• Green (escalators) means stop · Last week, when the MTA announced its plans for green escalators, I responded with some skepticism. The MTA has, after all, run into numerous troubles with their escalators, and I wasn’t sure if they could maintain its rather complicated new machinery. Well, it seems as though my initial thoughts were right. As City Room reported, the green escalators’ first day was not a smooth one. While I’m sure the MTA will iron out their problems, the public, as Sewell Chan noted, is bound to remain skeptical anyway. · (1)

I’m on vacation for the next week, but since New York’s subways never shut down, neither will Second Ave. Sagas. I’ve enlisted the help of a few bloggers to help keep things fresh around here. Today’s guest post comes to us from Sarah Seltzer, keeper of The Egalitarian Bookworm (Chick?)… a friend of mine since we were three. Enjoy.

Greetings, fellow mass-transit users, and thanks to Ben for letting me guest blog. I’ve known him since the days we used retro bus passes, bronze and silver tokens, and colorful paper transfers to get to pre-K.

My topic today is only tangentially related to mass transport and the subways, but I thought I’d throw it out to the the savvy and urbane Second Ave. Sagas readership. The topic is: what the hell is happening to Manhattan?

The subways and stations are getting even more packed with briefcase-toting businesspeople. Every time I turn around, a new sleek high-rise condo block has moved in to an area that was previously derelict and run-down, bringing with it yet another Duane Reade, Starbucks, and six banks.

Strollers own the sidewalks everywhere from Tribeca to Harlem, and I’ve just learned, after sitting in at a community meeting for the West Side Spirit, some of the top public elementary schools are getting perilously overcrowded.

Obviously there are some big advantages to the gentrification wave. For one thing, as Ben has documented so assiduously, more riders going to formerly neglected neighborhoods has resulted in some public transportation service improvements, not to mention the renovation of some formerly decrepit stations.

But what about New York’s soul? I can’t help but fret that our entire city may be turning into one giant episode of the “Real Housewives of New York,” (which is a good show, but still…)

So my question is this: what do you guys see as the future of Manhattan (and parts of Brooklyn?) Is the condominium madness going to continue indefinitely, or will the slowing of the housing market outside finally allow the city to balance out these past years of growth?

And should we grumpy life-long New Yorkers just get over it and welcome our new neighbors and new landscape, or do we have a right to be concerned about the loss of our loveable urban grit and menacingly glare at the fresh-from-the-suburbs-yuppies across from us on the 1 train?

I’m turning it over to you, subway riders.

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  • The buses are cooler · Following last week’s news that the subways are mostly adequately air conditioned, New York City Transit released the bus air conditioning figures over the weekend. The buses, according to NYCT, are nearly perfectly air conditioned. Of the 2200 buses tested, 97 percent of them were found to be under 78 degrees, and just 78 buses overall were too hot. Now if only the buses moved with any speed through the City… · (3)

I’m on vacation for the next week, but since New York’s subways never shut down, neither will Second Ave. Sagas. I’ve enlisted the help of a few bloggers to help keep things fresh around here. Today’s guest post comes to us from Clinton, keeper of the Zombie Fights Shark! blog. Be forewarned: This guest column is not for the faint of heart or nose, and the piece contains some adult language. Sadly, there is no nudity.

The subways of New York City are, for better or for worse, one of our nation’s greatest achievements in the arena of mass transit. There simply isn’t a better system out there… Chicago? Please, it’s all color-coded and it looks like Candyland fucked a civil engineer (there’s a Pink Line… A PINK LINE!!! Can you imagine?) Washington DC? I heard that every ride automatically registers you to be a Government page; believe me when I tell you… those Senators… they get handsy. And don’t get me started on the supposed Los Angeles subway system. Let’s just say that the term “movable crack house” could be spray-painted across the side of all their trains and everyone would just nod their heads and say, under their breath, in an awed tone, “Finally… honesty.”

So that leaves New York, in all it’s shiny, metal glory. Getting us from here to there all awesome-style with just enough bureaucratic nonsense and threats of a violent mugging so as we don’t get too comfortable. However, despite the general goodness of the NYC transit system, there are some issues. And it’s one of these issues that I’d like to discuss with you now, as it is, and I don’t think I’m overstating this, THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE FACING COMMUTERS TODAY.

I’m talking about smells. BAD smells. Stinky trains, kids, of which our beloved transit system has by the bucketful. I mean, sure, you could argue that rampant fare increases or dangerous, poorly-maintained platforms or marauding bands of C.H.U.D.s are really the more pressing issues out there, but… no… I’m here to tell you that it’s the way the trains smell that affect us most. Although, granted, bad odors won’t bite your faces off late at night (that’s mainly the C.H.U.D.s domain), but still.

So, here now, a breakdown of the bad smells found underground, on the train, with you, up your nose…

Food – Being a decadent fat man myself, I can understand the appeal of eating a large, sloppy sandwich all runny with mayonnaise and oil and big hunks of shaved meat just dripping out of that bitch like a jailbait tease… “Eat me, big boy… eat me hardcore…” I get it, I do. But, dude, your sandwich is not for public enjoyment. It’s making the train smell like a deli died a bad death and that, coupled with the sight of your greasy maw sadly chewing and chewing and CHEWING, is bumming us the fuck out harder than if our parents were getting squished in front of us by that big steel-press thingy they used to kill the first Terminator in Terminator. And that goes DOUBLE for you, dude-eating-McDonalds. McDonalds stinks worse than an open grave and you brought that into a closed environment like that wasn’t the worst thing you do to your fellow passengers short of stabbing them in the eye with your house key? What’s wrong with you? I hope you die in a tragic Playland collapse because I just fucking KNOW you’re up there on the slides feeling free as a bird even though it clearly states those are just for kids. So rude, you, and eating in public where we all have to get nostril-violated by it is just a symptom. And I can’t even discuss people that bring Chinese food or, god forbid, Indian food on the train. That’s like looking to the eyes of a madman and seeing nothing but your own soul, rotting.

Sweat – During the summer, New York is roughly a million billion degrees. And it’s humid, too, so it’s kind of like someone took a swamp, tied it up with the Equator, and started using it like a cudgel to beat us into slimy, nasty submission. And when we get tired of said beating, we get on the subway to go home. So there we are, our shirts all clingy like an ex-girlfriend and out faces so moist, it looks like we head-butted a Sparkletts truck. Now, sometimes you’ll be on a nifty new, baby blue subway car that’s got a brand-spankin’ AC pumping out cold air and love and everyone goes “AAAAHHHH” and considers ditching their apartments to just live right here until October. Mostly, though, you end up on one of the old cars. The 1970s yellow-orange cars that had their air conditioning units installed by union members working under the governmental control of Fiorello LaGuardia. Armpit city, man, and you better BELIEVE the dude standing next to you’s shower broke last week and he hasn’t bothered to fix it because he’s lazy and thus smells like a jockstrap nightmare that a neutron bomb made of Right Guard couldn’t fix. So that’s what summertime in the city is like, my friends. Damp, unpleasant, mean, and cruel. Anyone that tells you different is a robot.

Vomit – A couple of years ago, I was riding the train on my morning commute, not a care in the world, a heart full of happy songs and a mind free and clear of the horrors one could brush up against when traveling by rail. There was a little girl standing in front of me, holding her father’s hand and eating a sticky bun that appeared to be filled with sweet, delicious paste. Apparently, however, the bun was ACTUALLY filled with botulism garbage liberally doused with Ipecac because, not five seconds after her last bite, she exploded in a fountain of puke that made Old Faithful feel bad about its volume of liquid output, even though it KNOWS geysers and little barfing girls are two totally different things. Anyway, the whole car reeked like a frat pledge’s laundry for the rest of the ride into the city and this is but a small sample of the vomiting crimes committed on NYC public transportation. Particularly on the weekends, when everyone’s stumbling out of the bars after their jerkass friend dared them to do ONE MORE shot of Cuervo even though they were already feeling spinny and they thought they could make it home but they couldn’t and suddenly there’s a lake of pizza slices and the aforementioned tequila and everyone in the car wishes they were born without noses.

Human Waste – Like, from the butt or the wang. It doesn’t happen often, but it DOES happen, usually with the swiftness of building blowing up or, rather, out. Onto the floor. In a puddle or a pile and everyone’s frozen in horror and the person… the “expeller,” if you will… is standing there suddenly forced to pick through the wreckage of their life to see exactly at what point they went horribly wrong and ended up here, amongst shame and strangers and their own filth. Farts are the most common HW happening and, unless they particularly favor a busted septic tank, they can just as easily be dismissed as a momentary lapse of etiquette. Pee would come next and, again, it all goes back to those damned bars and your fucking friends who just HAVE to fill you full of beer even though they KNOW you have a bladder like Bonnie & Clyde’s car after the ambush. So you’re halfway to your stop and your whole existence has become red-faced and clenched and all about NOT…FUCKING… PEEING… and then suddenly, train hits a bump or takes a curve too hard, and SKERPLOOOSH. Life will never be the same. And then there’s poo… well, it’s pretty much the same as pee, except fifty times worse, more smelly, and mentally scarring for all parties involved.

And finally… encompassing all of the above…

The Homeless – Okay, look, like any good liberal with idealistic leanings, I’m not insensitive to the plight of the downtrodden. Hell, I even dress like them for the most part (clothes with holes are still cool, right?) and if I’ve got some spare change loitering in my pocket, I’ll now and again toss it their way in hopes they can find some booze to ease their pain, if only for a night. But the fact remains… the homeless are the smelliest of the subways smells, especially since they tend to be a combo platter of the previous four categories we’ve discussed. The whole is far greater (greater = stanky) than the sum of it’s parts, as it were. They’ve got the moldy food that they’ve hoarded, they’ve got sweat pretty well locked down, what with the never-showering thing, they’ve got the vomit because they drink a lot or do a lot of easily obtained (and thus nearly toxic) street drugs, and they’ve got the human waste going on because no business lets the homeless use their public toilets (and even if they did, most homeless folk aren’t really all that bothered by just busting out brown right in their shabby hobo slacks). And again, I’m not trying to mock them or say, “Ha ha, look at the poor insane Vietnam vet who can afford his medicine.” That’s not my style. I bring it up only because it’s an irrefutable fact of subway life… the homeless are there a lot, they smell really bad most of the time (barring a recent prison and/or rehab stint) and that’s just the way it is. Sad but true. And gross.

So there you have it; a primer on the odors of the underground. I can only assume that you’ve now learned everything you need to know on the subject of stinkiness and trains and that you’ll use this knowledge only for good (although I don’t technically see how one could use it for bad, other than targeting homeless people for swift drubbings with a scented candle… which, by the way, don’t do that). So, I guess that’s it. I did want to thank my boy Ben for letting me sully his good name and reputation with my own particular brand of whimsy. Sorry about that. And to all his readers who came here looking for actual news… er, sorry as well. He’ll be back soon. And to everyone else… thanks for reading! To you, and to the subways themselves, I say… smell ya later!!!

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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Little known fact: Straphangers can reach a pre-recorded message detailing all MTA service advisories by dialing #3333 from any (working) subway platform pay phone. Of course, with cell phone use prevalent and pay phones on the way, this is a fairly arcane piece of knowledge that isn’t publicized at all.

Perhaps, then, that’s why the MTA is planning on phasing out this seemingly useful service. With e-mail alerts a reality and real-time text-message advisories coming soon, the numbers just don’t allow for this service. According to NYC Transit and amNew York, 80,000 people use the weekly e-mail alerts while #3333 fields just 1900 calls per month.

As we honor the one-year anniversary of the Great Subway Flood of 2007, we’ll have to wave good bye to an old technology and look forward to a new one. #3333, we hardly knew ye.

And now the service alerts:

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, downtown 12 trains skip 86th and 79th Streets due to station rehabilitation at 96th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday, August 9; from 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m. Sunday, August 10; and from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, 1 trains run in two sections due to rail repairs between 137th and 168th Streets:
* Between Van Cortlandt Park-242nd Street and 137th Street and
* Between 137th Street and South Ferry

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, uptown 2 trains replace the 5 from Nevins Street to 149th Street-Grand Concourse. Uptown 5 trains replace the 2 from Chambers Street to 149th Street-Grand Concourse. This is due to Clark Street tunnel lighting.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, there are no 3 trains between New Lots Avenue and 14th Street. In Manhattan, customers should take the uptown 5 or the downtown 2. In Brooklyn, take the 4 instead. This is due to Clark Street tunnel lighting.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, there are no 4 trains between Woodlawn and 161st Street-Yankee Stadium. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between the Woodlawn 4 station and the Bedford Park Blvd. D station. Customers may use crosstown buses to connect between the 4 and D stations. This is due to switch replacement work at Woodlawn.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, there is no C train service. Customers should take the A in Manhattan and the F in Brooklyn. Downtown A trains run local from 168th Street to Canal Street. From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Sunday, August 10, uptown A trains run express from Canal Street to 125th Street, then local to 168th Street. From 5 a.m. Sunday, August 10 to 5 a.m. Monday August 11, downtown A trains run local from Canal Street to 168th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Sunday, August 10, uptown D trains run on the A line from West 4th to 59th Streets due to station rehab at 47th-50th Streets/Rockefeller Center.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, F trains replace the C in Brooklyn to Euclid Avenue. G trains replace the F between Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. and Coney Island due to station rehabilitation and underground connector work at Jay Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, Queens-bound F trains run on the V line from 47th-50th Streets/Rockefeller Center to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue due to cable and communications work.

From 8:30 a.m. Friday, August 8 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square due to station rehabilitation and underground connector work at Jay Street. Customers should take the E or R instead.

From 1 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, J trains run in two sections:

* Between Jamaica Center and Delancey-Essex Streets and
* Between Delancey-Essex Streets and Chambers Street

This is due to station rehabilitation at Chambers Street.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 10 p.m. Sunday, August 10, free shuttle buses replace M trains between Middle Village-Metropolitan Avenue and Myrtle Avenue-Broadway due to track panel work near Central Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, Manhattan-bound N trains run on the D line from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue to 36th Street due to track panel installation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, Brooklyn-bound NR trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street to DeKalb Avenue due to concrete pour between Canal Street and DeKalb Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 11, Q trains run in two sections due to track roadbed work:

* Between 57th and Pacific Streets and
* Between Atlantic and Stillwell Avenues

Customers must walk through the passageway between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. This is due to rail maintenance and repair between Atlantic Avenue and Prospect Park.

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, August 10, free shuttle buses replace the Franklin Avenue S between Franklin Avenue and Prospect Park due to track repair and cleaning.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Transit Romance

By · Comments (3) ·

I’m on vacation for the next week, but since New York’s subways never shut down, neither will Second Ave. Sagas. I’ve enlisted the help of a few bloggers to help keep things fresh around here. Today’s guest post comes to us from Rebecca Aronauer, keeper of the Raronauer’ed blog.

Perhaps the greatest fantasy for any New Yorker is to fall in love on the subway. Who hasn’t checked out someone across the aisle, espied them reading your favorite book and have your heart skip a beat? To think: To have a train line and Philip Roth in common. This must be the real thing.

But like rent control, this New York dream is just that, a dream. What if a stranger actually approached you on the subway? It would be kind of weird. And even when strangers do find each other on the subway—with some help from the internet — true love takes more than a meet-cute.

But if there’s any romance to be had on the subway, it’s falling in love with yourself. Between work, family and friends, the subway is the true New Yorker’s chance to be alone. We’re hurried people, and it’s fitting that we find downtime traveling. That’s why tourists and packs of teenagers traveling together are so annoying: They’re violating the first rule of subway etiquette, which is to entertain yourself quietly.

Of course this statue is only in effect on weekdays. On the weekends, it’s perfectly acceptable to travel in groups, or late at night, in pairs. On the way back home, perhaps too inebriated from the night out to do anything but people watch, who hasn’t felt a little sadness when seeing couples share the ride home together? Like our small apartments, riding the subway alone is a reality New Yorkers must accept. And we can only make the best of it with iPod solitaire, romance novels and daydreaming about the person who just got on.

Categories : Subway Romance
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This poster will soon adorn a train near you. (Click to enlarge.)

In mid-July, New York City Transit came under fire when word got out about the inactivity surrounding to a few planned anti-groping PSAs. According to reports at the time, the agency had been hesitant to launch an awareness campaign dues to fears that the ads could encourage copycat behavior.

Well, after The Post exposed this odd stalemate, the MTA has decided to act. NYC Transit is set to debut their new PSA — seen above — in train cars throughout the city. This ad will run for at least the next three months. “We think the poster sets the right tone, and provides our female customers the information they need — which is namely that they shouldn’t tolerate such criminal behavior and that they should report it,” Paul Fleuranges, NYCT spokesman, said in an e-mail. “It’s a message that not only applies to women, but also to men who may witness such behavior.”

In explaining the decision to proceed with this ad campaign despite the original copycat concerns, Fleuranges noted that the benefits of this PSA far outnumber the negatives. “The possibility of instigating this type of unwelcome behavior is far outweighed by putting out the message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in the system and is viewed by us and the NYPD as being an extremely serious crime,” he said. “In and of itself the card may not stop all of it, but hopefully we can help put a dent in these occurrences.”

Holla Back New York City, a long-term proponent of these ads, is pleased to see one of their goals realized. They have been pressing the issue since well before Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s 2007 survey found that nearly two-thirds of all women experienced subway harassment. There is little doubt in my mind that displaying these ads is right thing to do.

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Maybe we’re looking at the MTA’s financial crisis from the wrong perspective. Maybe, instead of asking a financially distraught state or city to pick up the tab, business developers, real estate mavens and local communities should pitch in and clean up.

That is at least what the New York City Transit Riders Council is suggesting. In a report that rehashes some familiar territory, the NYCTRC proclaims the subways to be in dire straits. As the council wrote in the press release (PDF) drawing attention to its survey of 50 stations (PDF), “The most common indicators where stations received failing grades include the presence of exposed wiring, the cleanliness and condition of station ceilings, the presence of tactile warning strips indicating platform edges, water leakage on ceilings, water leakage on walls, and cleanliness and condition of station walls.”

We know this already. We’ve had everyone from NYCT President Howard Roberts to the Straphangers Campaign and some local politicians tell us so. But the report contains some rather out-of-the-box approaches to combating both the decrepit stations and the finances involved in fixing them up.

The NYCTRC report begins with the regular litany of funding sources. The state should ensure a “steady, predictable source of revenue.” The city should “join with NYC Transit in a mutually beneficial effort to create a positive subway experience for users” — which is just a fancy way of saying, “Give the MTA more money.” But after that, things get interesting.

First, the NYCTRC suggests a “station impact fee.” Under this plan, the city would automatically charge a fee on any new development with walking distance of a subway station. The report says, “The presence of a subway station within walking distance adds great value to any development and increases the use of this transportation service; as such, new development and redevelopment should share in the care and maintenance of this important asset of the community.”

Next, the Council calls upon Business Improvement Districts to lend a hand in station maintenance. As clean and modern stations would attract more shoppers and business people to an area, the BIDs have a substantial interest in maintaining and improving conditions underground.

Hand in hand with the BID proposal is one calling for the creation of an “Adopt-a-Station” plan. Through this program, “neighborhood-corporate partnerships are formed to financially support capital improvements and maintenance of stations. Community residents and commercial establishments should have the opportunity to participate in the preservation of their local subway station.”

Why the MTA hasn’t implemented this idea in the past I do not know. By encouraging communities to take ownership of stations, the MTA can get its riders and those local business owners who rely on the stations to take command of some of the things the Transit Authority can’t. Critics will call this a dereliction of the MTA’s duties, but those same critics won’t fund the transportation agency to its fullest.

Of course, this idea gets to the very philosophical nature of the MTA. If the MTA — a public benefit corporation tasked with maintained and running the trains — can’t fulfill its overarching goal, should the public step in and rescue it through such a program? And while some richer neighborhoods have the disposable income to spend on subway station maintenance, do the city’s less well-off areas have to suffer as well?

Perhaps modeling such a plan on the successful Adopt-A-Highway program would be a good way to start. Perhaps the MTA shouldn’t come knocking, hat in the hand, to ask communities for such a direct contribution to station upkeep. But as it becomes more clear every day that the MTA doesn’t have the money, that the city and state don’t have funds, that congestion pricing remains a long shot, someone will have to step in and implement and out-of-the-box idea to rescue our subway system. If this one doesn’t deserve a shot, I don’t know what does.

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