What I’d like to say on the subway

Subway car interior

When I was young, New York subways were dirty, noisy and with little risk of improvement. But, even if the maps weren’t readable (as with this 1972 example), there were lots of them.

Now the subways are much nicer, on the whole, and being improved. But there is now a paucity of maps. In fact, I notice an inverse relationship between the number of maps and the number and size of ads in subways and on subway cars. Some of the cars, such as the one above, have an all-advertising decor, in addition to the usual cards in frames.

Since loud panhandlers are also common past the threshold of annoyance in subway cars, I found myself yesterday tempted to stand up and say,

“EXCUSE ME, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. I’M NOT HERE TO ASK FOR YOUR MONEY, BUT JUST TO DRAW YOUR ATTENTION TO A SHORTAGE OF SUBWAY MAPS AND AN ABUNDANCE OF ADVERTISING. THANK YOU VERY MUCH AND HAVE A GOOD DAY.”

… and then sit down. Who knows? Might help.

6 comments

  1. Joseph Mornin’s avatar

    Subway cars seem like great petri dishes for collective action. Imagine if someone did this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V74AxCqOTvg

  2. Joel Goldstick’s avatar

    I have lived in Manhattan since mid 2008. Since I take 2 trains a day, that adds up to about 1800 rides. The train in your photo I am guessing is the shuttle between Grand Central and Times Square. That train just goes back and forth between those stations. It probably doesn’t have an electronic map in the car.

    I take the 4-5-6 trains and they all have maps with lights telling you what station the train stops at. Sometimes they pull a car from another line and so the map is wrong, but it displays a messaging saying the map is wrong.

    But I take your point. The subways aren’t set up to be visitor friendly. They aren’t really commuter friendly, but they mostly get you where you need to go in the fastest way possible.

    Visitors and tourists are very important to NYC. Its fun to live in a place that others want to visit. But if you aren’t used to NYC try not to take a train at rush hour. You and the ‘miserable commuters’ will both be happier!

  3. Steve Tulsky’s avatar

    They’re probably assuming that most people are now using the NY Subway Map apps on their smart phones (which are indeed great to have when visiting the Apple).

    Last time I was in the City, I had a chance to visit the NY Transit Museum located in an unused subway station near Borough Square in Brooklyn. It’s worth the trip–they have lots of great old subway cars, and interesting exhibits on the history of fare boxes, turnstiles,…..and subway maps!

  4. David Scott Williams’s avatar

    I think if you stand up and shout real loud on a NY subway you might find yourself detained indefinitely as a terrorist :) Or maybe I haven’t been to NYC recently enough …

  5. David Scott Williams’s avatar

    (Panhandlers are part of the scenery, not sure if thoughtful observation is ..)

  6. Garagentor’s avatar

    I would like to say – its the best way to travel in a city.
    Nature loves it.
    It should be free to use – payed by tax.
    Regards from Schweiz

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