New York Chronicles–Part II Subway drama

OMG NYC, did a crack fiend come up with the signage (or lack thereof) at your subway stations?!!

Did someone wake up one day and decide to make it impossible for a visitor to get from Point A to Point B in the same decade?  More importantly, did someone with severe psychosis come up with the weekend subway schedule?!

This may look like a subway map, but actually it's a roadmap to insanity.

I have used the subway in multiple countries on multiple continents.  Bar none, the signage in NYC is the worst!

Here are some of the low lights:

1.  I follow the signs at Columbus Circle to the downtown A train line.  They tell me to stand on the right side of the platform to catch the express train.  There is no signage for the local.

How the hell am I supposed to know if I can take the express?  There is no map or timetable that shows me what the routing is.  I have to then ask several strangers ( and hope they know what they are talking about) before I board.

2.  I end up shopping in Soho Saturday morning and enter the Spring St. station, attempting to head back uptown.  After waiting on the platform for 10 minutes, someone from the station yells that the uptown train doesn’t stop there.  I need to use the tunnel to get to the other side to take the downtown train one stop, change back over and then proceed uptown.   (Oh and because I had to exit the station before heading in the opposite direction, I had to pay twice.)

3.  One of the stations actually had a police- type ribbon on the side of the platform at which trains were not stopping that day.  (A friend of mine tried to warn me.  Not all trains stop at all stations on the weekend. )  How are visitors supposed to know that?  Are you supposed to travel with a Metropolitan Transportation Authority appointed psychic?

I’m surprised there aren’t more chalk drawings on the platform floor representing people who have died trying to figure out which train to take.

4.  There was a frustrated and frantic tourist from France who just wanted to get to JFK airport using the subway.  I heard him ask five different people.  No one could help him.  Then I noticed that there was an information booth one level above.  I suggested to him that he drag his bag upstairs to get some assistance.  I think he came very close to kissing me.

Now, let’s move on to my rant of Penn Station.  There are so many different train lines intersecting in that place, and of course, poor signage, that you literally can get lost down there for so long that you can enter in autumn and not find your way out until winter.

I thought it was going to be pretty simple.  Get off of the subway and get on the train to Newark Airport.


First of all, you have to know that you want New Jersey Transit.  Not Amtrak and certainly not the L.I.R.R. aka Long Island Rail Road.

However, “knowing” and “finding” are two different things.  And even when you find the NJ Transit area of the station, you have to find which train line goes to Newark Airport.  You would think it would be posted somewhere, but it isn’t.  (I had to locate a spaghetti map like the one above, identify the two lines that run through the airport and then try to find the name of the last stop so that I could identify which train to board.)

Oh, then there’s the matter of paying for the ticket.  I found an automated kiosk and figured out the right buttons to press.  I inserted a $20 bill.  What do you think came out of the change slot?

Love the woman; hate the coins.

Yeah, a pile of Susan B. Anthony dollar coins and no receipt.  Nothing like pouring a bunch of metal into your jean pocket to set off those TSA alarms.

Then, as I exited the train at Newark Airport, they collected the tickets.  I used cash to pay, they didn’t give me a receipt and I no longer have the ticket stub.  It’s like Mission Impossible.  They’ve erased all evidence that I ever took the train.

Honestly, NYC.  Check out Paris, London and other cities that know how to properly manage their subway systems so that tourists don’t want to fling themselves onto the third rail.

Oh, and would it kill you to put in some escalators?!

Categories: Travel drama , Uncategorized

1 comment

1 Hallie { 10.04.11 at 7:03 am }

Penn Station is terrible. I’ve taken Amtrak or NJ Transit there many times. Locating NJ Transit is always an adventure. Even exiting on the Avenue you want can be a major challenge. I read an article in the NYT awhile back that they are working on improving the signage. Good luck with that. BTW, you can also take Amtrak to Newark Airport. It’s probably more expensive, I don’t recall. However, like the NJ Transit trains you have to be careful to pick the right train. Not all Amtrak trains make the Newark Airport stop. I love the trains/subways, etc., but have come to the conclusion you have to be in reasonably good shape and not schlepping lots of luggage because there are an astonishing number of stairs and other obstacles. Sometimes there’s an elevator, but I’ve encountered a few of those that are so scary it was better to risk stumbling on the stairs.