Posts tagged ‘bryant park’


Concerning the S and the 7

Sometimes one wants or needs to get from Times Square, or the area around the Times Square subway station(s), to Grand Central Station. This can be done by walking, or bicycling, jogging, or hailing a cab and instructing the driver properly. Quite likely it can be done on a bus, even.

But it can also, notably, be done on the subway.

The most obvious subway line for this trip is the “S”, where “S” stands for “Shuttle”, referring to the set of trains and the set of tracks that shuttle endlessly back and forth between Times Square and Grand Central Station, all full of people and ads.

There are in some sense three “S” lines in the New York City subway system: the Times Square / Grand Central Shuttle (also known as the “42nd Street Shuttle”), the Franklin Avenue Shuttle in Brooklyn, and the Rockaway Park Shuttle in Queens.

These might be seen as three different lines all confusingly called the “S”, or I think with equal validity be considered a single line (the “S”), which is discontinuous, having one piece in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and one in Queens. It’s not clear what would constitute a fact-of-the-matter on the issue.

Then, running essentially parallel to the S (the Manhattan leg of the S, that is), there is the 7 (presumably named for having come after the 6 and before the 8, if any). Or, more accurately, that piece of the 7 between Times Square (where the line begins) and Grand Central Station (whence it continues onward out to Flushing in Queens). Between those two stations is the 5th Avenue (Bryant Park) 7 station, which is under Bryant Park, as shown in the illustration:

Bryant Park Subway Station

(That station also serves the enthusiastically orangish B, D, F, and V lines, but they are not relevant to the current discussion.)

There are various considerations in deciding between the S and the 7 for the purpose of getting between Times Square and Grand Central, or more specifically in our case the purpose of getting between the 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal subway station (A, C and E lines), and Grand Central Station (Metro North).

No subway line at all runs between the Port Authority station and the Times Square station, but there is a pedestrian tunnel which is entirely within the subway system, and thus a Free Transfer. Emerging from that tunnel at one point, near a major AM New York distribution point, a set of stairs runs down to the 7 platform to one’s left, and another longer set leads up toward the level of the S some distance ahead.

The 7, being a more or less normal subway line, does not run as often as the S (that is to say, not quite constantly). Also, it has that additional station (Bryant Park, see above) between Times Square and Grand Central, whereas the S shuttles between the two with nothing intervening.

The 7 is also deeper in the ground than the S, which would normally be a disadvantage, but in this case it is so very deep in the ground that the platforms at both salient stations are provided with escalators, which convey one in comparative comfort up and down what would otherwise be a daunting number of stairs. So the physical effort and time involved in ascending and descending from and to the platforms of the 7 are no greater than, and likely less than, the corresponding factors for the S.

On the other hand, the escalators from the 7 platform at the Grand Central end leave one in a strange and not entirely admirable part of the station, with low ceilings and rather tacky dented metal walls, more like the modern Penn Station than the usual polished marble one expects from Grand Central, and at some distance (cognitively, and I suspect physically) from the probability-weighted center of gravity of the Metro-North gates.

So there is that.

The other day I considered taking the 7 in the Times Square to Grand Central direction, but when I reached the platform there were two trains (one on each side) with their doors open and a certain milling of impatient New Yorkers, and a voice said that there were unauthorized persons on the tracks, or other words to that effect, and that service was delayed as a result. So I went up the escalator and made my way to the familiar Times Square end of the S, and did that.

Determining, in the process, that to get from the 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal station to the Times Square end of the S, it is probably less effort, and even time, to go down the steps to the 7 platform and then up the escalator to the level of the Shuttle, than it is to go up the usual stairs to the Shuttle.

But that seems just lazy, as a regular thing.

Today I went down to the 7 platform again, and this time there were apparently no unauthorized persons on the tracks delaying traffic, and I took the 7 through the 5th Avenue (Bryant Park) station to its platform in Grand Central, and took that escalator up, and discovered the above facts about the odd area that this delivers one into.

And so there is that.

So very odd, really, that there are these huge tubes under the ground, with rails and speeding trains running on them. And so many people!


this iPad!

I have an iPad! This is not because I am a shiny early-adopter; it is because M is a shiny early-adopter :) and she got an iPad while back, and then I got her an iPad 2 for a recent birthday, so there was this iPad sitting around sort of spare, and so…

I am somewhat gabberflasted by how much I like it, and how much it is changing my relationship to computers and books and the Internet and stuff.

This is not what I expected. I expected that it would be a sort of pointless little computer, with a small screen, no useable keyboard, not much disk space, and an underpowered CPU and GPU.

But what it actually seems to be is a really shiny and smart book, which can get to the Internet when there’s WiFi, let me read various books and maps and play games and things even when there isn’t an Internet, automatically get the latest versions of various periodicals and so on, play music, and really do pretty much everything an actual computer can do except for () World of Warcraft, () Second Life, () Program development, and () Protracted typing of long things.

Which is pretty impressive, for a book! And like a book it has the almost-negligible weight and footprint and ease of use just about anywhere that the big fancy computer most definitely lacks (especially given that carrying around the big fancy computer to use it for the things it’s best at means also carrying around its cooling pad to keep it from overheating).

Over the weekend I took a train to New York City (a very large city in New York), and then walked from Grand Central Station to Pennsylvania Station (the one in New York City, as opposed to the one in Newark, New Jersey, which is confusingly on the same train line as the New York City one), all with my iPad serving as a number of books, and a music player, and various diverting games, as well as (yay free Bryant Park Wifi!) connectivity to the world, and a set of downloaded-on-the-fly maps of the city for use when no longer near Bryant Park.

(Then I took another train to another station, and then a very small train to another station, and helped the little daughter finish packing and put all the stuff in the car, and then I drove the car home again while the little daughter took trains into New York City to see friends, and then another train home the next day to be with us for a bit also yay.)

And the iPad was an extremely convenient and fun and useful thing to have along the whole time.

Of course some of this may be shiny-new-toy effect; we’ll see!

Geekishness: here are some of the “apps” which I have on my “Ipad”:

  • Twitter – ’cause Dale my SL persona likes Twitter; takes all kinds.
  • Netflix – for watching movies (which I haven’t really done yet but it looks kewl).
  • Flickr – which is actually an iPhone app, and when running on an iPad all I can get it to do so far is show random pictures from the site in a little iPhone-shaped window; I mention this one only because I hope is is better eventually (i.e. they have a real iPad app).
  • SomaFM – Listener-supported Commercial-Free Internet Radio! Lots of nice music, again an iPhone app that doesn’t get along perfectly with the iPad, but still, nice music.
  • iBooks and the Kindle app, both with books in them (including both of the little daughter’s amazing Junior Papers snarfed as in PDFs, and also Zittrain’s “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it” which is basically about why iPads are bad)
  • A great app from the British Library, giving access to entire scanned in books from their 19th Century collection, which is really wonderful because you can see every little blot and grain and British Library stamp, as well as reading the words.
  • A whole mess of little games and puzzles, including Dwindle and The Incredible Machine (now apparently a Disney property!), and Pinball HD (just the free tables), and Unblock Me and sudoku2 and “Swamp Talk”, which is a great little word-forming game that I got free during its free period and I play constantly.
  • TumbleVision – A kaleidoscope; and not just one of those simple modern digital kaleidoscopes that make random eight-way symmetrical patterns, but a fancy simulation of a “glass and wood and strange things” physical kaleidoscope, where the pretty things tumble around in a very physical way and it’s all very mesmerizing. (Additional pretty-things packs cost money, haha.)
  • The Blue Mars iPad app, which seems bafflingly pointless, and “Pocket MV” (“MV” for “Metaverse”), which gives one text-mostly access to Second Life and other compatible virtual worlds, which I’ve played with a little but not quite actually used.
  • Yelp – an app that like tells me about restaurants in places, which is cool in principle but I haven’t used much yet,
  • 700 City Maps – one of those “free” free apps, which gives you maps when you’re attached to the Internet (just like Google Maps, basically, only Open), and also lets you download maps locally, but oh yeah that costs money, haha. Not much money, though; and I downloaded the NYC maps while sitting in Bryant Park, and that was useful.
  • The iPad client for Dropbox, which is a wonderful little thing that cleanly (if perhaps not all that securely, depending who you trust) makes a copy of all of the things that you put into a particular directory tree, appear magically on all of the machines where you have a client installed, and which is a great way to get things onto one’s iPad (although email mostly works too).
  • System Status – the pay-for version, which gives various geeky facts about one’s iPad, like that the battery is 100% charged (for an estimated 10 hours of Internetting time), the drive’s 27.3% in-use, the machine’s been up for over twenty-seven days (I don’t actually know how to turn it off, in that sense, which is fun), there are 28 visible processes running (including the ever-popular usbethernetshari), I am running Darwin 11.0.0 (kernel build 199506), and that something is constantly trying to write to or otherwise modify my iTunes library even though it is read-only (all sortsa interesting groddy stuff in the system log). This app gives me the illusion that I am actually in control of the innards of the machine (whereas in fact Apple is, as Zittrain notes at some length).
  • FileSystem – another iPhone app, that lets me browse and even in some cases look at the files on the hard drive. No idea how much of what’s there it can actually see, but another “pretend to be in control” app.
  • iSSH – so I can log into remote Real Computers from my iPad, which is somehow extremely amusing.

And that’s just the ones that I use or that are otherwise notable; there’s some other ones too not worth mentioning. (And of course there’s Google Maps an’ iTunes an’ a YouTube client an’ the app store an’ stuff that all came with it.)

Whew words, words, words! :) But anyway I have it, and I carry it around with me and listen to music and read words and play games and stuff, and it is fun.