It seems as if no reference to New York City’s subway system is complete without a dig at it and a touch of snark. Sometimes it even seems as if hating the subway is as essential to New Yorkers as using it to get around.
We’re just as guilty as anybody of ragging on the much-maligned method of transit and we’ve had plenty of good reasons—delays, derailments, and train traffic. The heat, the crowds, the annoying riders, the oft-broken ticket machines and oh-so-long waits. Plus, the politics of everyone blaming each other wasn't too fun, either.
But maybe we’ve been focusing a little too much on the negatives. In a recent study by the urban-planning company Arcadis, NYC subways were ranked as the country’s #1 most sustainable transit system across some twenty-plus factors.
In light of such an honor, it may be time to stop and reflect for a moment on what the subway system offers us, what a gargantuan task we ask of it every single day. As of last year, average weekday subway ridership was 5.7 million—the highest since 1948. Annual ridership of the trains was an even more staggering 1.8 billion. The subway’s 6,418 cars make 8,200 weekly trips and traveled a total of 358 million miles in 2016.
Through the subway, we have access to 22 interconnected routes, many of which feature across-the-platform transfers between express and local service. We have access to all 5 boroughs, connections to buses and railroads, and to a whopping 665 mainline miles of track. And the oldest 28 of the current 472 total stations have been granting us all this since all the way back in 1904!
Without even changing trains, we can take the A more than 31 miles from 207th Street in Manhattan to Far Rockaway in Queens, or transfer onto it from the 2 Train to travel a total of more than 38 miles—all for only the low low price of $2.75 a ride.
Also contributing to the system's high ranking is the number of New Yorkers who use public transit compared to a car to commute and its high availability of wheelchair access.
For people who can’t afford to drive or who have disabilities that make driving difficult, a transit system like the subway—even a flawed one—can make an essential contribution to their ability to earn a living wage and maintain a higher quality of life.
The subway also contains, as attested to by this Insta picture, many a hot guy reading for the gals to ogle and many a cute pup. It offers us, since 2015, free wifi service. It offers us handrails and poles to grab onto when every seat has been filled.
It offers us an opportunity to express our individuality by lovingly defacing its ads, many spirited performances in both cars and stations and plenty of beautiful art. The MTA's Arts for Transit program even works to commission and fund the unique murals and mosaics that give the subway its unique character.
You may have to walk a few blocks longer than you feel like walking to get to a station, or transfer lines a few more times than comfort would dictate. You may have to tolerate getting a little too up close and personal with a stranger, an unruly homeless man or two.
Maybe you will arrive a bit later than you expected at your destination. Occasionally, your line will be down for repairs and you will have to completely restructure your route. But most of the time, the subway will, in fact, get you where you need to go.
We bitterly regret all of the hours of work the subway has caused us to miss but what about all of the hours of work we owe to it?
Why not, to update J.F.K.'s famous query, ask not (for once) what the subway can do for us, but what we can do for the subway?
We’re not saying that improvements aren’t needed, that there isn’t progress to be had. Because there is.
But especially as Thanksgiving approaches, why not be grateful and kind instead of cynical and mean to our well-meaning trains and the many hard workers and well-designed system that keeps them running?
Instead of complaining, let's celebrate the humble, everyday victories. There are plenty to go around.[via New York Post] [Feature Image Courtesy Instagram]