cities and public life, free from the noise, stress and pollution of cars. Each year on September 22, people around the world organize events of all sizes to showcase alternatives to the automobile. World Carfree Network invites organisations and individuals everywhere to join!

Every September 22, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society. 2009 should be no different.

10 Tips to Getting Started Living Car Free

Gingerbread Man Rides the Subway
Image by Seth W.

So, you’ve made the decision – or seriously considering Living Car Free. It can be liberating and feel like imprisonment at the same time. These 10 tips will help you get started. If you think of more things, let us know in the comments!

  1. Commit to being car free. If you aren’t ready to give up your car, try being car free once a week. Then every few weeks add another day. Use transit for pleasure trips or commuting. Have reasons for becoming car free – are you conscious about the costs of car ownership, the environment or just want to try something new? Knowing why you are doing something makes it easier to commit.
  2. Get some maps and schedules. Find transit maps, websites that can help you build transit directions and ask car free friends for suggestions on the best ways to travel in your area. Make up schedules for going to work, play, entertainment, school, etc. Print these directions, schedules and information out, or keep in a Moleskine or other notebook.
  3. Remember the weekends and holidays. Most transit operators change the schedules on the weekends and holidays, so make sure to make travel schedules around these anticipated changes to the schedule. There’s NOTHING like showing up for your bus on a Saturday or holiday and waiting for an hour because you forgot to take into account weekend or holiday schedules!
  4. Buy a monthly transit pass. Make the investment in a monthly transit pass. It is a discounted pass that typically allows you unlimited transit trips on your preferred method. Check your transit agency’s website for information on costs, when and where to buy and how to purchase. No one likes to give away money, so this will be an additional incentive to make trips on transit.
  5. Pack your bags carefully. Being car free, you can’t drag along everything you had in your car with you on your daily transit trips. Even if you have a backpack, you will find the heavier it is, the less motivated you are to walk up two flights of stairs out of a subway station or ride your bike 5 miles to work. Get rid of the things you really don’t need – just stick to the basics.
  6. Consider your social life. In some cities, transit stops running at late night hours, which can put a damper on your social life. Make sure you have contingency plans for when you go out on the town with your friends. Also consider how you will get to a friend’s home for Superbowl Sunday or just to hang out after work.
  7. Come up with a contingency plan. In case of emergency, how will you get home? I was unprepared for having to find an alternative way home from work when the 2004 Northeast blackout happened. The subways weren’t running and no one had cars. What would you do? Sleep in the park? Walk home? Wait at a transit terminal? Hitchhike?
  8. Be flexible. Sometimes, the bus will be late. Or a sick passenger will be on the train. Plan for minor delays and have plans in place at work or school for days when you are late. Leave extra early if you have a major meeting or test. Learn alternate routes to/from your destination – if the trains are down, what buses could you use? Or vice versa.
  9. Learn transit etiquette. How do other riders behave? What are your transit system’s rules of conduct for passengers? Check out my post “Stop being a JERK on Public Transit!” for more dos and don’ts for transit. Some of the major don’ts are preventing passengers from getting off before you get on, eating or drinking, or smoking.
  10. Prepare for the weather. Now that you are no longer protected by two tons of steel, you will need to be prepared for the weather. Keep an extra change of clothes at work, think about wearing sneakers instead of nice dress shoes on your commute, always carry an umbrella, think about buying some rainboots or a raincoat – you get the hint.

Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Where do you get your public transit directions?

Just incredibly curious…

The Curse of the High Line (aka Why I haven’t taken photos yet)

It’s not really fun to open new public spaces without an interesting story to “sell” the park or sculpture. The High Line – a former elevated railroad track, now park – comes complete with its own ghost and haunted designers/supporters. The High Line runs from Gansevoort Street to West 20th; the next phase will extend it to West 30th. Pedestrians can enter at Gansevoort and Washington Streets (link).
highline_600_1

Jump ahead, oh, a half-century or so, and plans for a refurbished, publicly accessed High Line are but a glimmer in Joshua David’s and Robert Hammond’s eyes. A writer, David was researching a magazine story on the changing face of Chelsea when he says he was visited by an apparition [Ezekiel Marcus] in the tiny alcove in his Chelsea apartment where he did his writing.

“He had a long brown beard and wild brown eyes, and he wore a suede cap and black corduroy pants,” David told Beyond Investigation Magazine in 2002. “He told me in a gravelly voice to ‘leave well enough alone.’ I thought he was talking about my magazine article, but I think he realized the seeds for a bigger project were just beginning to sow in my mind.”

Read more at Trainjotting.

Seriously, it has been raining since they cut the ribbon on the High Line, and it seems to be rain in the forecast for the next 10 days.I won’t be making it to the High Line in the rain, nor can I get out and take decent photos of pedestrian conflicts in Manhattanville! *shakes fist at developers who have caused the curse*

Exploring Harlem via Alternative Transit

75px-NYCS-bull-trans-1.svgI recently moved to HarlemManhattanville to be exact – and I have been exploring my neighborhood daily since moving in last week! I have found that my neighborhood is well served by buses, subways, sidewalks and taxis (both yellow and “black” cars).

I have been able to find a lot of the things I need to make life comfortable – grocery stores, the local laundromats, a dry cleaners, the post office, the police precinct and Chinese food.

However, the one thing missing from this great neighborhood is bike lanes! Bicyclists can use the bike/pedestrian paths at Riverbank State Park, but there are no bike lanes along Broadway or Amsterdam, the two major avenues in the area. Bicyclists must travel in traffic – sidewalk biking is not a good idea because of the large number of pedestrians. A comprehensive bike network would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood because it is hilly and bicycling is faster than walking or the bus during peak hours.

Pedestrians in Manhattanville are also at risk, because of speeding cars, the large number of buses up and down the avenues and general New York style impatience! There are wide sidewalks along the avenues, and less wide sidewalks on streets – but nonetheless, it is dangerous for a pedestrian to walk out from behind cars to cross the street. As proof positive, I saw the aftermath of a pedestrian-taxi accident on my way home today. In addition, I was almost hit by a taxi yesterday, although I had the right-of-way to cross the street. Impatience made the taxi driver turn right and almost directly into my legs as I crossed Broadway.

I will be posting pictures later this week of some transportation conflicts I see in my neighborhood – namely the horrible handicapped access to major subway stations, poorly maintained sidewalks and crazy drivers. If you have anything you’d like to see, let me know, and I’ll do my best to photo-document it. I’ll also be posting my photos from my trip to Roosevelt Island, an island between Manhattan island and Queens, New York.

National Train Day 2009 (Photos)

While I am a transit fan through and through, I figured that it couldn’t hurt to attend National Train Day 2009 and see what all the hype is about. I got so many emails, tweets and saw so many ads about National Train Day! I was totally hyped – got up at 430am to catch the 527 NE Corridor to NYC, then hopped on BoltBus to Washington, DC, where the biggest festivities seemed to be being held.

Once I arrived in DC, I walked to the Red Line and took it over to Union Station. I would have walked the approximately 20 minute walk from the bus stop, but it was hot and humid in DC!

Union Station was PACKED with people, exhibits and Amtrak employees. I got as many pictures as I could, and waited an hour in line to tour an Acela high speed train. The enthusiasm of the crowds was contagious! I soon forgot that my feet hurt, it was hot inside Union Station, too and that the lines to see exhibits were long.

See my photos from National Train Day 2009:

NTD2009

Did you attend in your city? Or were you in DC, too? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!