December 1, 2010 1 Comment
This morning, after a particularly unacceptable rush hour subway experience that made my friend Lyz one hour late for work, we decided we would start keeping track of our daily subway rides for the next month, and, at month’s end, let the MTA know about all of the indignities we had experienced — from delays to impossibly slow-moving trains to long waits.
It’s true that the MTA already knows about these frustrations, in fact, it sanctioned them with its brutal budget cuts earlier this year. But the fun of this exercise is to try to get a sense of just how bad the MTA has gotten, and whether, when we complain about the subway, we really have adequate perspective. Are we dwelling on the few infuriating rides we’ve had and ignoring all of the times we made it from Point A to Point B without even noticing, or are our commutes filled with consistent head-banging frustration?
I’m particularly attuned to such frustrations, because my commute is pretty brutal. I recently started a new job at Columbia University Medical Center, which requires me to commute from Kensington, Brooklyn, to Washington Heights, Manhattan. That means I ride the train across about one-third of Brooklyn and most of Manhattan twice a day. (My commute used to be much shorter, from Kensington to Union Square in Manhattan). I might move, but for now, I’m riding about one hour and ten minutes each way, from Church Ave (F line) to 168th Street (A line) with a mercifully easy switch at Jay Street in Brooklyn.
Anyway, without further ado, I give you my experience of today, Nov. 30:
The morning got off to a bad start. I arrived on the Church Ave. platform at about 7:25, as the G train, which starts here, was showing no signs of moving. For some reason when the G starts up here, it always takes the train conductors forever to get the train going, or to switch, if one conductor is relieving another. So I waited for about five minutes as the G sat there. Finally, it left, and the F came right after. The rest of the commute was amazingly quick and painless. I had a seat almost the whole way on both the F and the A (which basically clears out after it’s gone through the Wall Street-area stops). The train got to 168th St. at 8:25, which is seriously a record. Not so bad.
Evening commute: I arrived at the 168th Street stop at about 5 p.m. As I was walking through the station, an announcer said a Brooklyn-bound A train — my train — was approaching the station. Like many other rabid commuters, I increased my pace to a swifter walk-jog to try to make it to the platform to catch the train. When I got downstairs, the train was just arriving at the station, but it was empty and not stopping. So much for that train. About five minutes later, the announcer told us the next train coming was not serving customers. Two trains in a row were out of service?! But as the train pulled up, it was pretty full, and stopped to pick us up. So it in fact was serving customers.
As the train moved south, toward 125th, it started slowing down intermittently, as I’ve found it often does during this particular stretch of the commute. These train slowdowns I think are caused by signal or track issues, but I’m not really sure. Either way, there is something infuriating about them, especially when you’re on an express train.
The rest of the ride was pretty smooth, except for several failed attempts to close the doors at the Fulton Street/Broadway-Nassau stop in downtown Manhattan. At 5:45, I was at Jay Street waiting to transfer to the F. The platform was crowded with people, suggesting the train was taking awhile to come. I always have wishful thinking that the train will arrive right away when I come into this situation, but I actually had to wait five more minutes for it to come. About three minutes into the wait, an announcer informed us that the delay owed to a passenger who had gotten sick at Broadway-Lafayette. The funny thing is, I had almost the exact same experience yesterday with no announcement about a delay. The F has just been terrible at running frequently at around 5:45, when I’m waiting for it at Jay Street.
I got off at about 5:55 at 4th Ave.-9th Street to head to the gym in Park Slope. Not a great train ride, but could have been worse.