Posts tagged ‘subways’


More notes from the subways

sardinesPeople said that the L is crazy crowded at rush hours, but I decided I ought to give it a shot anyway.

Came home that way once, and the L was fine, but the 3 4 5* from Union Square to Grand Central was a line of sardine cans. :)

Thought I’d give it another try, the other way, but the 3 4 5 downtown from Grand Central was so tightly packed that I didn’t try to push myself in, but just turned around and went and found the good old S instead. So I didn’t get to find out what the L was like at the time.

(Today, on the way home, Track 1 of the S was down (“Out of Customer Service” as the loudspeaker amusingly said), and so the S itself was pretty packed, but not as bad as the 3 4 5 had been.)

What trains experience

Speaking of the loudspeakers, on one of the occasions that I took the 7 rather than the S just for fun, the train just sat there for awhile, and eventually the loudspeaker said (more than once) that we were delayed due to a train at the 5th Avenue station (Bryant Park, you remember) that was experiencing door problems.

And I thought, the poor train.

And I also thought, just what does a train experience, when it is having door problems?

In the Mountains and Rivers Sutra, ol’ Dogen writes (roughly)

Dragons see water as a palace or a pavilion. Some beings see water as the seven treasures or a wish-granting jewel. Some beings see water as a forest or a wall. Some see it as the Dharma nature of pure liberation, the true human body, or as the form of body and essence of mind. Human beings see water as water. Water is seen as dead or alive depending on causes and conditions. Thus the views of all beings are not the same.

Perhaps a train’s experience of door problems is entirely different from ours.

The mysteries of time

It is odd how, regardless of just when I leave work, I so often have a choice between standing on the 5:57, or getting very early to the 6:15.

Then there is the 5:53, which is an extremely express train, but which, the schedule says, stops at Croton-Harmon only to pick up passengers, not to drop them off. I asked a ticket agent once if that meant that people really couldn’t get off, and she said nah, you can get off, just be prepared to do it very fast, because the train won’t stop for long.

On the other hand I asked a conductor of the 5:53 once if the train stopped at Croton-Harmon, and he (likely knowing that I really meant “can I take this train to there?”) just said (without going into any detail), no, I should get the 5:57 instead.


The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a regular presence in a couple of places along my subway route.

Having done their whole curriculum for nonbelievers on my front porch back in the day, I don’t stop to talk to them or take their literature, but I do sort of smile, if mostly to myself.

Today I noticed the signs at the top of two adjacent cardboard literature racks that they had set up at their larger installation.

The signs said:

What does the Bible really teach?

LIES that make God seem unloveable.

and I said to myself “well, can’t really argue with that!”.

Oooh I am so snarky. :)

Don’t hold

Speaking of signs, there are these signs on the inside of the subway train doors saying “Do not hold doors”.

clampTurns out, they mean it!

If you, like me, are one of those people who is used to occasionally putting out a hand to stop an elevator door from closing so that someone running towards it will have time to get in, you should consider not doing that with subway train doors.

’cause owch.

If they sense that there is an entire body in the way, they will squeeze for a second and then open again (and every other set of doors on the train will also open, just to make sure that everyone knows that some so-and-so is blocking a door and making everyone wait).

But if there’s just a mere hand or wrist there? They will clomp down on it and squeeze quite firmly until (for instance) a couple of long-suffering New Yorkers, one on either side of the door, sort of roll their eyes and curl their fingers around the jaws of the door and yank it open, both freeing the trapped and somewhat bruised hand or wrist, and allowing the hurrying person who was the object of the casual gesture to actually enter the car.

The bruises are about gone now…

* Update: all references to the “3 4 5” in the above should of course have been to the “4 5 6”. The 3 doesn’t even go through Grand Central ffs!


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!