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+