New York City’s transit authority is going to be spending money trying to make our subways more civilized towards pregnant women. A button reading ‘Baby on Board’ is being made available to women who are pregnant, in hopes this will encourage more people on public transit to give them their seats. Another button reading ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’ is available free online also.
Our trains and buses are not kind places. My wife would go entire journeys without being offered a place to sit when she was visibly pregnant. A friend’s wife who is an expert photographer created a running series of shaming photos when she was carrying their first son, posting snapshots she had taken of men who had seen her very obviously with child and declined to offer her a seat.
I’m a firm believer in adhering to traditional etiquette. I’m one of the few people my age that knows to walk closest to the street when walking with a woman on the sidewalk. That made for some awkward dating moments but I’m a stickler for the rules of proper etiquette, at least if I can remember then.
I don’t even attempt to get a seat on the subway anymore. When I lived at the end of the A train in Inwood and knew I’d get a seat and be able to sleep most of my commute, I did that. But now I ride the 7 train and the 6 train, two of the most crowded and miserable lines in the city. I don’t want to fight with people at the Main Street-Flushing stop when I can be close to the door that’s going to open at Grand Central for my hurried dash to the 6 platform. And what would we be fighting for? The privilege of sitting on a hard plastic seat where a homeless guy jerked off a few hours before? I have more room to breathe if I stand anyway. Besides, I’m a sedentary office worker for more than 10 hours a day, why add to that sloth during my commute, where it pays dividends to be on your feet? But if I do happen to be sitting in a seat and I see a pregnant woman or elderly person, I’ll offer them my seat.
There are a myriad of reasons the subways and buses are not models of civility. One of them is the fact that a large city is impersonal and New York in particular is designed for only the most aggressive and determined people to succeed at anything.
But a leading reason that transit riders are not civil towards one another is that the subways and buses are cauldrons of misery plagued with inadequate services and rising fares for decades. Why, in one of the most forward-thinking and progressive cities in the world, is anyone anywhere in the five boroughs waiting more than 10 or 15 minutes for a subway or bus? Why are we trying to run a 21st century subway system with 19th century era signal systems?
How about fixing our failing system so that those deserving have a better chance of getting a seat without asking someone to move? How about better handicapped access at all stations so it doesn’t take a guy in a wheelchair five hours to buy a bagel? These things are a lot harder to do than hand out free buttons, but they need doing.
I hope that there is some benefit to the button campaign. But subway and bus service is so sub-standard for a major, industrialized world city that any resources not directed at a needed upgrade is putting lipstick on a pig. If by some chance this campaign succeeds and more pregnant women and sick and elderly people have seats, this only means they will be more comfortable when getting screwed over by the MTA.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the news of recent political violence in this country. Scuffles have broken out at political rallies between protesters and supporters of rival candidates. Protests have gotten ugly. The overwhelming majority of Americans deplore violence of all kinds.
We’ll have no shortage of political ugliness in New York. Some of it has already gotten under way in earnest. But our Gotham is full of human abominations that people of all political affiliations can agree ought to be subjected to swift and brutal physical punishment on sight. Here is a catalog of the top five worthy subjects:
People who stand on the left side of the escalator. Sometimes people don’t realize that they have committed this infraction and there are people who come to New York from parts of the world where escalators are rare (watching Haitians attempt to board an escalator at JFK airport was an eye-opening experience), and they are usually sensible enough to move aside when you say “excuse me.” But some people think that an escalator is an amusement park ride, and they ought to have some common sense and manners beaten into them frequently and without mercy.
People who read their smartphone, kindle or book while walking. You can see these zombies a mile away and each one of them thinks they are the rare exception that can pull it off and not be that plodding imbecile impeding the progress of our precious Gotham. They are wrong. Trample them underfoot. They are not fit to live here.
People who use public transit seats for their luggage. Unless your purse or backpack paid $2.75 to ride this crowded bus or subway, let it sit on the floor or on your lap, or else you will find a host of volunteers willing to cram it up your ass.
Cyclists who ride on sidewalks, run red lights and ride on the wrong side the road. It is never these rancid, entitled brats who are dragged to their deserved deaths by garbage trucks or city buses, but it should be. If I’d go to jail for doing it with a car, don’t you dare try it with a bicycle. What’s most galling is when they yell at pedestrians to get out of their way as they are preparing to run a red light.
People who listen to music or watch videos in public spaces without earphones. Some people are not content speaking on their cell phones in theaters, they want to bring the theater experience with them and everyone within earshot. Simply inform these people that their earphones must be broken since you can hear their sports event/Chinese soap opera/rap mix tape, etc. If they don’t get to the hint, see to it that their devices and jaw is broken as well.
Can we all get along? Yes, we can all agree that some people need to learn some manners. New Yorkers can unite around these common enemies.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his idea to put in a light rail that would connect Brooklyn and Queens. With the exception of Red Hook and Sunset Park, his light rail system would not be bringing public transit to places that need it but rather add additional tourist glut and uber-gentrifying cachet to areas already overpriced and tourist heavy.
The idea sounds great at first. The public transit system in New York is abysmal and the outer borough are woefully underserved. To get from Southern Brooklyn to Northern Queens would require a lengthy detour through Manhattan or an epic journey of Byzantine bus transfers that would see you grow old or give up on life before you were halfway there.
The proposed rail runs only along the East River waterfront of Brooklyn and Queens. Some of these areas, such as Astoria, Queens and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are already served by rail system and there are not too many people commuting between Sunset Park and Astoria.
With our subway dollar stretched thin and the MTA constantly cutting service while increasing fares, de Blasio says he’ll rake in the $2.5 billion he needs to build this light rail system from the increase in property tax that will result from the light rail being built. So he’ll wring money out of rich people who will somehow welcome this sorry trolley outside their homes and this will help the working class people of Red Hook and Sunset Park commute to Astoria where there are no good jobs waiting for them.
Whatever de Blasio’s motives or likelihood of the light rail system coming into being, the issue highlights two central problems of New York City transit: Our transit system is very Manhattan-centric to its own detriment and New York City does not have enough control over its own transit system.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority, though it generally serves New York City, is controlled by New York State. Whatever we need to do here in the five boroughs has to pass through several gatekeepers in Albany. The bureaucracy is twice-removed from the systems it operates, and it shows in every step of the system’s operation. The New York City transit system is among the most extensive in the country and it runs 24 hours, but that’s more of a remark about how sad the state of public transit is in the U.S.A. rather than a statement about how good New York City’s transportation is.
Every weekday morning I give myself an hour and a half to travel 11 miles, and I’m sometimes late. My first day back at work this year after the holidays, it took me more than two hours to get to work, even after I left the subway in disgust in Jackson Heights and took a cab the rest of the way to work.
New York City is comprised of 304.6 square miles and Manhattan comprises only about 33 of them. I have nothing against Manhattan and it makes sense for it to have a large transit infrastructure to deal with commuters going to work every week, but this leaves the most of the city underserved. Even many parts of Manhattan are not well served by the subway system – the Second Avenue subway has been a running joke for decades. They expanded the terrible 7 line so that people can go to the Javitz Center with greater ease – well not with greater ease since it involves having to take the 7 train. That the 7 train is an overcrowded clusterfuck in every way imaginable doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar to fix.
This latest proposal from the mayor looks like it will go the way of so many well-intentioned and poorly planned transit fixes. When it gets built, if it gets built at all, it will be way over budget and of limited usefulness.
I wish I could be more hopeful, but the line as planned will not go into any of the parts of the outer boroughs that are not served by a rail system, so the people still not served by our subways will still be out in the cold, waiting for the bus.