Sunday, March 15, 2009
Navigating the New York City subway system (MTA)
No matter where you want to go in New York City, the subway will get you there. It is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive system of subterranean trains I have yet experienced.
Sitting on one of the orange seats, if you're lucky enough to board during the off hours – or at 42nd street where the cars often offload – you'll be quick to notice one thing: the system maps are limited, and hard to read. Aside from your current route map, invisible to those sitting at either end of the cars, the the complete maps are covered in tiny print, mostly illegible from any distance.
On the other hand, these maps are freely available from all station information booths, and make excellent souvenirs. I would recommend picking up a couple.
The next thing you will notice is the conductor calling out the station names; or, perhaps you will not notice it. That is part of the problem. Still announced live, over aging speakers, the sounds can be muffled at best – and non-existent at the worst. Unless you have a window seat, so you can look out at the station names posted on the walls when your train slows to a stop, you can quickly lose your place.
Now, all is not as I have described. Boarding the subway, you may be greeted with blue bench seats, much desired air conditioning, and easy to read signage with lights illuminating your progress. These rare trains also feature clear pre-recorded voices announcing where you are, and where you're next headed. So far, I've only noticed these on the express lines: make sure these trains head where you think they head before boarding.