On Wednesday, I took two subway trips along the same lines that illustrated to me how the subways work when everything is perfectly in sync. I can’t help but wish the subways would always be so obliging.
My first trip took me from Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall stop in Manhattan. At around 20 to one, I sauntered down the stairs at Grand Army Plaza and had just enough time to make my way to the back of the train when a Manhattan-bound 3 pulled in. Three stops later, at Nevins St., I had to wait all of a minute before a 4 arrived.
By 1:05 p.m., I had reached my destination at Foley Square. It was a stress- and wait-free subway ride, and I couldn’t help by tip my cap to the Subway Gods who seemed to be smiling on me. Little did I know that they would pay a repeat visit a few hours hence.
Five hours later and running a few minutes late, I again sauntered down those very same steps at Grand Army Plaza, hoping for a train to start me on my way to Astor Place. This time, the 2 pulled in before I had a chance to reach the platform, and again, I was off. At Nevins St., the 4 again came after a barely-noticeably wait, and as I stode on the platform at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, the 6 obligingly showed up on time. When another 6 pulled in on the other side of the loop, I knew we would not be long for the terminus, and two minutes later, that Bronx-bound 6 pulled into Canal St.
I would arrive at Astor Place less than 25 minutes after I boarded at Grand Army Plaza the first of three trains I would need to take. It was a subway trip from heaven, and too rarely does that happen in New York.
As I contemplated this ideal day of subway travel, two thoughts filled my head. The first was on the inherently selfish nature of New York City subway riders. We’re happy only when we don’t have to wait at all for a subway ride, but if that train takes three or five or eight minutes to arrive, passengers grow irritable and impatient. New Yorkers are happy to arrive at movie theaters a full 40 minutes before show time, but heaven forbid that we wait ten minutes for our $2-per-ride subway train.
But I also thought about the nature of our subway system and not just the people who ride the subways. My trips yesterday were as the subways should always be. I didn’t have to wait longer than two minutes for a train, and the connections were smooth and quick. I know I was riding along the popular IRT lines during peak hours, but should that excuse the relatively poorer service along other lines? Should that excuse sluggish late-night service and inconsistent weekend service?
As always, these desires boil down to funding. If the MTA had access to limitless monies, we could enjoy a subway system that runs as often as Transport for London can run the Tubes. At 11:45 p.m., we could see trains come through the tunnels every five minutes instead of every fifteen minutes. But the money isn’t there, and the will to produce more money to simply maintain the current state of the system doesn’t seem to be there either.
Maybe one day, we’ll have the transit system we need and deserve. For now, I’ll just keep riding the trains during the day and thinking about how blissful life is underground and how quick the subways are when I don’t have to wait long for the trains. It’s always nice to dream.