Subway stations we love and the ones we hateBy
A few weeks ago, my work offices moved from the Grand Central area to Times Square, and my morning commute shifted as well. Instead of exiting the East Side IRT through the southern bowels of the ugly 42nd St. stop, the end of my morning commute involves a walk over the platforms that connect the Shuttle at Times Square — the original IRT 42nd St. stop — to the West Side line. The Track 4 platform continues to the north, and a small area of the original platform remains unused.
Despite the hustle and bustle of that Times Square station, seemingly at all hours of the day and night, it’s one of my favorite in the system for its history and complexities. It’s a labyrinth of passageways that stretch from 44th St. and 8th Ave. to 40th and Broadway. It connects the IND, the BMT and the IRT lines at the center of the city, and it features a great vantage point for watching the West Side IRT trains stream past the shuttle platform and into and out of its station.
For every Times Square, though, there’s a Chambers St. underneath 1 Centre St. For every well-maintained and recently-renovated station, there’s an equally dingy one that needs more than just a little TLC. Unfortunately, decades of deferred maintenance means those in need of attention far outnumber those that look passably well maintained.
In my neck of the woods, for instance, Grand Army Plaza is the only station in good shape. The two 7th Ave. stations — one at 9th St. and one at Flatbush — need work, and the Union St. stop at 4th Ave. just is. It’s not in awful shape, but it’s not particularly nice. That’s the public perception of our vast and vital subway system.
Last week, I posed a random question to my Twitter followers: “What’s your least favorite subway stop?” The answers were creative. Let’s look at a sampling.
@SecondAveSagas Bowery should’ve been condemned on sanitary reasons over 30 years ago. It’s perpetually disgusting.
— skormos (@skormos) March 13, 2012
@SecondAveSagas Canal Street on the J/Z. Dirty, creepy, narrow, and difficult to get to from the other Canal platforms.
— Chaim Dauermann (@notclam) March 13, 2012
@SecondAveSagas Herald Square. It’s always a zoo, poorly designed and filthy.
— Will Davidian (@willDavidian) March 13, 2012
@SecondAveSagas Court St on the R. Deep underground, narrow platform, rickety elevator, feels dank and a little dangerous.
— Phil Catelinet (@PhilCatelinet) March 13, 2012
@SecondAveSagas west 4th street in the summer, excruciatingly hot and smelly
— Dumb Yankees Cat (@leokitty) March 13, 2012
I posted the same question on Facebook and received a similarly varied response. Of course, a few stations stick out. The West 4th St. stop is generally in terrible shape, and the lower level platforms are indeed hot and smelly during the summer. Canal St., despite a recent renovation, shows the wear and tear of constant use and abuse. The Chambers St. and Bowery stations along the BMT Nassau Line are creepy and decaying. The unused set of tracks at Canal St. and the Bowery add to the seediness of it all.
These stations are the public faces of the subway system. It’s what daily straphangers live with and walk through every day during their commutes, and it’s how tourists come to view the New York City subway system. It’s a seemingly impossible task, with money tight and time working against it, to keep the system looking clean, but so much of it is in bad shape. Without the political support, it won’t get better, and we’ll be left with only a glimpse of the history and progress at crown-jewel stations while the rest of the system suffers.
While in this post, I’ve highlighted a few responses to my query, I’d love to hear more. Feel free to chime in with your least favorite subway station (or your favorite, for that matter). We all have our various reasons for liking and hating some of those 468 stops out there.