simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: Disruption
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Friday, 4 January 2008


One of the biggest frustrations of daily commuters or frequent users of the New York Subway System is what feels like the constant disruption in services. Skipping stops, delays, rerouting, stalled trains and variations. Unlike other cities, New Yorkers really depend on the transit system. For most, there is no other transportation option - few New Yorkers own a car and travel by car during the business day (with parking costs) is really not feasible.
I had the opportunity to ask the question "Why?" to two acquaintances - one working for the MTA, and the other a retired engineer who had been in management. What I was told makes sense, albeit not satisfying to those who bear the brunt of disruption. Here's what they said. The primary problem is that the NYC transit system, unlike others, runs 24/7. Hence, repairs and maintenance must be made while the system is operating, not to mention in narrow, tight confined spaces. There is no parallel system which can be used during repairs. Add to this that 1) The system is extremely old and everything about it is antiquated. 2) It is one of the largest systems in the world with hundreds of miles of track. 3) It is one of the most heavily used systems in the world with over 5 million passengers on a work day. 4) Most subway lines are operating at or near maximum capacity. 5) During various periods (1970s-80s), when the city was less prosperous, the system was seriously neglected - so now we have to play catchup. 6) It is a public entity with all the bureaucratic inefficiency and inertia. There is a tendency to do things the same old way.
With such a massive around-the-clock system, every effort at overhaul or service becomes a big ordeal. My bet (not my wish) is that disruption is here to stay ...

Photo note: I took this photo at the 7th Avenue stop on the F line in Brooklyn. I thought it would show evidence that work really is being done. I imagine, however, that it could be a decoy, driven and parked throughout the system to make it appear that work is being done :)


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