Re: On the subject of mass transit
There's been a lot of mention of New York City in this thread, but so far AFAICT no comments from anybody who actually lives here, so I thought I'd chime in.
New York does some things right
- The trains run 24/7, 365 days a year.
- In Manhattan and much of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, station coverage is mostly pretty extensive. A ten-minute walk to a station is considered long.
- Bus coverage is very extensive. There is almost nowhere in the city that isn't within a couple blocks of a bus stop.
- Express trains are the fastest way to get around the city by far. If you're going a long distance, you can probably use an express train for some of your trip. Even local trains are often faster than driving, taxis, or buses.
- $2 gets you anywhere in the entire city, including a free bus/subway transfer. Weekly and monthly passes available.
- Half price for seniors and disabled persons.
- Parents can bring up to 3 kids up to 44 inches tall for free.
- Station coverage gets worse as you get farther from manhattan.
- Late-night service is at reduced frequency. You can easily wait half an hour for a train. If you need a transfer, hope you can stay awake until you get home.
- It sucks to do heavy shopping by train.
- The MTA is frequently accused of being wasteful, corrupt, and effectively answerable to no one.
- Subway accessibility for handicapped persons is gradually improving, but still pretty dismal overall.
- Maintenance-related schedule changes and interruptions are frequent.
- The subway system was evolved and mashed together, not designed. This causes many problems:
- Confusing. There are lots of hysterical raisins in this map: http://www.mta.nyc.ny.us/nyct/maps/submap.htm
- Often not convenient if Manhattan is not part of your itinerary. For example, here in Brooklyn, the A and C line passes two blocks away from a major hub at Atlantic Avenue / Pacific St. where nine subways AND the Long Island Railroad all meet, and it DOESN'T CONNECT WITH A SINGLE ONE OF THEM. wtf? If you want to connect those lines, you have to go to Manhattan (and in some cases the lines don't connect there either). (Or get out and walk between stations and pay another $2 if you don't have a monthly or weekly card.) The G does the same thing, which is especially annoying to me as it's the only direct train from central Brooklyn to Williamsburg and northern Queens. There are a number of other such oddities.
- The stations, while many look better than they used to, are still far from pleasant. Cold in the winter, hot in the summer. Summertime brings the fragrance of piss and garbage (and at Canal Street, rotten fish). You can always amuse yourself while waiting for a train by watching the antics of rats and mice eating garbage on the tracks. Lovely.
- Bus routes are even more confusing than subway routes. Here's the brooklyn map: http://www.mta.nyc.ny.us/nyct/maps/busbkln.pdf
- Many buses do not run at all late at night.
- There's no cheaper way to go short distances. If you ride one stop, it's still $2.
- No bikes on trains during rush hour.
- Service to airports is still bafflingly bad, even with the recently introduced "air train" which is just not convenient to enough places.
- Staten Island? That's another planet. We never go there. I wouldn't even know how.
p.s. Ian, you might want to rethink the idea of having bus drivers be more aggressive. Have you ever ridden a jam-packed bus, being forced to stand up and trying not to crush / get crushed by your neighbors while the driver alternates stomping on the accelerator and the brakes? It's pretty tiring, even nauseating at times.
Why mass transit in NYC is still massively better than owning a car
- Car insurance alone is insane - I paid $2500 / year before I sold my car, and that's not at all unusual. This for a $4000 car!
- Street parking is for people who have no money or don't value their time. I used to spend as much as an hour EVERY NIGHT driving in a spiral pattern away from my Brooklyn apartment looking for a free parking space. The alternative was to spend $250 or so for a monthly parking space in a garage; at the time, beyond my means. In many areas, you have to re-park your car every single day even if you don't use it every day, because of alternate-side street cleaning schedules.
- Since selling the car, I have been remarkably untroubled by anxieties that my subway might get me killed or injured in an accident. NYC transit reported something like 125 fatalities citywide over five years. There are more than that every year in auto crashes just in Brooklyn. Then there's the legal thrills of accidents in our litigious society. I have a pending (bogus) lawsuit against me for a car crash in 2001. That's never going to happen on the train.
- I also don't have to worry about my subway getting stolen, broken into, vandalized, ticketed for bad parking, or towed.
At some point it occurred to me that the money I spent on insurance, parking, and maintenance was a lot more than I'd spend if I got an occasional taxi or car service and the occasional weekend or half-day car rental. So I do that, and I joined Zipcar ( http://www.zipcar.com/ ) (much like Flexcar or IGO). Haven't regretted it at all. There are now several zipcars parked literally around the block from my house.