Sunday, November 30, 2008

New York Subways, 1995-2008

A recent visit to the New York Transit Museum startled me into realizing just how much things change over time... in subtle fashion. When I arrived here in 1995, most of the subways that I took were of the Redbird variety, sturdy iron ladies with gray seats.
Over time, we moved to the shiny silver cars with orange and yellow seats, and today, more and more, the sleek, modern cars with blue benches, automated voices and even LCD maps that show a line's progress are becoming the norm.Month to month, year to year, as with so many things, evolution is slow to take hold, until suddenly one realizes that the future is upon us. I found a fantastic Web site this morning that exhaustively documents the history of the MTA... which, for my purposes, I focused on the past decade or so (
Even in that time, I have witnessed the end of tokens—and it unnerves me that I didn't save a handful at the time—as Metro cards, which at first were an unromantic flop—were bestowed incentives such as extra rides until they finally took. Today, of course, it's all about the monthly unlimited pass for $86 (and counting). When I look at other cities that use fare cards such as Washington and San Francisco, the concept of nickel and diming by distance/number of stops, instead of by the ride, is truly a folly of municipalities that obviously see public transportation as an offshoot of driving, as opposed to mighty New York, where it brings together all classes, races, ages and regions as the de facto mode of transport. Long live the subway... in spite of Mayor Bloomberg's strong will to make this city a stomping ground only for the privileged and wickedly wealthy.

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