New York Subway
September 30, 2008 8:52 AM   Subscribe

London Underground blogger Annie Mole experiences the New York subway for the first time here -> 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
posted by feelinglistless (35 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Makes me miss New York, but then I realize it's because she hasn't described the smell yet.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:01 AM on September 30, 2008

Buskers on the subway carriages actually weren't treated with scorn or total indifference

This is terribly wrong.
posted by Artw at 9:13 AM on September 30, 2008

Wrong factually or morally?
posted by josher71 at 9:15 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wrong in that it could lead to eye contact or people demanding you acknowledge their existence as human beings.
posted by Artw at 9:24 AM on September 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

That's why I don't go to meetups.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:35 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Very cool. The link to the fashion victim Flickr photo set was pretty good.

Subways seem to be a great way to characterize a city, much more so than airports.
posted by Xoebe at 9:37 AM on September 30, 2008

aw, she was in grand central but didn't get to see the shuttle trains completely covered from stem to stern in a single united advertisement for Mad Men. She would have like that, I think.
posted by shmegegge at 9:53 AM on September 30, 2008

This cheered me up more than was strictly justified. Thanks feelinglistless.
posted by shothotbot at 9:57 AM on September 30, 2008

After living in New York for some years I travelled to London for the first time in 1998. Although I thought myself a bit hardened, I was taken aback by a brash advertisement in the underground. Entire cars were done up with the overhead grab handles appearing exactly like roll-on deodorant applicators, with accompanying signage saying something like "Don't you wish the person next to you used our product?"
posted by exogenous at 10:01 AM on September 30, 2008

No link to the new New York subway support on Google Maps?
posted by GuyZero at 10:03 AM on September 30, 2008

hee hee
posted by snofoam at 10:29 AM on September 30, 2008

At the entrance into the subway platform at Grand Central Station, I was quite charmed by the pixelboard signs instructing that children should hold their parents' hands while on the escalator.

It is not enough often enough that I see signs asking people to hold hands.

And Xoebe is right: subways carry far more character than airports. I have been in the airports of a dozen cities with subways and while I can barely find anything to distinguish one airport from the next, each subway conjures up a vivid impression. On a crowded Paris m├ętro a year ago, I saw an elegant thirtyish woman wrinkle her nose at her neighbour's nearby armpits, reach into her blouse pocket and take out a tiny vial of perfume, a few drops of which she then dabbed beneath her nostrils. Nothing like that ever happened in my presence at Orly or Charles de Gaulle.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:51 AM on September 30, 2008

Legwarmers. Wow are they making a comeback? I did expect her to leap off the District line and start singing "Fame! I'm gonna live forever".

Wow, she's a couple of years behind this one!

You know, I'm all into the public transit nerd thing normally (not one myself, but have friends who are), and in that sense the blog is cute ... but even though I actually like fashion critiques even more, that aspect of the blog really bugs me somehow. It's not that I like what people are wearing, it's that it seems really nitpicky and a bit superior - my instant reaction is, "Oh, what are you wearing, then?" Not at all how I respond to, say, What Not to Wear, You Look Fab, or Go Fug Yourself, even though all three sources are quite opinionated and the last can be actively nasty towards its targets.
posted by bettafish at 11:21 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Baby legwarmers
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on September 30, 2008

That made me a little crazy: She called everything the wrong name and just seemed clueless for someone who likes subways. On the other hand, she was really excited and cute. So I am just so torn.

Note for out-of-towners confused by how you designate a train: It is "the 1/L/7/A/whatever" unless you are are really old or old-school and call it by its route ("an 8th Avenue train/local/express"). If it doesn't matter which you take, you can give both options "the 4-5."

Second note: Many stations have different names based on the train you are taking. Everything in Manhattan on the L is 14th Street, but most of the F is Sixth Avenue. Thus where the F and L meet is 14th for the 6 but Sixth for the L. In the examples she gave, stations are named after their location and their prime tourist attraction. That's to help you confuddled little tourists out. And in Queens, where tourists don't go, stations have two names because they have both the street number and the street's old name: It is called 23rd-Ely because Ely was renamed 23rd.

Ah, now I feel better.
posted by dame at 11:52 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Thanks. This was somehow just the thing I needed this afternoon, sitting here in the middle of the cornfields of central Illinois.
posted by washburn at 11:55 AM on September 30, 2008

That's because New York Subway signage is hopelessly confusing and unhelpful.
posted by Artw at 11:56 AM on September 30, 2008

yet the guy next to her is only in an American football style T-shirt

I would just like to point out that the shirt in question, a ringer T with 3/4-length sleeves, would be more accurately described as a baseball shirt.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:01 PM on September 30, 2008

That's because New York Subway signage is hopelessly confusing and unhelpful.

I guess that's why 8 million people manage to use it just fine. I'm guessing it's because tourists are dumb. We're probably both wrong.
posted by dame at 12:10 PM on September 30, 2008

Is this the place to lambaste the Chicago Transit Authority for renaming all its Loop subway stations to include "...and State" after the name of the cross-street a year or two ago? We know it's State. Bring back "This ... is Grand," people!
posted by enn at 12:24 PM on September 30, 2008

Xoebe: "Subways seem to be a great way to characterize a city, much more so than airports."

Yea, the fact that my city's subway system has four whole stops and doesn't run after midnight pins us pretty well.
posted by octothorpe at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2008

We have a monorail!
posted by Artw at 12:52 PM on September 30, 2008

exogenous Sounds like a slightly toned down version of Tokyo train advertising. I never saw a strap that didn't have an ad of some sort. Plus banners hanging from the ceiling. Plus giant floor ads near the turnstiles.

And, on the Yamanote Loop video displays above the doors that alternated between an active map showing the train's position on the route and ETA to the next station, video advertisements, and some moderately amusing "learn English in 1 minute" videos.

I was really surprised at how advertising free the LA metro is, but that may be because its still fairly new, I dunno.
posted by sotonohito at 1:01 PM on September 30, 2008

Lots of high-tech advertising is cool, but those deodorant strap hangers were just something I didn't want to touch. Speaking of gross, I wonder if the blogger saw any ads for Dr. Zizmor?
posted by exogenous at 1:29 PM on September 30, 2008

Artw, do you by chance live in North Haverbrook?
posted by adamms222 at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh man, this is reminding me of so many neat little events I've experienced on the subway, and associated jokes.

- From I think a New Yorker cartoon, a PA announcement addressed to passengers waiting on a platform: "Attention: There is a very dangerous grrble grrble grrble." (It's funnier when you've heard the crappy PA system at Jay St./Borough Hall.)

- The conductor with a really excellent Jamaican accent: "This is 14th St. You are on a 6th Avenue F train. Next stop, 23rd Street." Imagine hearing that and just assuming you would hear a "mon" after every sentence.

- Riding on a C train in Brooklyn, several young women put stickers over the "Do not lean on doors" signs. The stickers had the exact same graphic designs, but said things like "Do not fall in love". Oh hey, somebody else saw them!

- The time I got conned out of my metrocard. It sucked at the time, but I was impressed by the scam in retrospect.

Also, I've been to the NYC Transit Museum and the most interesting thing I learned was that the numbers and letters of the subway lines roughly correspond to the original three subway companies. The numbered lines belonged to the first subway company. I don't remember how the lettered lines break down, but the A/C and F lines were built and run by the same company, which is why they cross at Jay St./Borough Hall and W 4th.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:37 PM on September 30, 2008

To my mind, the relationship between the New York Subway and the London Underground mirrors the relationship between the two cities in general. They share many unwritten rules of behaviour, are hated (and loved) by the people who use them for many of the same reasons, and are the biggest magnets for out-and-out crazies each city possesses.

When I moved to New York, it was using the Subway for the first time that made me realise both how far I was from the Big Smoke that I loved and yet reassured me that the Big Apple could be a great place to live as well.

At first everything about it seemed so different - the signage, the architecture, the express lines, even silly things like "Watch the Gap" ("Mind" I would think, "the phrase is "Mind"). Yet the more I used it, the more I realised that if I ignored the showy stuff and looked at the way people behaved, the more familiar it seemed.

The Subway made this Englishman feel less of an alien (a legal alien) in New York.

In the end, the belief that the two cities shared a mentality - a mutual way of thinking and an attitude to life that transcended both their parent cultures - came to sum up my feelings of my whole time over there. New York, like London, is somewhere I am proud to call "home."

I've been back in my beloved London for two or three years now, yet my feelings for New York have not waned. I suspect that they never will.

The New York Subway played a big part in the formation of those feelings, and I'll always have a sneaky interest in its goings on. It also played a huge part in revitalising my interest in London Transport and gave me a newfound appreciation for both the services the Network provides and the people who keep it running.

Indeed, in a crazy, roundabout way the Subway was (I suppose) responsible for me eventually becoming a London Transport blogger myself - something that has ended up being far more rewarding (and tiring!) than I ever thought it would be.

Anyway, Annie is a great blogger, and I heartily recommend keeping an eye on her blog. What happens on the LU eventually happens on the Subway (smartcards anyone?) and vice-versa, so whatever side of the pond you're on, its a great place for transport geekery.

And I'm not just saying that because I'm on there as one of her "Favourite Links."

thirteenth bullet down for anyone who cares
posted by garius at 2:31 AM on October 1, 2008

"Subways seem to be a great way to characterize a city, much more so than airports."

This gives some home to Boston as being characterized as anything other than hell on Earth. The T is fairly manageable, though it would help to have a microchip implanted in your brain to switch lines sometimes because we here don't believe in signage. Anyhow, Logan is one of the inner circles of hell and if we have to characterize cities by airports, then Boston is an unholy abomination unto the Lord.

Are there any T bloggers? I think it would get boring to write "G-ddamn green line, effin' crowded again! WTF?!" every day.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:47 AM on October 1, 2008

To me, the biggest difference between the Underground and the NYC subway is how many tiny, low-ceilinged, one-way(!) pedestrian walkways there are in the Underground. It's much more warren-like. The uni-directional thing particularly seems very alien coming from NYC. (Now someone's going to come up with a place where it happens in New York.)
posted by yarrow at 8:25 AM on October 1, 2008

All I can say is that for casual users the Broadway/Nassau stop is a nightmare especially if you are using the JMZ.
posted by josher71 at 8:34 AM on October 1, 2008

In terms of signage I mean.
posted by josher71 at 8:34 AM on October 1, 2008

Ha! I have gotten on the wrong train there myself. The routing doesn't help matters, where a trains will go from Brooklyn, to Manhattan, to another part of Brooklyn, to Queens. When is the M train to Brooklyn not the M train to Brooklyn?
posted by exogenous at 9:18 AM on October 1, 2008

Let me just interject with: my experience on the NYC Subway last summer was one of my favorite parts of my week in the city. Sixty blocks in a matter of minutes? Hell, yes!

I live in a city with no trains, just halfassery in bussitudes.
posted by grubi at 11:34 AM on October 1, 2008

Her very first picture of the subway has one of my neighbors in it. It's a small town!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:21 PM on October 1, 2008

posted by Artw at 7:13 PM on October 1, 2008

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