There are things we Americans put up with simply because most of us have not had occasion to sample the way things could be. Yesterday was a nice and bright 20 degree day (wind chills in the single digits) here in New York City. I (like most New Yorkers) find that the subways are the best way to get around particularly when you have to go downtown to south Manhattan from midtown or beyond. I do prefer to walk when the walk is less than 20 minutes.
Subway service in the city seems to be slipping once again. More ridership has not reduced an increasing deficit and the plan is for fares to go up probably in later in 2009.
But with higher fares will New Yorkers be able to expect better service? Well it’s pretty lousy overall now if you ask me.
First off there’s the communication issue. Or lack thereof more properly. Have you ever tried to listen to the ‘announcements’? Even if you can hear them through the tiny speakers built in 1945 I challenge to tell me what language is being spoken. And the information if the words can even be made is unintelligible anyway! Today’s message for instance – ‘Due to an incident the R & Q trains are running slower than normal). ‘This was after I was standing waiting for a train for 20 minutes in the freezing cold. Really? Then there was some garbled information about transferring. Of course there was no train to get on to transfer to! NO mention of when the next train might arrive (or if). Finally when a train arrived it was neither an R nor a Q but some other train that I got on simply because I was tired of waiting and was hoping to go somewhere at least.
Then there’s the issue of personal communication when riding the subway. There is hardly any cell phone service. At least not in New York. Tokyo has it all over New York when it comes to moving people. Granted the New York City Transit Authority is famous for having more miles of train tracks than any other system and it has been around for a very long time. Yet Tokyo and several other cities have mobile phone service in their subways. Their communication systems tell you the next few trains and when they are to arrive on what track to the minute. And they arrive precisely on schedule. I lived in New York City for years before I knew the subways even ran on a schedule (yes amazingly there is a schedule)!
So why do we have to content with substandard service? The MTA fare structure is a bit unusual – $ 2.00 and you can ride as much as you want. All 200 miles. Of course the mayor has noted that the prices must go up ($ 2.50 is being thrown around) and service curtailed even more. I don’t know of many other cities that price their subway service this way. You pay for how far you go. Maybe it’s just because New Yorkers for the most part just don’t realize what the alternatives are, and so we take what we have. Dirty, smelly, poorly lit, inconsistent service, lousy information and non-existent cell phone service underground. Are we getting what we deserve? I sure don’t feel that way. Do you?