Category Archives: subways

MTA to NYC: Drop Dead

So, it is the dawn of day 4 of the doomsday service cuts in NYC. My commute has been complicated a little by the changes – I have to leave home for work about 15 minutes earlier than before just to be SURE that I can get the bus to the subway station and get to work on time. 15 minutes is a lot of time, but some commuters are seeing 30 and 45 minutes added to their commutes, so I won’t complain too loudly.

The cuts eliminated two subway lines and dozens of bus lines, changed the routing of one subway line and now add additional wait times for everyone riding the subway or bus. The cuts could not come at a worse time when NYC is trying to drag itself out of the Great Recession and we experienced a heat wave the early part of this week.

Walder, the head of the Transit Authority, promises no fare increases this year. He would have been met with the stereotypical New York attitude if they even tried to pull that move – higher fares and less service? Fagetaboutit. However, fare increases WILL come in 2011. Brace for it. We’ll probably see $100 dollar monthly MetroCards, which is still a great deal for unlimited rides for 30 days. The most important thing at this point is to realize that we’ve been underpaying for the service and allow fares to be collected that are more in line with what rides are around the world for world class systems. The NY subway system is world class in some ways (24 hour service, access to all parts of the city) but in other ways, can use some serious technological upgrades that will improve the riding public’s experience and overall safety.

I don’t want to see a zone fare introduced – especially as someone who travels 32 miles round-trip on the subway each day. Instead, I want to see more realistic fares and discounted passes that really mean the agency can make money. Even in my poor/lower middle class neighborhood, most people I observe using the bus use unlimited cards. On average, that reduces the fare to around a dollar per ride. The agency cannot make money for operations like that.

Additionally, New York State and New York City need to step up and contribute to the MTA; the MTA system is the lifeblood of the city and deserves adequate funding for operations AND capital improvements.

I’ll keep an eye out for other changes coming down the pipe. This is definitely an interesting development going forward in transportation financing and operations.

Are you in NYC? Have you been affected by the service cuts?

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!

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.

Living Car Free is not as hard as it seems

I have been living car free for most of my life, with an exception of about 3 years when I had a car. Living Car Free really isn’t that difficult, even if you live in a place with a hodgepodge of transit options.

All you really need in order to be successful at being car free is to have the desire to make living car free work for you – whether it is going to work on weekdays, or just for fun on the weekends.

First, you need to make the commitment to being car free. Promise yourself to give it a fair shot, and move on to the next steps.

Second, gather up the supplies you need to make livng car free a relaity. This includes transit maps and timetables, Google Transit and a friend who can help you navigate the system.

Now, here comes the easy part – check out the maps and timetables and fashion a few trial runs of getting to-from work or your destination. I don’t know about you, but it is so much easier to get a bus to/from the mall than to deal with the traffic and parking issues!

Okay, so we have our schedule set, so let’s do it! Get up and out, and try your trip. You might miss a connection here and there if you aren’t familiar with transferring from one mode of transit to another, or one bus to another, so give yourself plenty of time to transfer. Make notes about where the best places to sit and exit are, and continue to improve your experience. Notice where other peopele sit and exit, which exists have escalators (if you don’t like stairs) or how long the average wait is for an elevator, how long it takes to get up the stairs, etc.

If you continuously tweak your commute or transit trips for a few weeks, you will hit that “sweet spot” and be in a position to live car free without a lot of hassle AND have some more free time to read, listen to music and simply enjoy life!

Get up for people on the train… or get your photo taken!

A few weeks back, I discussed some tips to help you not be a jerk on public transit – however, I failed to mention that you shouldn’t take pictures of other riders.

Yes, that’s right – don’t take pictures of other riders! Why? Because the NYTimes will do a story on you, and the commenters will tear you apart like tissue paper!

priority seating
Frances Roberts for The New York Times

Long story short, there’s a guy on crutches in NYC (Mr. Muro) going around taking pictures of people sitting in the “disabled” seats on the subways. 99.94% of the time, the subjects have no idea that they are the focus of his irrational anger toward people without crutches sitting on the subway seats “reserved” for the handicapped. While Mr. Muro says that this experiment (blog) is mainly a source of entertainment for himself and his friends, I must wonder if this guy really knows the danger he is putting himself in by snapping photos of perfect strangers on the train – OR if he realizes that simply ASKING someone for a seat won’t hurt, no matter what the research says.

I was on crutches myself about 10 years ago, and it was a pain to sit down and then have to get up. The pain was horrible and even today, my leg aches on rainy days and it is simply easier to just stand on the subway than try to sit down and struggle to get back up. Back then, it was easier for me, even living in a place where cars ruled and transit was not even an option, to simply limp/crutch myself to where I had to go around campus, rather than getting a ride to/from class.

And on the danger point, Mr. Muro is forgetting one very important point – New Yorkers are not the friendliest bunch, nor are they the most helpful bunch. Take a photo of the wrong person on the wrong day, and Mr. Muro might be needing a full traction instead of just a pair of crutches.

Mr. Muro has been careful thus far to take photos of people whose eyes are closed, but he’s still taking a huge chance with his physical safety or at least his peace of mind. I often close my eyes on the train to block out the action of people shuffling around, looking around, reading, making faces, etc. – but that doesn’t mean I’m sleep! And it surely doesn’t mean that I can’t “feel” someone looking at me!

I can’t stress it enough – it is easy just to ask someone for a seat if you need one – for every person unwilling to give up their seat, there’s one who is willing to help a “handicapped” person out! Just ASK!

6 Fare Policy Suggestions

  1. Introduce a Smart Card that works with multiple transit services.
  2. Create bus and schedules that make it clear to riders where the fare zones change, if you are going to work with a zone-based fare system.
  3. Make fare exceptions for people riding from a stop immediately on one side of a fare zone to a stop immediately after the fare zone change.
  4. Speed up bus loading by ending collecting cash fares on the buses; use Smart Cards or Transit Cards.
  5. Make it easier to purchase monthly or weekly fare cards at machines by using more intuitive menus and quick shortcuts to purchasing discounted fare cards.
  6. Create and promote purchase of quarterly, semi-annual and annual bus/rail passes