This post started as an e-mail response to a transit e-mail list that somehow had a flurried discussion of wristwatches: German vs Russian vs American; relative quality and value, etc.
We have had a lot of posts in the last few days about timepieces. I have been struggling to figure out how the subject of collecting expensive watches is related to transit.
Digging into my memory, I have come up with an example.
Experienced transit users may recall a period, perhaps 20 years ago, when NYC Transit was rebuilding the sprawling Herald Square subway station. I found myself navigating the station and heading for the 33 St. PATH station (which as everybody knows has been at 32 St., not 33 St., for the last 80 years or so).
We planned a fairly complicated agenda yesterday, around a visit to the N.Y. Botanical Garden holiday train show in the Bronx. Read on.
We needed to catch an early train, so we aimed for the 7:06 a.m. from Basking Ridge. With resurging ridership, the 30 or so free parking spots are at a premium (the much larger number of permit-only spots remain largely empty, another example of government interference with the free market). We arrived 15 minutes early just in case; fortunately there were a number of empty spaces. (The alternative is to drive to the Lyons station, where daily parking costs only $2 and in fact leads to an overall lower total cost, since it’s in a lower NJT fare zone. However, when school is in session, all the roads that lead there are blocked by the hundreds of students driving their own cars to the local high school, and this peak is from 7 to 7:30 a.m., so that’s another crapshoot.
The First Ticket Purchase
Next step is to buy tickets. The TVM again and again refused to accept any of the credit cards we had, so in frustration we fed it a $10 bill, which worked fine.
Last Thursday Lynn and I had a leisurely lunch with an old friend at the Sakura Japanese buffet in North Brunswick. It was a beautiful day with cloudless blue skies, and since the NJT Jersey Avenue station is only a 10 minute trip, we decided to check it out.
Jersey Avenue is, basically, an enormous park-and-ride facility; it attracts riders from a wide area, since the next stop west is Princeton Junction, a whopping 14 miles away. In the days when the area was nothing but farms, PRR had at least three intermediate stops; now, it’s wall-to-wall condos, but no stations. NJT wants to build a new one, but even advocates can’t agree that it would be a wise investment.
Since we’d have to park the car, we had to watch out for parking cops looking to see if we’d paid, but none appeared. I hadn’t been to Jersey Avenue in a long time, and was unfamiliar with the layout. We drove through the large lot, looking for spaces; then something appeared I had forgotten about, a railroad grade crossing—which leads to a separate parking lot immediately adjacent to the Trenton-bound platform (“Jersey Avenue Main”) on the outbound NEC main line. The somewhat decrepit single track we crossed is the famous, or infamous, Delco Lead, a track used for switching industrial freight customers; it begins at this point and extends for miles. NJT plans to convert it into a refuge for NEC equipment in case Superstorm Sandy returns and floods the Meadows Maintenance Facility again. They also plan a loop to turn trains without fouling the NEC, and an inspection facility; all of this is controversial in the advocate community—some think they have better uses for the money, or maybe they’re just protecting the interests of taxpayers in Iowa.
Last night, I attended a meeting of the Lackawanna Coalition in Millburn. David Antonio of Essex 2045, a planning initiative for transportation in Essex County, was the invited guest, and most of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of bus and rail transportation in Essex County.
As usual, I left the meeting about 9:10 p.m. so that I could catch Midtown Direct Train #6674 to Secaucus, where I would transfer to Bergen County Line Train #1281 to Radburn. Train #6674 arrived in Millburn on time at 9:23 p.m. and departed one minute later. It consisted of nine multi-level cars, of which three were open to passengers (and these three cars were far from full). Everything went smoothly until after we departed Brick Church, our last stop before Newark, at 9:39 p.m. We proceeded for some distance, then came to a stop. The stop lasted for at least five minutes, after which we started backing up.
During the backup move, one of the conductors made an announcement about the reason for the delay, which I could not understand. So I walked back two cars to find the three conductors seated at the front end of the third open car. I mentioned to one of the conductors that I could not understand the announcement, whereupon another conductor commented that he could not understand it, either. I was then informed that there was some problem with the signal at the interlocking, so we had to back up and then move forward again. I didn’t fully understand the explanation, but we did soon start moving forward, and we arrived at the Newark Broad Street station at 9:56 p.m. Our ride from Newark to Secaucus proceeded expeditiously, and we pulled into Track 2 at Secaucus at 10:06 p.m., 12 minutes late. Even though we were significantly late, my Bergen County Line train is not scheduled to depart until 10:28 p.m., so I had plenty of time to make my connection.
I’m still not quite sure what happened that required us to make the backup move between Brick Church and Newark.
A visit to the LIRR’s main concourse at NYP reveals that the LIRR’s only restrooms, and the dingy waiting room between them, have vanished behind a wall of plywood. (Not noticed: did we also lose that famous overhead structure said to be one of the last pieces of the old Penn Station?). A sign only says, “Rest rooms available on the upper level.” (Those would be those of NJT and NJT/Amtrak; there was no signage pointing the way.) What’s going to replace them? Dunno; perhaps they are building new facilities and a waiting room, possibly expanding into the space of the now-gone Tracks bar, which should be right behind the closed restrooms. Or maybe instead it will be something that makes money for the MTA, like a pot dispensary maybe?
I have to say that a lot of the vaunted “improvements” that MTA and NY State in general have been making to NYP have not produced much for the actual riders who are supposed to benefit. Within the last year, they opened what looks like a magnificent set of escalators to a new LIRR entrance at 7 Av and 33 St. It looks great in the politicians’ photo ops, but the foot of the new escalators is smack in the way of the great number of riders who arrive or depart the station via the 7th Ave. subway, and also those who rely on the corridor to the years-ago-added entrance on 34 St just west of 7th Ave. (For those who haven’t been to the city in a few decades, this was all directly in front of the old LIRR ticket windows, and roughly where the octagonal information booth once stood—all gone now.) All of these crowds collide with the folks using the new 33 St entrance. At peak hours, like when I was there yesterday at 5:10 p.m., it becomes downright dangerous, with lemmings headed for their trains colliding with arriving passengers and themselves. Many of these “dashing commuters” are running full-tilt to make their trains. It’s a real zoo.
Today, I had a ticket to an New Jersey Symphony 1:30 p.m. concert at NJPAC in Newark. I always try to go by train, and usually would take the Pascack Valley Line. But midday service on the Pascack Valley Line is currently being bustituted, so I decided to drive to Radburn and take the Bergen County Line instead.
Train #1166 arrived three minutes late at 11:37 a.m. It was pushed by Engine 4028 and included cars 6017, 6759, 6573, 6762 and 6501.
This past Saturday night, I had a ticket for a performance of the New Jersey Symphony at NJPAC in Newark. The concert started at 8:00 p.m., and I decided to take NJ Transit to the concert.
My Pascack Valley Line train was scheduled to leave the Anderson Street station in Hackensack at 6:56 p.m. (Interestingly, I would be taking Train #2122 on 1/22/22!) I left my home in Teaneck at 6:47 p.m. and arrived at the station six minutes later, at 6:53 p.m. On weekends, you can park in the station parking lot right across the tracks from the station, and I did so. As I was crossing the tracks to the station, I could hear the bells from a distant grade crossing, and my train pulled into the station at 6:55 p.m. It consisted of four Comet V cars, of which only one was open to passengers. That car, though, was adequate to accommodate the 35 or so passengers on the train.
For some time, Coalition Secretary Daniel Chazin has been reporting on confused passengers on the 12:45 Pascack Valley train to Spring Valley. Because a 12:49 Bergen line train to Middletown is scheduled on Track H at 12:49, only 4 minutes later, the automatic announcement that a “train is expected in 8 minutes” can cause inexperienced passengers, or those rushing to board one of the trains, to mistake the Pascack Valley train, arriving first, for the Middletown train right behind it.
Use of public transit in the United States hit a new high in 2013, marking the greatest use since 1956, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and reported in The New York Times by Jon Hurdle (March 10). The report covers trips by buses, trains, and subways; 10.65 billion individual trips were taken on public transit during 2013, the report said. This was a slight increase over the previous recent record of 10.59 billion trips, set in 2008.