This video from the MTA shows some of the vintage technologies that are still in use to control many of the NYC's subway lines and how they are upgrading (ve. ry. slow. ly.) to safer and more reliable computerized systems. Some of control systems are more than 80 years old.
The New Yorker did a short feature on Charlie Pellett, the voice of the NYC subway.
This deep, sometimes vexing voice -- which also apologizes for "unavoidable delays" -- belongs to a man named Charlie Pellett. A radio anchor for Bloomberg News, Pellett was raised in London but cultivated an American accent by listening to the radio. His work for the M.T.A., which is done on a volunteer basis, is the only non-reporting voice-over work that he's done.
The WNYC Data News Team is looking for the longest possible NYC subway ride. The MTA says the longest direct trip is 38 miles, but WNYC found one that's 148 miles, requiring 45 transfers. They're running a little competition to see who can find a longer ride...check the rules for more details (short version: you can repeat stations but not track segments). This is basically a variant of the travelling salesman problem, yes? Anyone care to take a crack at it? (via @ryandawidjan)
For decades, authorities treated subway graffiti like it was a sanitation issue. Gunn believed that graffiti was a symptom of larger systemic problems. After all, trains were derailing nearly every two weeks. In 1981 there were 1,800 subway car fires -- that's nearly five a day, every day of the year!
When Gunn launched his "Clean Trains" program, it was not only about cleaning up the trains aesthetically, but making them function well, too. Clean trains, Gunn believed, would be a symbol of a rehabilitated transit system.
I love this rendering of an abandoned Paris Metro station reimagined as a swimming pool:
This and several other renderings were created by OXO Associates for Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet's Paris mayoral race. The others imagine subway stations turned into theaters, nightclubs, and underground parks.
Mini Metro is an upcoming game in the style of Sim City, except you're only building subway lines.
Mini Metro is an upcoming minimalistic subway layout game. Your small city starts with only three unconnected stations. Your task is to draw routes between the stations to connect them with subway lines. Everything but the line layout is handled automatically; trains run along the lines as quickly as they can, and the commuters decide which trains to board and where to make transfers.
However the city is constantly growing, along with the transport needs of its population. How long can you keep the subway system running before it grinds to a halt?
Oh man, this is great fun for transportation nerds. Site says it'll be out in "early 2014" for PC, Mac, Linux, iPad, and Android. You can play an early version on the site or d/l an alpha version for OS X, Windows, or Linux.
We have discovered the most realistic thing about Mini Metro: If you want to win, think of these "trains" as buses.
In real rail transit systems, you cannot simply abandon a rail line and build a new one -- certainly not just to handle an overcrowding problem. But to do well in Mini Metro you must revise the network repeatedly, and the last phase of the game you'll deploy lots of one-time-only temporary lines In fact, for best results, make sure you also have a spare tunnel, so that if you have to get a train quickly to a station on an island, you can build a temporary line to a destination across the water, deleting it after use.
To a rail engineer, all this is ridiculous, but to a transit network designer, it's the game's most realistic feature.
Build a subway line to run one train once, then tear it out? No, this is not how rail transit works, but it's very much how buses work, and it's good thing, too. That's why buses provide a much better sandbox for network design thinking. When you build powerful networks with buses, mistakes cost thousands rather than billions, so they're more likely to be repaired. Real-life transit networks do need to evolve, usually from radial beginnings to more gridlike structures.
Ah, the good old days, when people used to talk to each other in public rather than looking at their phones or listening to headphones all the time. Except that's not been the case for awhile as XKCD demonstrates with a series of quotes from various publications dating back to 1871. This is from William Smith's Morley: Ancient and Modern published in 1886.
With the advent of cheap newspapers and superior means of locomotion... the dreamy quiet old days are over... for men now live think and work at express speed. They have their Mercury or Post laid on their breakfast table in the early morning, and if they are too hurried to snatch from it the news during that meal, they carry it off, to be sulkily read as they travel... leaving them no time to talk with the friend who may share the compartment with them... the hurry and bustle of modern life... lacks the quiet and repose of the period when our forefathers, the day's work done, took their ease...
In 1946, a young Stanley Kubrick worked as a photographer for Look magazine and took this shot of NYC subway commuters reading newspapers:
File this one under crying at work: a man finds a newborn on a subway platform and he and his partner adopt him and then blub blub blub, I'm sorry I have to go there's something in both my eyes and my nose.
Three months later, Danny appeared in family court to give an account of finding the baby. Suddenly, the judge asked, "Would you be interested in adopting this baby?" The question stunned everyone in the courtroom, everyone except for Danny, who answered, simply, "Yes."
"But I know it's not that easy," he said.
"Well, it can be," assured the judge before barking off orders to commence with making him and, by extension, me, parents-to-be.
From Harlem and upper Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens and the Atlantic Ocean - New York city's A Line subway route covers over 30 miles, takes two hours to ride from end to end, and is the inspiration for one of jazz's best known tunes.
Here -- with archive images and vibrant present-day photographs from Melanie Burford -- New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik takes a ride on one of today's A trains, and explores the communities living along the route.
As I went down the subway stairs, through the turnstile, and onto the darkened station platform, a sinking sense of fear gripped me. I grew alert, and looked around to see who might be standing by, waiting to attack. The subway was dangerous at any time of the day or night, and everyone who rode it knew this and was on guard at all times; a day didn't go by without the newspapers reporting yet another hideous subway crime. Passengers on the platform looked at me, with my expensive camera around my neck, in a way that made me feel like a tourist-or a deranged person.
Alexander Chen made a version of the NYC subway map that plays music as the trains intersect routes.
At www.mta.me, Conductor turns the New York subway system into an interactive string instrument. Using the MTA's actual subway schedule, the piece begins in realtime by spawning trains which departed in the last minute, then continues accelerating through a 24 hour loop. The visuals are based on Massimo Vignelli's 1972 diagram.
A profile of the woman who does the announcements -- the ones you can actually understand -- for the NYC subway. Since becoming "the voice", she hasn't actually ridden the subway.
On the telephone, her voice does not have quite as much oomph as it does on the subway. "My husband says he doesn't hear the nice voice as often as he'd like," she said.
But the nice voice cannot be disobeyed. Before 9/11, when they lived in Louisville, Ky., he drove to the airport to pick up her. He was early. He parked right in front of the terminal. He could hear her on the public-address system, saying no one was supposed to park there.
A traffic officer came along and said he had to follow the voice's orders.
Her husband said, "I don't listen to that voice at home; I'm not going to listen to it here."
As part of a two-person team, the incumbent of this position is responsible for the design and timely updating of NYCT's printed and online map products, including the extensive service schedule panels on the reverse side of all "pocket" bus maps; researching and responding to map design and information issues; identifying, researching, recommending, and adapting evolving map drawing and production technologies; adapting Transit's map products to the agency website and providing modified products for third party publications; advising on or producing custom maps for major agency initiatives and proposals; advising and assisting on other product design, graphics technology procurements and related staff training for all graphics services in Marketing and Service Information.
This has to be some kottke.org reader's dream job...go get it!
While I felt that it was important to show certain shapes aboveground, I also felt that it was important to leave out certain pieces of belowground information. There are several places where the subway tunnels cross and overlap each other beneath the surface. This may be important information for city workers or utility companies trying to make repairs, but for the average commuter, showing these interactions just creates visual noise. I tried to reduce that noise by cleanly separating the lines on the map so they don't overlap. Consider the different depictions of the 4 line and the 5 line in the Bronx; sure, the MTA's paths may be accurate, but they're also confusing, and riders don't really need to see those particular details to understand where they're going.
The new subway map makes Manhattan even bigger, reduces Staten Island and continues to buck the trend of the angular maps once used here and still preferred in many other major cities. Detailed information on bus connections that was added in 1998 has been considerably shortened.
Manhattan will be shown on the map as nearly twice as wide as in real life. Cut back on the chili-cheese fries, my friend!
This was my present to my nephew for his 3rd birthday. He loves, loves, loves the subway so my sister asked me if I could make a custom map with all the places that mean something to him on the poster.
A recent Improv Everywhere endeavor had a photo booth set up in a New York subway car. They told riders that the MTA had hired them to take photographs of every person who used the subway, and that there would be a yearbook at the end of the year. The result was one interesting, if misinformed, class.
At best, it would take 167 inbound lanes, or 84 copies of the Queens Midtown Tunnel, to carry what the NYC Subway carries over 22 inbound tracks through 12 tunnels and 2 (partial) bridges. At worst, 200 new copies of 5th Avenue. Somewhere in the middle would be 67 West Side Highways or 76 Brooklyn Bridges. And this neglects the Long Island Railroad, Metro North, NJ Transit, and PATH systems entirely.
Kinda puts the subway in perspective, doesn't it? And don't miss the map at the bottom that shows the size of the parking lots needed for all those cars.
Exit Strategy NYC is an iPhone app that tells you where to get on the subway train so as to be in an optimal position when you get off.
Taking the 1 train uptown to 28th street? Get on right behind the middle conductor. Need to transfer to the L at Union Square from the N downtown? Ride in the 1st car. Detailed diagrams eliminate the guesswork and frustration from your ride, making your subway trip easier and faster.
On the other hand, a casual study of the NYC subway map reveals the following brand names already in use:
Museum of Natural History
World Trade Center
But, without exception, station names are derived from nearby landmarks: streets, airports, schools, stadiums, squares, parks, etc.
I really like the subway travel time heatmaps on Triptrop NYC.
Put in an address and you get a map of how far away everything is using the subway. 15 minutes, forty minutes, two hours -- all set up with nice little colors. That's pretty easy, I think. Triptrop can help you find a convenient place to live. It's also a nice way to tell your friend to stop inviting you to the purple part of the Bronx, or to prove that the G isn't actually that bad.
The result, after much whacking, is, I think, compelling, but you'll have to see for yourself. The general idea it that the history of subway ridership tells a story about the history of a neighborhood that is much richer than the overall trend. An example, below, shows the wild comeback of inner Williamsburg, and how the growth decays at each successive stop away from Manhattan on the L train.
Drain (1975) MTA and unknown artists Mixed Media on Metal and Concrete
Describing the irresistibility of natural urges, and situated thematically near the restroom, this drainage grate offers deliverance. Consequently, here lies an indeliable yellow nitrogen stain, as evidence of the passings of hundreds, if not thousands of strained commuters. Each straphanger, surreptitiously seeking relief, has helped create this totally organic, revolutionary art piece.
So why did the Paris Metro (now operated by the RATP) reject Beck's clear simplification of their beloved system? One reason is visible at each station entrance; Parisians use the maps here as a free public service to help them find their way round the city - the ubiquitous geographic wall map is more than just a Metro plan.
The connoisseur picks out from the menu the girl of his choice, dressed either as a schoolgirl or office receptionist. This girl then beckons him through the window of a mock-up train carriage, which not only broadcasts station announcements, but even shakes and rattles.
Real-life incidents of subway train groping are on the decline, in part because more women are reporting them and the subway offering women-only cars during peak times.
Update: The inbox consensus seems clustered around the opinion that this train is running on the contemporary 4/5/6 line. Here's a 1904 map which shows the then-IRT line in question (in red). At 42nd St, the line runs crosstown to Times Square and then up the 1/2/3. (thx jason et al.)
As if this plethora of signs were not enough, the subway system also had a bewildering variety of other porcelain enamel and hand-painted signs. The porcelain enamel signs, either hung from the ceiling or posted on the walls, were directional as well as informational. The directional signs included those on the outside of the station entrances as well as those intended for the corridors and platforms underground. Many of the informational signs warned against criminal, dangerous or unhealthy behavior: no peddling wares, no leaning over the tracks, no crossing the tracks, no smoking, no spitting. The directional and informational ones were made by Nelke Veribrite Signs and the Baltimore Enamel Company, while the behavioral ones were the product of the Manhattan Dial Company. Most were lettered in some form of sans serif capitals-regular, condensed, square-countered, chamfered, outlined-though some were in bracketed or slab serif roman capitals. They were usually white letters on a colored background (often dark green for the IND and dark blue for the IRT and BMT), yet many were also black on a white background. There was no house style.
What is to modern eyes a beautiful disorder of tiled text and hand-painted enamel became an embarrassing shambles in the 70s and 80s. It was only in late 1989 that Helvetica became the official typeface for New York City subway system signage...about 20 years too late to prevent the current signage from looking dated.
We've just added comprehensive transit info for the entire New York metro region, encompassing subway, commuter rail, bus and ferry services from the Metropolitan Transit Agency (MTA), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New Jersey Transit and the City of New York.
One feature I'd like: a quick at-a-glance comparison of the three travel methods (walking, subway/train, driving) to see which is going to take less time.
"I think it's absolutely changed travel habits in the New York region, and it's been a boon for the economy as well," said Andrew Albert, who represents transit riders on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "Where once you might have used it more sparingly because you had a finite number of trips, you're more likely to take a trip during your lunch break, go shopping perhaps or go to dinner somewhere," he said.
Update:Mike Frumin notes that the Times excluded from their graph an important piece of information: the break-even point of the 30-day MetroCard. I used to get a monthly card but now pay by the ride because I don't take the subway everyday anymore and would therefore find myself in Frumin's "losing $$$$$" zone.
A chaperone on one of Arthur's school trips told me something he overheard when all the kids were neatly lined up in rows of two. The girl holding Arthur's hand asked him, "Have you heard of Peter Pan?" "No," he replied, "have you heard of Metro North?"
In a stairway leading down to the subway platform of the N/Q Canal St. stop, a pair of doors face each other on a landing. About every three days for more than a year, I've seen graffiti painted on both doors. Each time, the day after the graffiti appears, so does a fresh coat of cream-colored paint. By my count, those doors are covered in at least 100 coats of paint and must be more than an inch thicker than they were last year.
Transit Maps of the World is the first and only comprehensive collection of historic and current maps of every rapid-transit system on earth. Using glorious, colorful graphics, Mark Ovenden traces the history of mass transit-including rare and historic maps, diagrams, and photographs, some available for the first time since their original publication. Transit Maps is the graphic designer's new bible, the transport enthusiast's dream collection, and a coffee-table essential for everyone who's ever traveled in a city.
Not sure when these features were added, but Google Maps now displays public transportation stops (NYC subway, the T in Boston, the L in Chicago) and building outlines for metropolitan areas. Here's a shot of the West Village in NYC:
A pair of trend maps for 2007, both based on subway maps. The top one depicts the top online companies/brands & how they're connected while the bottom one deals with ideas (with the River of Consciousness standing in for the Thames).
Both maps were found in this article about internet predictions in 2007. I don't know about you, but I find these types of maps fun to look at, but completely inscrutable informationally speaking. Surely there's a more enlightening way to present this information than in Tube map form.
Wow, an interactive transit map for NYC. I haven't kept up with all the Google/Yahoo Maps subway mashups, but this one is pretty impressive. Click start and end points and it tells you which subway to board and how long the trip will take, including walking time.
Ok, one last wrap-up post about Hong Kong and then we're focusing on the matter at hand in Bangkok (short summary: having a great time so far here). So, three things I really liked about/in Hong Kong and then some miscellaneous stuff.
1. Octopus cards. I really can't say enough about how cool these cards are. Wikipedia provides a quickie definition: "The Octopus card is a rechargeable contactless stored value smart card used for electronic payment in online or offline systems in Hong Kong." It's a pay-as-you go stored value card...you put $100 bucks on it and "recharge" the card when it's empty (or when it's even more than empty...as long as your balance is positive when you use it, you can go into a HK$35 deficit, which you pay when you recharge the card). You can use it on pratically any public transportation in the city: buses, trains, MTR, trams, ferries, etc. It works with vending machines, at 7-Eleven, McDonald's, Starbucks, and the supermarket. You don't need to take it out of your wallet or purse to use it, just hold it near the sensor. Your card is not tied to your identity...there's no PIN, you can pay cash, they don't need to know your credit card number, SS#, or anything like that. They even make watches and mobile phones that have Octopus built it, so your phone (or watch) becomes your wallet. Mayor Bloomberg, if you're listening, NYC needs this.
2. The on-train maps for the MTR. Here's a (sort of blurry) photo (taken with my cameraphone):
The current stop blinks red -- in this case, Tsim Sha Tsui (blinking not shown, obviously) -- with the subsequent stops lit in red. If the next stop connects to another line, that line blinks as well. A small green arrow indicates which direction you're traveling and there's an indictor (not shown) which lights up either "exit this side" or "exit other side" depending which way the doors are going to open. Great design.
3. Muji! We located one in Langham Place (an uber-story mall) in Mong Kok (for reference, the store in Silvercord in TST listed on their site has closed). Muji is kind of hard to describe if you've never been to one of their stores before (and if you live in the US, you probably haven't because they're aren't any, aside from a small outpost in the MoMA Store). Adam (see previous link) roughly translates the name as "No Brand, Good Product", so you can see why I like it so much. They sell a wide variety of products (take a look at their Japanese-only online store for an idea of what they carry); at the Monk Kok store, they had snacks & drinks, some furniture (made out of sturdy cardboard), their signature pens and notebooks (a display of the former was completely surrounded by a moat of teenaged girls, so much so that I didn't get a chance to test any of the super-thin pens), some clothes (including some great pants that they didn't have in anything approaching my size), dishes, cosmetics, bath products, and containers of all shapes, sizes, and uses. I wanted one of everything, but settled for a couple of shirts (with absolutely no logos or markings, inside or out, to indictate that they are Muji products).
m1. Big Buddha, worth the trip. It'll better when the tram from Tung Chung and back is built, although then you'll miss the boat ride (fun) and the bus ride (harrowing at times).
m2. The Peak Tram. Touristy, but also worth the trip. The weird/ugly anvil-shaped building at the top is currently under construction, so the views will be much better when its finished. Go at night for the best view.
m3. The view from the waterfront in Kowloon of the Hong Kong skyline at night is one of the best in the world.
m4. Speaking of, Hong Kong is a night-time city. All the buildings are lit up, there's a nightly light show at 8pm (think Laser Floyd without the music), and buildings that appear monolithic in the daytime transform at night, either by disappearing into the darkness while leaving a graceful trace of their outline or acting as huge screens for projected light shows. Reminded me of Vegas in this respect.
m5. We had tea in the lobby of the InterContinental Hotel (go for the view, it's incredible) and the live band played the theme song from The Lord of the Rings. I tried to get a recording of it with my phone (iPod was back in our hotel room), but it didn't turn out so well. Very weird; we were cracking up and expecting the theme from Superman or even 3's Company to follow.
m6. Oh, I'm sure there's more, so I'll add it here as I think of stuff.
We've arrived in Hong Kong, over-stuffed on airplane food and our bodies have no idea what time it is. Apparently there's a time change of some sort. (Why was I not told about this?!??!) On the way over, in between naps, stuffing my face, and shooting withering looks (in my imagination) at the jerk business man seated to my right, I observed on the TV screen that we were passing directly over the north pole (geo, not magnetic). This seems a bit crazy, but the earth isn't flat and it spins, so you've got to go north to go south.
Even though we seem to have lost a few days to travel and international date lines, we set out undeterred this morning to explore the area around our hotel in Kowloon. The city didn't seem to be awake as early as we were, but we saw plenty of places to head back to later in the day and week. And people are doing tai chi in parks all over the place, wherever the mood strikes them. Our hotel and the promenade nearby both have free tai chi classes some mornings; we're definitely going to do that one of these mornings. We also saw an impromptu musical performance and fan dancing in Kowloon Park near the Chinese Garden.
After walking for a bit in the market areas around Shanghai & Temple Streets, we purchased Octopus cards and hopped on the subway, which we've been told is one of the best in the world. Fast, clean, and the signage is great. I'll try to remember to take a photo of the on-train maps with the direction arrows...very handy.
The Onion: Police Search of Backpack Reveals Explosive Bestseller. "The Union Square bestseller is the latest in a series of dramatic items discovered in New York since random subway bag searches began. On July 27, a hip-hop CD containing over 75 F-bombs led to the suspension of train service for 18 hours."
A citizen's guide to refusing NYC subway searches. "As innocent citizens become increasingly accustomed to being searched by the police, politicians and police agencies are empowered to further expand the number of places where all are considered guilty until proven innocent."