Thursday, November 12, 2009

attention Mass Transit Foodies! The Gold Line...

LA Metro is opening the Gold Line on Saturday November 14th, 2009. The Train Cowboy will be there for the inaugural ride. Here is a fun article on all of the great food available along the Gold Line.,0,4084038.story?page=1

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New York City MTA Transit Museum

This is super cool. New York City has a Transit Museum. NYC is the logical place to have a transit system museum, since it has the USA's best public transportation system. (see NYC's Grade post from March)

Check it out and email me to let me know what you think!

Friday, March 27, 2009

New York City

Of course the New York City metro system is America’s most used. Every day 7.6 million people use the NYC subway system. But how does it actually rate? Many people have a kind of nostalgia for the grittiness of the NYC subway, and movies and television have perpetuated this idealization. For a long time the truth is that the NYC subway system was truly revolting: dirty, pungent and crime ridden. It was kind of a symbol for how badly the City itself was run.

Fortunately, starting with Mayor Rudolph Guliani’s administration, and continuing with Mike Bloomberg’s, the NYC metro system as a whole has improved immensely. This is a current blog, so our ratings will be for the NYC system as it is now. In contrast to places like Washington DC, and Los Angeles, NYC’s metro does not feel quite as uniform and controlled. This is partly a result of the long history of the subway in NYC, and gives the system a certain quirkiness and definite character.

In keeping with the feel of more organic growth, there are a lot of excellent pieces of art, that feel as though they were just pushed in here and there. Though the legendary graffiti artists who used to beautify (at least in the eyes of this beholder) the subway cars with spray painted art are a thing of the distant past, there is beautiful art in the form of murals and mosaics all over the metro, and much of it really does feel like some artist slipped in and did it for love and without permission.

Another added benefit is that the NYC metro is used by a huge percentage, and cross section of the population of NYC. This means that NYC’s wonderful diversity and multiculturalism are on display everyday for a rider. The Train Cowboy also does not mind that there are so many beautiful, sophisticated NYC chicks on the trains.

Some negatives, whoever came up with the naming system, using numbers and letters, is an idiot. And whoever is responsible for continuing this system is far to set in their ways. Seriously, a simple color coded system (Green line, Purple line, Orange line etc) or a destination line (the Queens express etc.) should be implemented. NYC may never make this smart move because so many New Yorkers love to refer to their lines “oh, I just take the 6 train all the way there…” and in truth this remains the ever more tourist friendly, Disney-fied NYC’s last bastion of the “welcome to New York, now leave” attitude of the past.

The system is reasonably clean, and the efforts to keep it clean are obvious, with cleaning workers often visible at work, still given the volumes of people, the system is often a bit grubby. Still given the number of commuters, the train king will accept a little grime.A benefit is that while there are some long walks within stations, often it’s a very short walk from the train platform to the street above.Finally, there is no question that this is a system that runs well and on time. There are delays, but given the volume of trains, buses and riders, it must be noted that NYC’s percentage of on time arrivals is absurdly high.In summary, this is America’s best metro system.

Trains: 9 out of 10
Buses: 9 out of ten
Cleanliness/Art: 7 out of 10 not as clean as it should be, but the art is fun and organic.
Usage: 10 out of 10
Timeliness: 9 out of 10
Crown Jewel: Taking the train to Yankee Stadium on a gameday. +5
Total: 98% A+

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Tokyo is Japan’s New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, all rolled into one giant megalopolis. Although 50% of Japanese adults own cars, Tokyo is a public transportation city, and the system is a very good one.

The Tokyo metro system uses trains, subways and buses. Make no mistake, this is a massive operation. The Tokyo metro is a giant bear of a system-- the Amazon river of train systems, stretching out forever. In truth, Japan itself almost feels like an extension of the Tokyo train system with train lines running out of the Kanto plain to all over Japan. There are trains that take you right to the beaches in Kyushu, the ski slopes in Sapporro and trains that take you right to the base of mountains for hiking. There is not a train right to the base of Mt. Fuji, but the Train Cowboy believes this is more a gesture of respect to Fuji-san’s surrounding nature, than a shortcoming of the system. (Fuji-san is well served by trains to a nearby town and by buses to the trails.)

Like everything in Japan, the Tokyo Metro is incredibly clean. Everything is spotless. This is the cleanest metro system the Train Cowboy has every seen. Add to this the fact that the Japanese as a people have something of an obsession with cleanliness both environmentally and personally, and the whole experience is rather sweet smelling. While many metro systems feature a lot of body odor, Tokyo’s smells great. Everyone on the train is clean, well groomed, and quiet.

The Tokyo subway is however incredibly crowded. Shinjuku, the city’s most busy station, handles well over 2.5 million people everyday, making it the busiest metro station in the world. Occasionally, there are even strong young Japanese men, wearing white gloves, who are employed to push people onto the train. Incredibly, this works rather well and gets people onto the trains more efficiently. (The Train Cowboy chuckles at the idea of New Yorkers being pushed onto their trains.)

The Tokyo trains are so crowded in fact, that you really cannot move. Add to this the facts that the average train commute in Japan is 90 minutes each way and that many Japanese must get up extremely early to get to work and an interesting phenomenon occurs. Frequently, people will fall asleep standing up. The Train Cowboy actually mastered the technique. The general practice is to put one hand up on a bar or handle above the head and then cracle one’s head in the elbow crook. In truth, many people manage to sleep even without having an arm up to hold their head.
(In addition, there are always many people snoozing away in seats they have managed to grab.

The ultra low crime rate in Japan means this is safe—don’t try it on most metro systems… you may wake up without a watch, belt, shoes or worse…

On an historic note, Shibuya station is the home of a statue honoring Hachiko the dog. The story of Hachiko is one of loyalty. Hachiko would meet his owner, a University of Tokyo professor, each day at Shibuya station. Sadly, his master died at work one day. Hachiko continued to come to Shibuya station at the precise time to meet his former owner's evening train. Hachiko continued to do this for 10 YEARS. Now, there is a statue, commemorating the loyalty of this sweet dog. The statue, which is very beautiful, is now a vibrant meeting place for young and old. At any given time there are more than 50 people around the statue waiting for their pals. There is a wonderful atmosphere. The Train Cowboy loves to tell people, “I’ll meet you at Hachiko at 9pm!”

While most people keep to themselves on the Tokyo metro, The Train Cowboy likes to get to know the locals, and as a gaijin, this is easy, and accepted. (In fact, the Train Cowboy has met some very beautiful women on the Tokyo trains… but that is material for a different blog… 8>) Still, if you are visiting, this is a fun aspect of the trains of Tokyo. Another cool ritual of the Tokyo system involves the employees, who benefit from an excellent esprit de corps. One example involves the drivers of buses, who always wave to one another as their buses pass, and the caboose monitors on the trains, who wave to their caboose counterparts as trains trail off away from each other in opposite directions.

The Tokyo metro has pretty good coverage, with the city’s central region particularly well serviced. The circle running Yamanote is the system’s most famous, and for many the most desirable subway “address”. One negative is the great size of the system, and number of different trains has lead to some integration problems. The Train Cowboy was shocked to have to leave the rail system and walk several blocks to reach a privately run subway system. These stations should be integrated and connected, even if you have to pay for entrance separately.The other negative is that the trains do not run all night, stopping around midnight most nights and not starting up again until 5am. This results in late night partiers having to stay in their nightclubs, even after they just want to sleep. A city with Tokyo’s global stature should have trains that run all night.

Trains 9 out of ten (one point taken for not running all night)
Buses 10 out of tenCleanliness/Art 9 out of 10 The cleanest and sweetest smelling metro system in the Universe! But lacks art.
Usage 10 out of ten
Timeliness 10 out of ten, the trains run to the second.
Crown Jewel: Hachiko the Loyal Dog.
Total: 100% A+