Thursday, January 20, 2011

Who else got screwed by the subway this morning?

So wow. Getting to work this morning was an epic saga, for more than a few of us. And how mad am I that a) I didn't bring my camera at home and b) my phone was dead so I couldn't even take crappy phone pics? So mad.

Irony: I got my butt out of the house at 8:30 am for once, thinking I'd actually get to work for 9am. Wow, did I pick the wrong day to be punctual. What I found on the mezzanine level of the Astoria Boulevard station was mild chaos, and it was obvious pretty quickly that the trains just weren't running at all. I heard talk of a shooting at Queensboro Plaza.

Well OK. I briefly considered trying to take the M60 over and the 6 train down, but peering down from the foot bridge at the stop and seeing at least five busloads of people waiting there, I figured that wouldn't work out too well. So off to the Broadway M/R stop I headed.

Well of course most of Queens was trying to use that line along with me. On the way there I'd actually thought to myself, how bad could it be? I've seen crowded platforms before. Friends, I have never seen anything like this! The entire platform was packed full, and the crowd flowed up the stairs and into the mezzanine level back to the turnstiles, so that it was difficult to even get through that far.

Since getting to the Manhattan bound platform was clearly not an option any time soon, I headed to the Queens bound platform to see what I could see. What I saw was a frighteningly crowded platform. An M train came, but before it even opened its doors it was packed to the gills. So naturally when it left again the platform was still full.

So I abandoned that ship. When I emerged from the station I saw a Q101 bus. Of course it was also packed full, with many people trying to get on. About 30 people were rejected right there. So I thought, OK, I'll be smart. I walked up to the stop at 31st street, where no one was waiting, figuring that was my best chance of actually getting on the bus and maybe even getting a seat. I thought I'd wait maybe 15 minutes.

...45 minutes later, still no bus. At which point a woman who'd come to the bus stop told us that the M / R station had cleared out. And can I tell you that not one minute after I left the bus stop, a Q101 rolled by?

At any rate, about 20 minutes after that I was finally on an M train headed into the city. My commute that normally takes 30 minutes (and that could be a 1 hour and 15 minute WALK) took 2 hours and 15 minutes. Ahh, the joys of the MTA...

What I've found about what the hell caused the clusterf*ck since getting to a computer is this - thanks Gothamist!

Monday, November 1, 2010


I'm just gonna say right here and now that I'm pretty sure I would risk getting arrested to see this. (As long as I really got to see it - spend some time there, take some pictures.) I would to to jail for a night for that. Yes, really. So... you know... if I call you up for bail...

I want to show you pictures, but I can find nothing in the public domain. You'll just have to check out the link.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 30 - the last day.

It's kind of anti-climactic to end on a Tuesday. But then, the whole point of this mini-project was to see what life holds now for the everyday riders of the yellow lines of the NYC subway, so I suppose a Tuesday is just as good a day as any other.

There was nothing so extraordinary about today's rides. The morning Q was of average crowding and pace, just tinged with the ridiculous pain of my back. Seriously people, can someone please get me a new lumbar spine?

My evening ride home, at nearly exactly 6pm, was almost bizarrely empty. I had to stand through the tunnel, but had my pick of seats at QBP. I was somewhat suspicious that we must be behind another train, but we were moving at a nice normal clip.

But then, between 30th Ave and Astoria Blvd, we engaged in some classic Astoria shenanigans. I was riding in the very first car of the train - it is my habit to always be at one end of the train or the other, given that it's the habit of nearly everyone else to be in the middle. So I could see that indeed, we were immediately behind another train. Kudos to the driver, I must say - that usually results in a jolted and aggravating ride. So, stacked in front of us were not just that one train but of course two more up at Ditmars.

I'm not sure what happens up there - whether they can't turn them around faster or just won't, adhering strictly to the "schedule" rather than clearing a slot for the train that they can clearly see is approaching, which will be stopped dead and hold up the trains behind it if not allowed to proceed... I'm sure some personnel switchouts have to happen up there, of drivers, conductors, what have you. I will not humor any arguments of "cleaning", as I've seen the state the trains are in when they leave Ditmars. They do, occasionally, mop. It's... fascinating. But seriously, the schedule - does the MTA truly believe there's someone down at 34th Street saying to himself, oh my, I simply must make the 6:27 N! Just really not sure what the thought process is there.

So there we sat for a few minutes, hanging in the air above 31st Street between 30th Ave and Astoria Boulevard, just waiting for the three trains in front of us to rearrange themselves. These sorts of blockages are enormously frustrating when you're waiting for a city-bound train at Astoria - you can see them just sitting at Ditmars, you can see that they need to leave Ditmars so that the trains coming in from the city have somewhere to go, and yet they still won't come pick you up. It begins to feel like a conspiracy orchestrated specifically to fuck with you. On the way home, it's only truly frustrating if you're stopped for long enough that you could have walked home from the previous stop. It happens.

This is just how we do things here in Astoria. Apparently, we like it this way.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 29

HOORAY! The north staircase to the southbound trains at the Astoria station is finally fixed! That was making me pretty nuts, gotta tell ya. Largely because I couldn't figure out why the heck it was closed in the first place. I'm sure they had their reasons - some kind of safety regulation, a foot tread not in place or something. But sheesh. The inconvenience of having to walk all the way around from the south staircase - I mean, what do these people expect of me?!

Anyway. It was an uneventful ride for a Monday morning. Nothing too crowded, which is always nice. Dealing with a mess on a Monday just puts a bad taste in your mouth. It probably helped that I was headed out a bit earlier than usual. First day in the new office digs, you know - must see what there is to be seen.

The evening, though, I was timed just wrong. The trains seem to travel in little packs: an R and then two yellows, pick your designation; then a good five-to-eight minutes of nothing at all. Frankly I think the two yellows get stuck behind the Rs - the trains are older, and because they cover such a huge swath of Queens they have a large and diverse ridership. Also, because they come first, they pick up all of the Manhattan hop-on-hop-offs, including the tourists - and we love y'all and everything but you take FOREVER to figure out where you're going, saying things like, Wait, are we getting off at 42nd Street or Times Square?! Adorable, the lot of you. Ahem. Tonight, as has happened so many times, I got down to the 59th Street platform in time to wait several minutes with a large pack of tired and impatient riders, only to see that good old R pull on up. At least this does tend to have the effect of clearing the station out a good bit.

If I was smarter, or had more faith that there really was "another train directly behind this one", or any more patient than everyone else, I would have just let the first yellow train pass. I am not and don't have any of those things. So I got on the semi-full Q train that pulled up next and figured I'd suffer through it, get the hell home. See, I think at this point that I really may have a bulging disc in my lower back. I need to go for an MRI - yeah, sure, I'll squeeze that in just as soon as I stop having appointments for the effing kidney stones. Anyway, my pain must have been etched on my face, because a nice man offered me his seat. I kind of love him. Good thing he did, because if he hadn't I probably would have had to stand the whole way home.

One down. Four to go. Somebody give me a watermelon mojito.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 28

We've established that Sundays are my day off of subways. So you already know that I did not ride the subway today. I actually was going to - I thought hard about going to do an L train ride today. I'm not going to go into all the reasons that that was just not in the cards. *sigh*

I would like to discuss with you an anomaly. Fellow New Yorkers may recall, in recent memory in fact, the year or so that was spent putting an elevator into the 57th Street station, located at 57th and 7th Avenue. Seriously, it took for freaking ever. And drove me MAD, because of course I go to that station once a week, and of course they had to install the elevator on the corner where I usually enter and exit the station. Which means that somewhere in the neighborhood of 52 times I had to cross 7th Avenue when I shouldn't have needed to, damnit, because due to the construction the stairwell was closed. But I'm all for ADA compliance and wheelchair accessibility, so I sucked it up for the greater good.

Imagine my surprise when the wonderful new elevator was unveiled... and it didn't get anywhere near the trains. No, the elevator descends to the mezzanine where one can purchase a Metrocard or speak with a booth attendant, should one actually be stationed there. However, there is still a full case of stairs to descend before you'll be at the train platform.


If anyone can explain this to me, I'd really love to hear it. As far as I can tell, the MTA spent who even knows how many tens of thousands of dollars building an elevator so that people in wheelchairs can... look at a station? I've been trying to get a peek to see if maybe there's a secret way down and out onto the platform that I'm just not seeing somehow, but if there is it's secret like the Batman cave. And only allows access to the Downtown platform.

Perhaps the first elevator was only phase one...? But as of now, there is no sign of any continuing work.



Although, even if it did reach the platform, I understand there's an ongoing problem with trains not really coming level with platforms. Many of these stations are old - 50 years, 100 years. The trains have been redesigned over and over. So it's not so surprising. But surprising or not, when a wheelchaired person wants to board a train and can't, because the train's floor is a solid four inches above the platform, well that's just plain frustrating. And something tells me that good old Access-A-Ride is not the magic solution.

I don't have a magic solution. New York City is not an easy place to be for anyone who isn't young and healthy and energetic, and while I'm glad to see an awareness and willingness for compliance, I also feel that there's only so much edge that can ever be taken off of this fast paced, enormous, and driven city. To my fellow New Yorkers, I can only implore you: be aware.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 27

Too darn hot. Normally Saturday would not be a hide inside, abstain from the subway kind of day. But today I just couldn't do it. I needed to finish my zine for the Twenty-Four Hour Zine Thing - which I successfully did, thanks. And after that, well, sheesh. I thought about going out to copy it, but... but... still too darn hot.

I'm the tiniest bit sad: the MTA realized their omission and slapped an M over the errant V remaining at the corner of 53rd Street and 3rd Avenue. Don't know exactly when, just sometime in the past few weeks. I knew I should have taken a photo. But you know what though? I bet it will be positively AGES before they get around to swapping out all of those awesome metal braille plaques...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 26

So I did head into the office this morning to witness the mayhem of last packings. And the morning commute was same old. But then an interesting thing happened.

After being at work for a little after an hour, they told us to go home. Brilliant! But whatevs, I'm not complaining.

So this gave me an interesting chance to ride around on the Broadway Local during the workday, for the first time really since the Big Change. I expected the trains to be nice and empty, as has been my previous experience with such. Not so. I was really surprised at how many people were on the trains. I'm not sure whether to attribute that to fewer trains, or all those new apartment buildings that have been built in Astoria, or what. And the trains certainly weren't crowded - half full at best. Just more crowded than they used to be.

I also noticed that throughout the afternoon, they were all N trains, and all old trains. Could have been a coincidence - I didn't hang out to see whether any new Qs would come by or anything. I went from Midtown back in to Astoria, then from there back into the city - downtown all the way to Prince. After some wanderings for food and new headphones (yay!) back on home we went in the late afternoon. And it felt like Saturday, but it was Friday, which is sort of like magic.

The weekend, it comes. The heat, it comes. The hiding, I do it...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 25

I'm discombobulated today. See, my office is moving. Not buildings, just floors. Most of my office is on the 13th floor. (Yes, really.) I used to sit up there. Then they moved me to the basement. (Yes, really.) So, most of the company is moving from 13 to either 11 or 12. My little department is moving from the basement to 11. And for whatever reason, we had to be packed up by last night. 13 was still packing today. They're mostly done, but I guess a few people will still be packing tomorrow. So I went into the office today... but I had nowhere to sit. I had no computer. I had no phone. I had no files. I had nothing.

The whole thing is making me vary anxious.

Nothing particularly interesting happened on my rides today, nothing that I remember anyway. I'm interplanetary.

Here's the awesome part: I have to go in tomorrow too. :-/

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 24

I really can't say what it is about the escalators at the 59th Street station. Is it age? Constant use? Poor maintenance? Maybe, most likely, even, some combination of all three. All I can say for sure is that at least once a month, one or sometimes even both sides of the east side exit magic moving stairs are busted.

So why don't you just take the regular stairs, they ask?

There are, in fact, good old fashioned regular stairs, a case of them, wedged between the two escalators. A nice narrow case. In the morning, people use them to go up. In the evening, people use them to go down. (Not many people, under normal circumstances, mind you.) It would take a brave and very foolish soul to try to go against the flow - and would most likely result in someone getting injured.

Can't you just use the broken down escalator as a staircase? Sometimes, if they haven't opened it up like a can of sardines at the bottom to fix whatever's broken.

A busted case has great potential to lead to an interesting commute. Usually once the good MTA folk get their ducks in a row, they'll switch the working set to go up, because most of us have a much easier time of making it down a flight of stairs than up that same flight. It can take time for that to happen though, so many a morning have I had to trudge. I'm the person you don't want to be stuck behind, with my asthma and bad knee. Septuagenarians with heart conditions bustle past me, muttering beneath their breath.

And of course the up-only situation is super fun for the evening commute, when all of Midtown Manhattan wants to go down and they're being funnled into that one-at-a-time staircase. Never have you seen such a pool of people as collect just past the nice wide set of turnstyles. Always, there is someone thinking it's some kind of line waiting to get on the escalator. Always, there is someone asking, aren't there stairs? Ah, the irony.

The signs I saw coming home last night say it'll be fixed on the 22nd. In the past I've seen them post estimates of two weeks or more. Even with all this hassle though, has it ever been bad enough to make me go to the west side and get out on Lex? ...Oh my, I really wouldn't go that far...