Category Archives: things to do on transit

What do you do on Transit? [Poll]

Please participate in the poll. I’m curious to know what other people do on public transit.


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.

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).

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*

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!

Stop being a JERK on Public Transit!

I love using public transit, but some of my fellow passengers just don’t understand that public transit is not a private vehicle just for your enjoyment – but instead a shared experience for all of us. So, as a public service, I am going to give a few tips about how to be more polite on transit – and ensure you never get the evil eye from your fellow passengers.

Made It
Creative Commons License photo credit: Seabamirum

Please, leave the heavy perfume and cologne at home. There is no reason in the world that I should smell you from half a train car away. Or half a block away, while I wait at the bus stop. A little dab here and there, and you are fine! I promise! Since we are on the subject of smells, don’t bring smelly food on the bus and devour it like it is your last meal. Seriously, the germs alone will ensure it is your last meal. Also, keep your shoes on your feet – and off of the seats! No one wants dirt and who knows what else on their clothes and/or hands.

Personal hygiene is personal for a reason. Trust me, no one wants to hear you clipping your fingernails or smell your nail polish.  I’ll never forget the day last summer when the lady sitting next to me was clipping her fingernails and the nail landed in my lap. Seriously, what do you do in that situation? Let’s help avoid awkward moments for everyone, and take care of these things at home.

Give up your seat to the elderly, handicapped, pregnant women and people with small children. There’s nothing more coldhearted than seeing an able-bodied teenager or young adult sitting and jamming to their iPod, while someone’s grandma struggles to hold on to the subway pole. In the words of Mays Gilliam, “That ain’t right!”

Move over and let someone sit next to you, rather than letting your bag (or hips) have a seat on the train. As my favorite conductor on NJTransit says, “Did this bag buy a ticket? No? Alright, then move it or pay for the bag to ride, too.” I know it’s hard if you are overweight or tall to get comfortable, but don’t take up 2 or 3 seats. It’s just plain rude.

Click, click.. stupified.
Creative Commons License photo credit: juicyrai

Is it that hard to exit out of the back of the bus? If riders exit from the back, this gives passengers a chance to load at the front quickly and efficiently, keeping the bus’ idle time down, and keeping the bus on schedule! On that note, don’t block the back doors just because you are getting off 5 stops from now. Move into a place where you are not blocking the exit, so other people can get off quickly!

Do the right thing and allow people to exit the train/subway car before entering. Pushing and shoving never gets much accomplished, and commuting is not supposed to be a contact sport. Waiting 5 seconds for people to exit will probably mean you can snag a seat or at least a comfortable standing position! Also, don’t block the doors. I know it is tempting to hold the doors open because you are only 2/3 the way into the crowded train car, but be a pal – let the doors go and wait on the next train. At rush hour, most subway trains come every 5-10 minutes – which is not long at all.

Take your trash with you! Did you know that most subway fires in the NYC Subway are because of trash like newspapers and food wrappers? I have yet to be to a subway station that doesn’t have trash cans – so find one and deposit your trash there, instead of on the tracks, platform or under your seat. Try to keep your coffee in its mug, versus on the floor of the bus or train. If you do make a spill, let someone know at the next stop, so it can be cleaned up before someone hurts themselves.

Don’t block the aisles with your luggage or strollers. This can be tough if you are short and unable to reach the luggage rack, or it is too difficult to close the stroller, but scout out places on the train or bus where you can be out of the way as much as possible. Or, try to travel at off peak times to reduce the likelihood of annoying other passengers.

Asleep in the bus
Creative Commons License photo credit: jepoirrier

Avoid personal (or confidential) conversations while riding. No one wants to hear about your date last night, who is getting laid off at your job or what the doctor said about that strange rash you have. If you really have to talk to someone, try keeping your voice down, mindful that other passengers might be napping, reading or working. Additionally, keep the profanity to a minimum. Some of us have sensitive dispositions, and cursing makes us very upset.

Be kind to your driver/operator/conductor. Like you, the driver/operator/conductor is a human. Unbelievable, right? Well, being that they are in fact human, we should try to be kind to him or her. Say “Thank you,” or “Good morning”. Let them know you appreciate their being there to serve you. A simple “thank you” goes a long way to brightening someone’s day.

It is so tempting to start singing and/or dancing when your favorite song starts playing on your iPod, but remember, a bus or train is not the place to perfect your American Idol performance. Be mindful that others may not want to hear your (off-key) singing or see your (really lame) dancing.

007 - Febrero 5 de 2009 - Lovely work, nice man, dredfull singing...
Creative Commons License photo credit: kmilamartinezcalle

Do you have a tip you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

While you are riding along….

what podcasts do you listen to? Do you have a favorite album you jam out to? Or do you read?

Creative Commons License photo credit: yosoynuts

Make some suggestions for those of us who are car-free and looking to enjoy our commute or pleasure car free trips.

Let’s hear it in the comments!