After arguing with the TWU over Twitter last night about their hare-brained scheme to slow down trains, I need a little bit of a break from subway platform safety. I’ll have more on my thoughts on what’s driving the union’s argument and the attendant costs to everyone else of such a plan. Needless to say, it’s not in the riding public’s interest to see subways slowed to a crawl as they enter every single station.
Instead, let’s what a video. Rebecca Davis of The Daily News spent a year taking photos of folks she’s come across on the New York City subway and produced a slideshow of sorts.
The part of me that enjoys the subway sees this video as a glimpse into our lives. Sure, some of the folks have that zombie-eyed look of a straphanger just trying to get home, but others look truly happy. There are plenty of couples and a few babies and small children who are joyful in each other’s companies, and that’s what makes the city — and its subways — great. There are millions of folks with millions of stories all riding the rails every day.
The more cynical side of me, though, sees this video as instructive of the way we ride, and as I’ve said in the past, the way we ride is with little regard for everyone else. Some photos capture riders with their feet on the seat while more than a few highlight New Yorkers riding with their bags on the bench, taking up valuable seat space. Others are sitting bow-legged, encroaching into someone else’s space, and still others have plopped themselves down in the middle of two seats.
Earlier on Thursday, I spent some time watching my 3 train. At 8:30 in the morning, the eight bucket seats were occupied by just six passengers. One guy was sitting with his legs spread enough to block the empty seat, and the rest were taken up by folks who didn’t seem interested in sitting on top of each other. I didn’t really blame them for that, but I think this behavior speaks to how we ride and how we approach the subways.
Americans hate being cramped. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it, but when we ride each morning, we are cramped. People elbow, knee, shoulder, shove and glare at each other when our space is encroached, but we have no other choice. (For what it’s worth, slower trains and less frequent service will just make this worse.) Part of the social pact for New York City involves the subway, but it can be grueling. At least the babies are always smiling though.