Archive for the ‘Transit’ Category

Mon 28 Dec 2009 10:54 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Travel

Why isn’t there a TSA for the trains?

Over the weekend, airport security was stepped up after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the (mercifully) incompetent underwear terrorist, tried to blow a hole in a Detroit-bound airliner. Most air travelers don’t mind odd new rules and long lines at the TSA checkpoints because they realize there’s a real threat that some nutjob might try to kill innocent people.

Yesterday I traveled from BWI Airport in Maryland to New York City carrying several bags of gifts, including two sharp kitchen knives and a big bottle of delicious Belgian beer. No one asked any questions—because I was on an Amtrak train!

Bags are never searched or screened on the train. Knives? Liquids? Guns? Drugs? Explosives? They’ll never know! No metal detectors, no dogs, no TSA. You can board an Amtrak train without ever showing anyone your ticket or ID. (Conductors check the tickets along the way.)


Mon 19 Oct 2009 11:36 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Typography

More rogue subway signs

After my post earlier today about non-standard subway signs, my friend Jess left me a comment on Facebook: “There are some temp signs at the Columbus Circle stop that are in Chicago font rather than Helvetica. They drive me nuts every time I see them.”

As it happens, I had to catch the subway at Columbus Circle tonight. The first sign I noticed was another one of those weird black-on-white signs, presumably indicating a semi-permanent change due to station construction.


Mon 19 Oct 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Typography

Subway sign mystery solved?

Imagine putting a dollar into vending machine, hitting the button for Coca-Cola, and seeing the machine dispense a green can. You’d know something was wrong. That’s how I felt when I saw the new signage at the DeKalb Avenue subway stop in Brooklyn.


I know, I’m odd about these things. But subway signs are white on black, not black on white! Why is the MTA futzing with its iconic signage?

I have a theory. I noticed a similar switch-a-roo last year in the Chambers Street station. Those oddball signs at Chambers are gone now. I think they were installed during a temporary change to the station layout, when a stairway was closed for repair work.

Likewise, these signs at DeKalb signal that the trains are temporarily skipping some stations, which are closed for repair work that will last a while. Maybe when there’s a change that’s permanent enough to require a new metal sign, but not so permanent it’s going to last forever, the MTA installs white signs instead of black ones. It’s a signal to the passenger to take special notice of this sign.

I might be wrong. On the F line, the new signs indicating the multi-year—but temporary—extension of the G train don’t look like this. They’re the standard white-on-black metal signs.

Wed 9 Sep 2009 7:37 am   //   Posted in: Labeling, The suburbs, Transit

Dumb sign


I’m sure there’s a sensible reason for this sign to exist. But the hell if I can figure it out. Aren’t most places not bus stops?

(Spotted on an unremarkable street corner somewhere around Ridgefield Park, during a bike ride exploring the New Jersey suburbs Monday.)

Mon 24 Aug 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Art, Transit

NYC subway map, without subways

I was changing trains the Chambers Street Subway station last week and saw this unusual poster:


It’s obviously a riff on this standard MTA poster seen in many stations: (more…)

Fri 31 Jul 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Stray data, Transit

You’d be there by now on the Air-Shuttle

The last time I took the Amtrak to D.C., in May, I shot some pictures of urban decay seen from the train. There was one particular sign I wanted to photograph—on the side of a warehouse between Trenton and Philadelphia—but it always goes by so fast I’ve never been able to get a shot of it. Until a recent trip to Maryland this past Saturday.


This is a poster for the long-defunct Eastern Airlines Air Shuttle. Note the classic Eastern logo in the lower-left part of the sign. How old is this sign?


Wed 22 Jul 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Transit

If so inclined


Once, this scar on the side of North Beacon Mountain, New York, was an inclined railway. Built in 1902 (toward the end of America’s short-lived funicular railroad craze) it shuttled tourists to a hotel and casino at the top of the hill.


Sun 12 Jul 2009 8:49 pm   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Transit

G force


Everybody in New York has a different favorite train, but everyone has the same least-favorite: The G. Short, slow, infrequent, and weird, the G Train seems unworthy of New York. It goes through some rough or obscure places, and makes stops on streets you’ve never heard of unless you live there, like Classon Avenue. The G’s lazy, L-shaped route from Brooklyn to Queens makes it the only line in the whole system that never stops in Manhattan. This train is hard to love.

But nobody hates the G more than Park Slopers. Only we understand the frustration of standing in a packed F train at the end of a hard day, three stops from home, waiting for a G ahead of us turn around. Can’t they clear that train a little faster! We’ve got takeout and craft beer waiting in the fridge!

Some of the best stories happen when a group of established characters have to react to a sudden change in their environment. A week ago, the MTA extended the G route by five stops in Brooklyn. Like an unwanted kitten left on our doorstop, we in Park Slope have to claim the G as our own. We’re no longer an F neighborhood. We’re a F/G neighborhood. How are we supposed to react to this?


Tue 7 Jul 2009 10:27 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Travel

Life lessons on the Megabus


There are at least two constants when you take a long-distance bus. You always arrive at your destination late. And you always have to witness people yelling at one another. The way to cope is to sit down, shut down, go limp, be invisible, and let the bus beat up on your spirit for however many hours it takes.

My latest transportation adventure was a round-trip ride on Coach USA’s Megabus from New York to Washington, D.C. Along with Greyhound’s BoltBus, Megabus is one of a several ultra-cheap scheduled buses that recently started plying I-95. The first few tickets on each bus are $1 or $3. My tickets were $18 each way. (more…)

Fri 26 Jun 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Holga, Photos, Transit

D Train


A few Holga photos along the New York City subway’s West End Line. Shot last Sunday in Brooklyn.