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Sunday, September 14, 2008

First impressions of New York Subway

So, I did it. I travelled on the Metro in New York for my first time ever yesterday. As someone who's been blogging and writing about the London Underground for about nine years now (crikey) what did I think?

New York Takes Care of Its Own - Buskers on New York Subway

I have travelled on subways in Mexico, Paris, Lisbon & Toronto, so this wasn't my first non London Tube experience. It was really, really familiar but totally unlike anywhere else too, which is obvious really. Buskers on the subway carriages actually weren't treated with scorn or total indifference (not sure if it's legal in New York - "on carriage" busking on the Tube was never legal).

New York Subway Saturday morning travellers New York Subway - Saturday morning

It was busier than London I reckon. I was on the Metro at about 11am on Saturday morning & I left it at about 4pm on a Saturday afternoon, and the stations I travelled through were pretty crowded. In fact the first train was too crowded to get on. But that may have been because engineering works meant that some lines weren't fully operational.

A guy next to me sighed when the woman over the subway PA was politely telling everyone about the alternatives. "Just get on with it, and get us there", he said to no one in particular. I kind of knew how he felt!

However it was refreshing to actually hear what she said very clearly (even though it may as well have been Greek to me as I had no idea what she was talking about). I also liked the recorded announcer who said "Watch the gap" - it sounded more like a cheery and proud invitation than our drony, yet "quaintly" London "Mind the gap".

Watch the Gap - Metro North Railroad

Grand Central Station however was much less crowded that I was expecting. It's an amazingly palatial station, cool, high ceilings, wonderful zodiac murals above and like a cathedral with stunning windows.

Grand Central Station - New York

Clock at Grand Central Station

However it's a showcase and I'm sure gets more loving care than the bits that fewer tourists photograph. The platforms I used from my train which came in from New Rochelle were completely taken over by Heroes advertising:

Heroes at Grand Central Station - New York Heroes at Grand Central Station - Metro North Railroad

That was another surprising thing. I was expecting loads and loads more ads down there. So far Paris has to win for the subway system with the most ads. Some station walls are literally covered with ads (eg Trocadero), so much so that it's hard to read the station names - like in Edwardian times in London when they first started experimenting with ads.

Like London's Tube there were some nice architectural bits at some stations

Brooklyn Bridge Station - New York Subway Spring St Subway Station New York

But also like London the stations were tatty in places and could do with a visit from some serious spring cleaners.

The great thing was the air conditioning on the trains themselves. It was a welcome relief, however it made the stations seem like infernos from hell, though as there was nothing to cool people at platform level. We sometimes have the opposite problem with our big comedy fans cooling down interchanges and areas around escalators but nothing to keep us cool on the Tube itself. You can't win!

Their public service ads were less inventive than ours though. There was a vague attempt with the one saying don't run on the escalators

Don't run on the Subway Grand Central Subway Station New York

But the "do not lean on the door" & "do not hold the door" signs were fairly basic in comparison to our more err visual ones about not holding the doors open:

Do not lean on door - New York Subway

Please don't hold the doors open

Yes I know what it might remind you of!

If you've not been following my Twitter feed, you might not know that I'm staying outside of New York City itself and am in a suburb called New Rochelle. It's a really simple and cheap (well in comparison to London) 30 minute commute into Grand Central station.

Metro North Train to New York arrives Buying tickets at Rochelle Station

I've probably spoken too soon about the "simplicity" but I've bought a week's unlimted travel into New York for $54 dollars & I paid an extra $20 to get $23's worth of Metro subway value added to it. To me this is a Bobby bargain.

Metro Card and Gotham Writers paper

Harlem 125th Street Metro North Railroad

The Metro North Rail Road runs from Connecticut into New York and provides a commuter link to NYC taking in suburbs around the Hudson River & on the East Coast like New Rochelle, Harlem, Pelham and Mount Vernon.

Yellow Taxi over Brooklyn Bridge Fried Oreos Sign at Little Italy New York

That's it for today. I'm sure I'll be filling you in on other New York Subway impressions. There's more pictures of the subway and Metro North Rail Road in my Flickr set along with some other pictures of New York - including the ... ummm ... delights of Deep Fried Oreos & some NYPD police who weren't living up to their doughnut (sorry I'm in the US) donut eating, coffee swigging stereotypes.


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