Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Portrait of a Failing Subway System

Yesterday, the New York Times performed a valuable public service. It ran an article comparing the New York City subway system to public transportation systems in other parts of the world. It did so by asking people who had experienced the New York system and those of other great cities around the world what they thought. Guess what: New York’s seems inevitably to have been the worst. By a lot.

Guess what: New York subways seemed more to be a relic of the past than a vision of the future. One would be hard put not to conclude that New York City, in many respects the world’s leading city, is in serious decline. If you think that America ought to be leading the world, ask yourself how many cities want to emulate its leading city’s subway system?

The Times does not pull its punches. It opens with these two paragraphs:

What smells like a “nightclub toilet,” evokes the feeling of “an underworld” and resembles a “working museum”?

That would be the New York City subway, according to international readers who have experienced it.

Tokyo inhabitant Yukari Sakamoto offered his experience:

I lived in New York for many years, and two things happened to me on the subway. First, I was held up. There were other riders in the car, and no one did anything to help. Second, I was on a train and a man had a gun. Everyone panicked, and people fled to the ends of the train. This doesn’t happen in Tokyo.

In Tokyo, people are polite, well-mannered, courteous and respectful. Don’t expect it in New York.

Ruth Dreier lives in Amsterdam. She used to live in New York. She compares the two cities’ public transportation systems:

When I moved to Amsterdam after 15 years in New York, I had no idea that transport could actually run on a schedule. All I knew was to schedule extra time.

I still don’t trust the timetables, mainly because I want to keep some of my New Yorker-ness!

It’s not just first world cities. The Istanbul subway is a model of efficiency and cleanliness. Alex Francis Burchard describes it:

The metro is pretty fantastic. The trains can carry a massive number of people. We have mild overcrowding for an hour or two a day, but it’s usually not horrendous. Trains are almost never delayed thanks to good maintenance. My line, the M2, carries about 400,000 people each day without trouble.

The trains have TV screens that play lots of things. My favorites are the cat (and sometimes dog) videos.

The metro sparkles: Trains and stations are shiny clean. What I like most, though, is how fast it’s expanding. There are plans to go from 105 miles of track to about 680 miles in the next decade or so.

Burchard offers his experience of the New York system:

I’ve come to New York for robotics competitions. The subway gets you there. That’s about it. It was slow and broken, with lots of trash and decay. I felt like I was in an underworld.

If you are falling behind Istanbul it’s time to revise your thinking… and stop puffing up your empty self-esteem and start trying to solve the problem.


sestamibi said...

"In Tokyo, people are polite, well-mannered, courteous and respectful. Don’t expect it in New York."

That's because they're all Japanese. They don't buy into the "diversity" mantra, with all its different styles of public behavior, the way we do--especially in New York.

Anonymous said...

Tokyo and Amsterdam, as were many European cities, turned to rubble during WW2. During the rebuilding, transporation infrastructure was used that represented the most current technological renditions at that time. NYC subways are probably not much different than they were in 1920 except for the thicker layers of graffiti. Given sufficient time and political malfeasance, NYC will be abandoned because everyone will recognize what others see.

Sam L. said...

NYC can't fix it until they get a mayor and city council that WANTS to fix it.

Trishapatk said...

Believe it or not - when I'm in New York I appreciate the Subway. It gets me wherever I want to go for a good price. It does seem like a relic, but it still works. It isn't particularly pleasant - but I'm not necessarily looking for that. I tend to see expectations for more to seem like entitlement - but I realize I may be wrong to see it that way. Overall, I am thankful that it exists. To a slight degree, I can
enjoy sitting there with all sorts of people who are going about their business.

UbuMaccabee said...

“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Stein’s Law. I just hope it doesn’t stop at Hunts Point.

Anonymous said...

Singapore puts NYC to shame.


Ask any New Yorker who has visited SG.

Confucian levels of civility would also embarass "The City".

- shoe