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...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 23

The morning train was a-ok. I stormed out of the house without Jonathan, don't even remember why now, but it gave me just perfect timing for a fairly empty Q train. Got my favorite corner seat and updated my date book on the way in. He never talks to me when we ride the train together anyway; just checks his email on that damn phone. Humph.

I came home a bit later than usual for a Tuesday, for two reasons. First, I got locked out of the basement. See, I've been sitting in the basement of my office building for the past six months. We're finally moving this week to floors that can actually accommodate us. But when I was upstairs collecting some moving crates, the last few people left the basement and locked the door. I have a key - it was with the rest of my stuff, you know, behind the locked door. I had to have one of the cleaning ladies come let me in, which of course wasn't at all embarrassing.

Then, once I finally got my stuff and got out of there, I realized I'd forgotten to go pick up my prescription during lunch. And then at the drugstore I accidentally stole some Oreos. (So not my fault! I thought he rang them up! I'm 32 years old; I do not intentionally steal cookies.)

So when I finally got to the train, cookies and drugs in hand, rush hour was basically done. Nice quiet ride home.

Maybe the universe knew I needed some peace. Peace, and cookies.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 22

This morning reflected what I think the MTA must have had in mind as an optimal rush hour ride. The train moved at a comfortable clip, and even after making all of its Astoria stops my car carried only a comfortable scattering of standing riders. It was a pleasant morning.

Alas. My evening ride home was the picture of all of my Doomsday fears. Overcrowded platform that makes a person nervous to stand near the edge. A car packed full of tired, hot, frustrated riders and not a seat in sight. My back aching enough to bring tears to my eyes. Doors being held by self-important riders at every station, making the journey take all the longer. Certainly not the worst ride I've ever had, but also not something I could stand doing every day. Thing is, I know my line has it pretty easy. E Train riders, I am so sorry. I'd be really interested to hear what effect this M Train switch is having.

Speaking of which. On Sunday the hubby and I walked over to Steinway to pick up our first delivery from Holton Farms CSA, which we're totally psyched about. (They're still signing up members, by the way, and they have dropoff points all over NYC...) Anyway, we ended up walking down Broadway coming off of Stienway and there it was: A subway stop labeled R, M. Stopped me in my tracks. So weird! No G, and certainly no V given that it doesn't exist anymore. Ah, change. It is the difficult.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 21... You've got to be kidding me.

So as if it wasn't bad enough already, it sounds like come January things may get significantly worse. Hey everybody, I know! Since most people here in NYC can't really have a car, and using lots of gas is the worst idea ever anyway, and people desperately need usable public transportation, let's charge the working people EVEN MORE MONEY for the now significantly reduced service we're providing! Woo hoo! After all, it's not as if they have a choice!

Thanks MTA. Now I'll get to feel totally screwed on my way to the job that makes me feel totally screwed. This is the life!

To be honest, the ever-increasing difficulty of using the subway is part of why I want to leave New York City. That's sad, isn't it? I think so.

(No, I didn't ride the train today. It's official: Sunday is my not-riding-subways day. Apparently I need one of those now.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 20

In the summer, in the city. Not too bad for Saturday travel. I'd had a lot of fears about this - weekend travel after all the cuts and rearrangements - but even given all of last weekend's malarkey it just hasn't been that bad.

Not a lot of subway traveling done today - just a jaunt from our Astoria stop into the city, 57th Street, and then back again a few hours later. After an appointment we stopped into the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle for a while. Then for once we took a moment to absorb the grandeur that is The Shops at the Time Warner Center. That place is nuts. The Williams Sonoma there is enough to make me dream of some Other Life - one where I, like, own a house. Although nothing they do can make me imagine that I need a chair that costs $1400 even though it was mass-produced in Sri Lanka.


Waiting for the train back I noticed how oblivious I've been. (What an odd statement, no?) The signs for the central tracks at 57th which have been the object of such scrutiny (by me), still the terminus of the weekend and evening Q train, have indeed been updated to reflect that they are such. I think the entire moral of that story is that I am lame and should read more carefully. And you should too! (Nope, really, probably just me.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 19

Nothing really special to report today, though I did ride home from midtown on the 7. Coming home on the 7 train is always something a little bit special. It looks something like the old N trains, in exotic shades of yellows and oranges, except that the rows of seats extend the whole length between doors without a break. But they're still that partitioned sort of 70's bucket seat. The ultimate effect of this is that it's almost impossible to use all of the spaces. Through no fault of their own, really, The People of Queens just aren't that damn narrow. (Goodness knows I'm not.) Start stacking them one after another after another after another, and at some point you're just going to have to leave an empty bucket for a little bit of overflow.

Fortunately the 7 train comes approximately 3 times more often than the N and (I want to say W) Q combined, so they're never really all that crowded. The line terminates at Times Square, so if you're catching it at one of the few stops in the city you're never too far from the end of the line. There's always a huge flux at Queensboro Plaza, so there's always a chance of snagging a seat there, should you be continuing on to the deeper regions.

We, of course, detrain at QBP and wait for something yellow to snake its way up from beneath the river. We, of course, watch two or three more 7 trains pass by before this happens. This is the way of things, and for the most part we accept it. Are we a little bit resentful? Well, maybe. But the 7 train gets picked on more than its fair share for some reason when it comes to construction, and on those weekends I do not envy them.

Shuttle bus service to Flushing? No thank you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 18

I feel that I may have hit a spate of "express" train shenanigans. When I got on my train this morning (a new N train! They've returned to us!) I thought everything was fine. I was quickly corrected, immediately upon arriving at the next station, in fact. At 30th Ave they piled in like there hadn't been a train in half an hour. Same at Broadway, and even same at 36th Ave. Now, people who ride this line will know what I'm talking about when I say that when people are waiting at 39th Ave, shit is serious. And there were, like, several of them. Yeah.

So basically, my theory goes that I was right behind an express. If there really hadn't been a train in forever, then my stop would have been jam packed too. My stop is well populated in and of itself, not to mention the waves we get from deeper in Queens off of the M60. But my stop was just fine. There was indeed still a crowd at QBP, but that doesn't take long to accumulate - just one or two 7 trains can do it.

So is what we do now? Express trains all the live long day? We shall see I suppose...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 17

Where have all the subways gone? Um, and by that I mean all the new trains. Today was Attack of the Old N Train! It was kinda freaky.

I went into work late - 12:45 or so. Kidney thing. I won't get into it. And so, for the first time I experienced the new non-peak-time weekday train schedule on the Broadway line. They weren't kidding about that less frequent train thing. First, I waited a full 12 minutes for a train. I could see two of them hanging out up at the end at Ditmars, and another just chilling on the other side of Astoria Blvd. (Incidentally, a fourth was parked on the express track just beyond my platform, and all four trains were old N trains.) So it's not as if they were behind schedule. They were running right on time.

So not only did I wait crazylong for a train to come. Then, once on the train, it took a full 20 minutes for the train to get from Astoria Blvd. to 59th Street - a full 5 minutes longer than normal. Pish posh you may say, you New Yorkers always rushing, what's five minutes? But believe me, five minutes is a big deal. When you've been making essentially the same ride five days a week for nearly five years, you notice. When I finally arrived at 59th, I saw an N train heading the other way back out to Astoria - another old N.

Coming home a bit later than usual in the evening from 57th Street, I think the MTA was trying to make it up to me for my abnormally long "morning" commute. My old N train (yes, another one) was suspiciously empty. Comfy, but what gives? Once we'd reached the outdoor tracks I confirmed what I'd suspected: sure enough, perhaps a train length ahead of us at Queensboro Plaza, there was another N train. A new N train? Not so much. Based on the number of folk waiting on the platform when we pulled up, and given that we did not spend the remainder of our ride creeping along at a snail's pace, I have a sneaky feeling that the N in front of us went "express". Ah well, I had a seat, so no biggie for me.

Finally, traveling in the opposite direction somewhere around 36th Street, I spotted a New R160 with an N designation. Ah-ha! So they have not all disappeared. Still though, I'll be quite curious to see what pulls up tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 16

That old N train that rolled past you tonight without stopping? Yeah, that was me.

It's a phenomenon that has always fascinated me on this line: the Astoria-specific "express" train. From time to time, a train at Queensboro Plaza will decide that it just isn't going to stop again until it reaches Astoria Boulevard. Or, at Ditmars or Astoria, it will announce that the next stop will be Queensboro Plaza (and best luck to all those poor schmucks trying to get to work from the stations in between). Of course once the train hits Manhattan, everything is business as usual, like nothing ever happened. Never forget: the boroughs don't count. They're just where everybody lives.

This can happen on, well, it used to be either the N or W, and now either the N or Q. Approximately 90-95% of the time the train doesn't bother to jump onto the express tracks, which do in fact run for that length and do not allow access to the intervening stations. No, instead it runs - often quite slowly - right past the platforms full of hopeful riders. Occasionally it goes so far as to actually stop at those platforms... but without opening its doors. This is simply cruel.

When I lived at the 30th Avenue stop, the "express" train was aggravating in the evening, and positively infuriating in the morning. In the evening I'd just ride to Astoria and have a bit of a longer walk home. But there's nothing like standing on a platform in full blazing summer sun at 8:30 in the morning, or better yet in 25 degree temperatures with 15 mile per hour winds, and FINALLY seeing a train approaching, only to have it whip right past you. Near the end of my tenure at 30th Ave, I got so tired of being passed by "express" trains and/or not being able to get a seat for my ride into the city that I just started walking the extra eight minutes up to Astoria Blvd. (And take that, humph.)

Now that I live at one of the "express" stops, well, I won't lie. I quite enjoy the express trains. Coming home at night, you've never seen such a gush of people exiting a train as when that announcement is made at QBP. So many sad, disappointed people, thinking they're just a few stops from home, then unexpectedly forced out onto the dirty outdoor platform to wait for the train that will make "all local stops" that is of course "directly behind this train." The Broadway folk get screwed the worst - right in the middle, and there's a ton of them. It's not that I enjoy their pain. It's just that suddenly I can have any seat in the joint, and I'm getting an interruption-free ride home.

Payback for all those mornings when the train just blew right by?


Monday, July 12, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 15

Today was pretty much charmed as far as my subway riding was concerned. My morning was unusual, as it began with a trip to the lab. (They took all of my blood. I'm making more now.) So instead of my usual second-stop-on-the-train alight, I had to board at 3oth Avenue, a dreaded third-stop-on-the-train. Well, given that I used to live at the 30th Ave stop and I'm more than well aware that it often leads to the desperate tears of standing room only, even in the last cars, I had braced myself for the worst. Imagine my surprise when I jumped on the train that was arriving as I swiped through the turnstiles and got myself a seat, in a middle car no less! My best conclusion is that it was a smooth morning, and my feet and I are thankful for it.

In the evening, I hit the bottom of the 59th Street escalators just as a Q train was leaving the station. Damn. So I had to wait for a train... for about 60 seconds. The train that came had a seat for me and my extraordinarily tired self. (Do me a favor - remind me to start going to bed earlier?)

On days like this, I take a moment to say thank you to the train gods. Fear them, love them, but most important of all thank them when they are nice to you. You just never know where politeness will get you in those vast dark catacombs. Hey, it couldn't hurt.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 14

Apparently Sunday is my day off. But I would like to consider the following.

"There is another __ Train directly behind this one."

Yes... isn't that , well, sort of the nature of tracks? Where exactly else would another train be? Wouldn't "immediately behind" or "shortly behind" even "really close by" make a bit more sense, even if it is still a horrible and blatant lie? Because that directly behind thing, well, yeah, of course there is. You're not mentioning, maybe, that it's directly behind you fifteen stations back. But given that you're on the same tracks, there's nowhere else it could be.

Personally, I much prefer it when the conductor says something along the lines of, "If you don't fit on this train, get the hell off. We're not going anywhere until the doors close, so I really don't know what you think you're accomplishing by standing there with your ass hanging out." OK, fine, I've never head the conductor say that. But I have heard them get pretty close. And I know it's what they're thinking. I don't blame them one bit. And I truly think it would be far more effective, because nobody is listening to that "directly behind" crap.

Just sayin'.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 13

Wow, did they truly destroy the trains on this fine Saturday. Picture this: During the day, the R train terminated at 57th Street... sort of. If the train announcer was to be believed, it was somehow bypassing all of the stations between 57th and Queens Plaza, because passengers were being told to get off at 57th to get the R train both to Queens and to Brooklyn? WTF?

And that's not all. The Q train terminated at 42nd St / Times Square. Mmmm... kay. Why? For construction. Where, exactly? Between the N, the Q, and the R, every bit of track was being used somewhere or other. Sometimes I think the MTA just makes things up. (I'm sure of that, actually, bless their little hearts.)

I did not in fact come home on Saturday night until Sunday morning, but I have personal rules about when a day switches over. So we're calling it Saturday. And on Saturday night at 1am, the Q train was not terminating at 42nd street, but nor was it going to Astoria. It was terminating at 57th Street. Ah ha! Thus the mystery of the signs at that station is solved once and for all - they won't be changing, because sometimes it's still true that the train on the inner side of the Queensbound platform will in fact be headed to Brooklyn. It will be true on "late nights" and weekends.

This is annoying. First of all, if you're going to take away our train, replace it for real, fuckers. Second, when does "late night" begin for the Q? Nothing seems to tell me this, and there is no strict definition in the MTA lexicon for this particular phrase. On the W line, for instance, "late night" originally meant 9:30 pm but was then changed to 11pm. (Because, you know, they realized a mere two years ago that we needed MORE TRAINS. Bitches.) On the R, it means midnight. And so on.

Oh, you fickle Broadway line, you and your crazy ways. Will we ever cease to dance this dizzy dance of ours?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 12

Friday is apparently old train day? Given the amount of time I had to spend on the old trains today, I am completely and thoroughly convinced that the design of The New R160 does in fact allow for better passenger flow, more standing room, and possibly even more seats. To put it eloquently, a crowded old N train bites. I got old trains coming and going today, and they really just do jam people up. At least comparatively to what we're spoiled with now. Who knows, perhaps they're a dream compared to what came before.

So definitely no progress on figuring out what happened to all of those shiny sleek new trains that had been running as Ws. If anything, the old Ns are becoming more prominent, much to the chagrin of the daytime workers of Astoria.

People of Astoria, unite: We Want Our Trains!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 11

Oh Thursday morning you. I hopped onto a Q train and everything was going just fine. We rolled into Queensboro Plaza and we were still feeling fairly spacious and comfy.

So of course that's when it happened. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are being held momentarily by the train's dispatcher. Please be patient." The automated voice of The New R160 seriously gets on my nerves. Or maybe creeps me out. Or maybe both. No, you know what really irks me? The fact that they'll play that damn message about once every 45 second. To the point where I start responding to it out loud: WE KNOW. Did you think we forgot that we're standing still? Hey, maybe we're actually playing miniature golf!

And frankly, we don't give a rat's ass what made up reason you're giving us for the train not moving forward. If it's workers on the track, you'll tell us it's a signal malfunction. If it's a signal malfunction, you'll tell us it's a track fire. If it's a track fire, you'll tell us it's train traffic. If it's train traffic, you'll tell us it's a sick passenger. If it's a sick passenger, you'll tell us it's workers on the track. At least, that's how it used to be, back when human beings would talk into terrible mics over worse PA systems. Now, if you're in the station, it's "being held by the dispatcher". If you're in between stations, it's "train traffic". OK. Shur.

ANYWAY. After sitting at QBP and absorbing about three 7 trains, we were no longer the comfy and carefree Q train we once were. But no matter, we were on our way. Or so we thought. Alas. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are being held momentarily due to train traffic ahead. Please be patient." And that's when I began to notice the murderous rage in my neighbors' eyes...

Nah, it isn't that bad. It's just that nobody wants to deal with that shit first thing in the morning. We want to get to work, and we want to know why they can't just get it right, damnit. But of course there are a thousand variables that go on every hour that we know nothing about... And the incident did make me realize: it's the first time I've experienced a significant in-route delay since The Big Switch. So that has to be worth something.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 10

This morning's ride was utterly uneventful. The evening, as it always does on Wednesdays, brought me to the 57th Street Station - still the signs on the center tracks state on the Queensbound side that a Brooklynbound Q will be departing... who knows. By sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time I snagged a seat, but a decent handful were left standing.

One of the standers was a cute British girl who'd gotten on at 57th with me, but unfortunately traveling in the wrong direction. She was clearly a hip-to-the-jive city chick, not brand new to NYC but not too native either. She'd asked fellow standers enough to know that she was headed the wrong way, but was going to rectify it herself (damn it). After watching her peer at the map all the way to the next station, which is of course 5th Avenue, I decided I should share with her what I knew and she clearly didn't.

Which I did as we were pulling in before she made the tragic mistake of getting out. And which is this: at 5th Ave there's no cross-over; she'd have to have gotten out onto the street and then gone back in. Then, if she'd had an "unlimited" card rather than a pay-per-ride, she would have undoubtedly gotten the dreaded "just used" message that persists for a full 18 minutes. Even with a pay-per, she'd have wasted another $2.25. I didn't get into all that though - just that she should wait one more stop (to 59th), where she could simply cross the platform and take the train on the other side. She smiled and was very sweet and cute about it and it was quite a satisfactory exchanged. "Wicked" sounds fantastic in a genuine British accent.

Ah, trains.

I was sitting on the outside of the train, as it were, so that when we pulled into 59th Street I had a clear view of the absolute mob waiting on that center platform - it was quite intimidating. Surprising for 8pm. When the doors opened, Miss Britt turned around and gave me another thank-you-and-smile. I tried quickly to turn my open-mouthed crap-that's-a-lot-of-people gape into an I'm-cool-no-problem smile-and-nod. I'm sure I looked hilariously absurd. I hope she enjoyed it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 9

Tuesday - there's no other way to say this - it was absolutely terrible. And I have the pictures to prove it. The heat reached ridiculous levels over the holiday weekend... well, you know about me and my air conditioner confessions. Heat does not bode well for subway travel. You descend to a dark underground place and something in your body tells you that coolness awaits.

This is a horrible filthy lie.

Between the people and the machinery of the trains, an enormous amount of heat is produced. And it stays. The heat becomes positively oppressive in most stations, and is almost always tinged with a patina of urine. (Thanks much guys - we women know well that you could hold it, considering that we have no choice and therefore do and very few of us end up with ruptured bladders, but go on right ahead and foul the public spaces for all of us. You're awesome.)

But does heat explain why the trains can't run when it's hot? Correlation is not causation. No, this seems more like some cruel trick of fate, somebody's idea of a joke. After work it was far too hot for me to walk the 10 blocks up to the yellow trains, so I rode the one stop on the 6 train. That was its usual sardine experience, with the added bonus of the 51st Street station reading at least in the 90s. The train itself was about the same, just with weird little whiffs of cold air. When there is so much heat outside and there are so many people in each car, the train A/C that so often freezes people is pitifully feeble. Though I'd hate to know what the inside of the train would feel like without it. If you ever see a totally empty subway car on an otherwise populated train, there are three answers: 1) The doors aren't opening, 2) There is a particularly odoriferous indigent taking up residence, or 3) The A/C is busted. True story.

A handful of stations actually have something of an air conditioning system attempting to keep the temperature at a reasonable level. I am convinced that at least the N/Q platform of 59th Street falls into this category. When I arrived there I found an absolute mob, and it stretched for the entire length of the platform. But it was still somewhat of a relief, as it was at least 10 degrees cooler than 51st Street had been. After eight minutes of waiting the first train arrived, a Q, and it was far too packed for me to try to get on. I'm more of a wait-for-the-next-one kind of girl than one who'll squeeze in at any cost. It's just not worth it. I'm not on the run from the fuzz. Indeed, many who would have liked to get on simply would not fit.

After about five more minutes, an N train arrived. It too was already fairly full, but enough passengers got off that I could reasonably get on and not have a complete panic attack before getting to QBP. I was really hoping that once we reached that station we'd go "express", a phenomenon I'll have to talk about sometime, but no such luck. I never did get a seat, not even after 30th Avenue. That... never really happens.

Oh, hot hot heat, please go away. Give us a mild summer. I want to go to Coney Island.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway local: Day 8

Once again, a no riding day. It would have been a good day to just get on the train and ride back and forth - it is insanely hot! And the trains are nice and air conditioned. But alas, I stayed in.

I bear good news though. On Friday my ureteral stent came out! In case you haven't been keeping up, the short version of what that means is, I can once again walk more than six blocks without worrying about minor internal bleeding. It no longer hurts to do, well, everything. And for the purposes of this project, the possibility of riding is once again on the table! Hurrah!

Being the jackass that I am, I somehow still have not composed my J train post. What is the matter with me? If anyone knows please share. Anyway, I still have a lot of appointments to juggle, but fingers crossed, I should be doing some riding soon...

Yeah right, they snicker. But you'll see, you'll see!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway local: Day 7

Happy Independence Day! Or, as is possibly more appropriate, Happy Capitalism Day! Today Jonathan and I went to the mall to purchase an air conditioner. What could be more American? It's pretty crazy: this is my fifth summer in NYC, and the first in which I've been driven so mad by the heat that window units seem absolutely necessary.

Possibly crazier: the subway was pretty darn crowded for it being a National Holiday. We were headed out to the mall in "suburban" Queens, so we took the N into the city to turn around and take the R back out into the depths. (This may seem goofy to any non-New-Yorkers, but with any subway system sometimes you have to go back to go forward, or go up to go down, et cetera.)

And I came to an important conclusion. If I'd had to ride the R train every day, I wouldn't have lasted two years in New York. It's loud, it's crowded, and it's hot. Even when the N had old trains, they were different old trains - they had different seating arrangements, didn't have that dark "wood" paneling or the unusable arm rests that serve only to bruise my hips. R train riders, I feel for you. I truly hope that some of those mysteriously disappearing W trains show up on your line, and soon.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway local: Day 6

I did not ride the train today, oh no, oh no. But my beloved husband did, and he reported nothing strange afoot.

Something to ponder though. Where did the W trains go? Since the switch we've seen a marked increase in the prevalence of old N trains - strange, considering that the W line had been running The New R160 nearly 100%. They certainly didn't go to the R line - I can't remember the last time I saw a new R. Shame too, they need new trains almost as badly as the C line. And I'm still seeing old Q trains. Are they running that many more Q trains, that the Ws got absorbed into the Q line and the old trains are still needed there? Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 5, an absentee day.

Given that I'm having a pseudo-surgical procedure in about an hour, there's basically no way I'm getting on the subway today. Sorry folks. So instead of mass transit hijinx, I bring you the genius of Alien Loves Predator. Please enjoy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 4

Now things are just getting weird. The N train I boarded at 9:05 this morning was practically a ghost train! Granted, that's a bit late for me, but it probably happens once a week or so that I hop on around that time, and trust me when I say it is rare indeed to see a train that empty on a weekday morning anytime before 10am. The train never filled up - there were still open seats after we left Queensboro Plaza. And I wasn't even in the last car! I can probably count on my fingers the number of times I've seen that happen during morning rush hour, and I've lived out hear for nearly five years.

I thought for a moment that maybe the upcoming holiday had thinned out the working crowd a bit, but there certainly hadn't been any relief on the ever-sardine-like 6 train that I rode 20 minutes later. Ideas? Theories? You tell me. Maybe all that noise from the fireworks in Astoria Park last night scared everyone out of the neighborhood - ya think?

Well maybe everyone was just laying in wait to board the evening trains, because my ride home was one of the worst in recent memory. Totally jam-packed N train, even though I had just missed a Q maybe five minutes before. The train stayed full up the whole way - I never did get a seat, not even after 30th Avenue. That basically never happens. Usually I can claim something after Broadway, but always after 30th, where approximately half the train gets off. But not today, much to the chagrin of my aching back. (The kidney stent comes out tomorrow, by the way.)

Four very different days so far. Strange indeed. No riding tomorrow, just adventures in kidneyland. But I'll try to find some way to keep you all entertained...