Archive for the ‘Transit’ Category

Fri 8 Oct 2010 7:00 am   //   Posted in: In the news, Transit

The war on trains

Yesterday the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, ordered a halt to the most important passenger rail project in the United States. That’s bad, and it gets worse. This is not an isolated local decision. This is part of a nationwide war on trains, of which Christie is the leader.

The project that Christie killed yesterday is a second rail tunnel under the Hudson River. It would add capacity to the badly overcrowded and economically vital Northeast Corridor. I ride this route often and I’m surely not the only one tired of sitting in Secaucus going nowhere while we wait for a train ahead to clear the only existing tunnel—built in 1910. Construction began on the new tunnel earlier this year, with funding by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Port Authority, and the state of New Jersey. Yet Christie determined he had the power to shut it down. “The ARC project will be terminated and staff will immediately begin an expeditious and orderly shutdown of the project,” the governor declared.

What else has the governor been up to?


Sun 26 Sep 2010 10:48 am   //   Posted in: Photos, Transit

Travel and transit photos from Denver

I just got back from a short trip to Denver for a conference. Here are a few photos of trains and buses.

Denver Light Rail
RTD Light Rail


Sat 7 Aug 2010 3:09 pm   //   Posted in: Transit

More reasons the NYC Subway is better than the DC Metro

Here’s some of the reader feedback from my Wednesday post pitting the New York City Subway against the Washington Metro. (Hey, they started it!).

Wed 4 Aug 2010 9:44 pm   //   Posted in: Transit

Rats! Washington Metro disses the New York City Subway

From Washington, D.C., Gerritt sends this photo of a Metro poster. It says:

“Unlike some subway systems (which will remain nameless), you don’t see rats the size of house cats roaming Metro.”

Them’s fightin’ words.

First of all: You gotta problem with our rats?

Now, what else? Let’s see. Unlike some subway systems (which will remain nameless)…

  • We don’t have to swipe on the way out.
  • Our trains run all night, so they won’t leave you stranded, drunk and helpless at 3 a.m.
  • Our transit cops don’t arrest people for eating candy.
  • We have this amazing invention called express service.
  • There are so many tracks that when one of our lines gets shut down, there’s always a workaround.
  • Our trains are filled with hip, weird, fashionable, messy, crazy, confident people. Loafer-wearing bureaucrats and terrified interns, not so much.
  • You can instantly tell one station from another because they’re all painted different colors.
  • Where else do you get to hear announcements like, “A crowded subway is no excuse for improper sexual conduct?”
  • We have the Manhattan Bridge, the best view in mass transit.
  • Randomly and without warning, a mariachi band will appear.

Got another reason the New York City subway is superior to the Washington Metro? Send it to me using the Feedback tab on the left-hand side of your screen and maybe I’ll use it in a future post.

Mon 26 Jul 2010 10:55 pm   //   Posted in: Transit

Spotted! The Target 6 train

Leave it to Target.

This evening I saw for the first time the MTA subway train which Target paid to have wrapped in ads, promoting a new store in Manhattan. This is the first time the MTA has covered an entire 10-car train with ads. The train is running on the 6 line.

How much? The reported cost of the ad is $250,000, though that might not be accurate. (It sounds high to me.) At any rate, the campaign is supposed to last 6 weeks and has been generally well-received by New Yorkers, who want the MTA to have more money and who find Target tolerable.

Here are some photos of the train:


Sat 26 Jun 2010 11:55 pm   //   Posted in: New York is different, Transit, Videos

Video: Party on the last V Train

Because of budget cuts, the New York City MTA canceled two subway lines on June 25, 2010. This video shows the party that subway fans threw on the last V Train, which departed 2nd Avenue at 11:33 p.m. on June 25.

Fri 25 Jun 2010 6:38 am   //   Posted in: New York is different, Transit

Dueling transit funerals

Today will be last time trains with the V and W designations will ply the rails beneath New York City. The MTA budget cuts are killing these two subway lines. This occasion triggers a little-known New York City custom: The transit funeral. By tradition, a crowd of people jams into the last car of the last train for a raucous celebration.

Tonight there are dueling transit funerals in the New York subway.

  • The V: Levy’s, a tour company that has organized farewell paries in the past for the Q Diamond and the 9, is throwing a farewell party for the V train. It leaves 2nd Avenue at 11:33 p.m. sharp and heads to Forest Hills. The whole ride should take about 38 minutes.
  • The W: People on Facebook are organizing a rally for the final W train. This party leaves Astoria at 10:17 p.m., exits at Union Square, crosses the platform, and boards a Queens-bound W train at 11:02 p.m. for the final run back to Astoria.

I’m with the V party. The W plan is too complicated and requires two trips to Astoria and back—no thanks. And if a transit funeral is a celebration of the absurd, the V train is the more absurd of the two choices. It’s the youngest train in the system and beloved by no one.

But a loss is a loss, and we must commemorate it. I’ll see you at the back of the 2nd Avenue platform at 11:33 tonight.

Mon 14 Jun 2010 10:09 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Typography

Spotted in the wild: The new subway map!

These are interesting times for our transit system.

Because of budget cuts, two lines are going away later this month. (I hope to attend one of the transit funerals for the V or W train! Anybody with me?)

A currently unused stretch of track—the Chrystie Street Connection—will be reopened to make way for the rerouted M.

All kinds of bus routes are being changed.

And in a strange move, this week the MTA accidentally posted a monument to Internet woe when it labeled the 14th Street/6th Avenue station with FML (“fuck my life”) signs.


The new routes take effect June 27, but new subway maps are already up in some stations, including Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street in Brooklyn.

What’s new about the map? The most obvious change is that the color of the land has been adjusted from beige to an earthy khaki color. The designers have tried to make the map simpler, eliminating some confusing and seldom-used information about bus connections and which lines operate at which hours.

Here’s the new map:


Sun 16 May 2010 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Hard times, Transit

You’ll be waiting a long time for that bus

There are a few constant beats in the rhythm of the streetscape of my neighborhood. Food delivery guys ride their Huffys in any weather. Trash pickup is twice a week. Recycling and street sweeping are once a week. In the summer, Mister Softee comes around every evening. And the B67 runs all night.

So much for the B67. This sign says it all:

Sign: Attention! The following changes to bus service will take effect due to budget reductions.

Among the lines being cut are my B67, which will still run, just on a reduced schedule. The MTA is also merging several subway lines (goodbye to the W and V designations) and increasing overnight spacing of trains.

Honestly, I will be fine. I can bike, walk, plan, improvise, flag down a gypsy cab, or do whatever I must do to get around. But not everyone can. Transit cuts disproportionally hurt the poor, as well as the elderly and other people who might have trouble walking long distances. In Brooklyn, bus routes form a fine mesh that fills in the gaps between subway stations. (If you don’t live here and you’ve never seen it before, you might enjoy viewing the shocklingly complex Brooklyn bus map.) Buses enable the people who can’t afford cars, who work in outer-borough neighborhoods, to get to and from their jobs and appointments. It’s not their fault tax revenue is down and the state is cutting the MTA’s funding. Budget cuts hurt the wrong people.

Mon 11 Jan 2010 2:00 pm   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Transit, Typography

Better fonts for a better New York

Sometimes I write posts for this blog, read them over, and then reject them because I think they’re too off-beat or boring. (That post about The Killers and Owl City almost didn’t make the cut.) Recently I wrote a draft of an essay about the signage in the new Flatbush Avenue Long Island Railroad terminal. After I wrote it, I decided it belonged in the round file. Deleted!

Then I got an e-mail from a reader named Amanda pointing out an error in one of my recent posts about subway signage. Based on a book I read, I have been calling the New York City Subway font Akzidenz-Grotesk. In fact, Akzidenz-Grotesk has been all-but-phased out in favor of a custom version of Helvetica. Some of the “buttons” (those colorful circles that represent the subway lines) are still set in Akzidenz-Grotesk, but most of the signage has been upgraded. Amanda even attached a graphic showing the difference between the two fonts…

Helvetica is on the top line and on the left button; Akzidenz-Grotesk on the bottom line and the right button. Note the differences in the cuts on the C and the e. Neat.

Anyway, this feedback convinced me that I’m not the only one who cares about subway signs. And so I dug up the blog post I had deleted earlier. Here it is: