New York Subway
17 Jul 2011
New York subway is every inch I imagined it would be on a summer day. Busy, humid, dirty, loud and stink of pee.
But beyond that, I find the New York subway very interesting. I'm quite surprised it's not as crowded as compared to the Beijing subway. And unsurprisingly, passengers are not in a hurry to get to the door or to a vacant seat, they are not pushy and even say sorry for the slightest bump.
Unlike in Beijing subways' never-ending announcement of the next stop, New York subway almost never announce which stop is next or if the conductor DO announce, it only comes off as mumbled words. We found ourselves always craning our necks to look at the tiled walls of each station just to check we are on the right track. Some carriages have a digital readout of the upcoming stations as well as corresponding subway line available for transfer.
As I've only ridden "basic" subways lines of Beijing, Singapore and Philippines where one line equals one route, New York subway has several routes in one line stopping at certain stations per route. Also, there's the local train that stops at all stations or express trains that skips some stations. In other words, New York subway is itself an adventure, albeit confusing.
We bought a 7-day unlimited pass metrocard for $29.00 at a convenience store. It was worth it! It was quite intimidating reading about the New York subway in wikitravel.org, it even mentioned an 18-minute lockout if the card was swiped incorrectly or the turnstile improperly turned.
Passengers mind their own business, no one stares, no one talks loudly on the phone. Although, once there was this seemingly-drunk lady that yapped the whole ride, how she was telling her unfortunate seatmate about that she's trying to get back on track despite the hard times. Another time, there was this girl that played the loudest hip-hop music on her mobile phone for the whole carriage to hear – it was terrible.
Otherwise, the carriage is pretty quiet except for the rustle of a newspaper, an occasional cough or sneeze and the echo of the train tracks screeching as it starts to speed up or halt to a stop.
Pleasant surprise. We were looking at the subway map trying to figure out which train to get on and which direction we were supposed to be heading. Once, a black guy holding a cup of coffee approached us and asked where we were headed and asked if we needed help. And another time, another black guy asked the same thing and offered directions. It's the least we expected from a busy city like New York, and we're glad this incident proved us wrong.
To sum it up: I love New York subway, the interesting people, the damp smell of the air-con, the subway performers, the walls stinking of pee, 24-hour service, the polite people (yes, I consider them polite after 2+ years commuting in China), the funny vandals on the wall and everything else... well, except the expensive fare. It's definitely an adventure just riding the MTA.