It looks as if the MTA are going to manage to force through their proposed rises in the price of subway tickets, with the protests raining in from all directions (including the New York Post with their forceful and to the point headline “Higher fare – but same lousy service”). Personally I still think the system is as cheap as chips, even if – on occasions – it would be quicker to walk home in a driving blizzard, blindfolded, and on one leg. With an incontinent labrador on your back.
One thing that has always faintly impressed me about the New York system is that wherever possible, the authorities have attempted to make train changes as easy as possible, and you often only have to walk across a platform to get to your next train. Maybe it’s just that Americans generally require a car in order to travel distances greater than twenty yards, but it’s certainly in stark contrast with the London Underground, where changing trains can require a sherpa and a St Bernard dog with a small barrel of brandy around its neck.
The only problem with cross-platform changes is that moment when you get two trains pulling into the station at exactly the same time.
As your train pulls into the platform, the passengers around you gently limber up with a few stretches as they see their opportunity to make a quick change. And inevitably, the straphangers on the train opposite are eyeing your train with the same athletic zeal. As soon as the doors on both trains open, it’s as if some weird vacuum has been created, sucking passengers across the platform at high speed and with no regard for the commuters being sucked in the opposite direction. Within five seconds, the platform resembles the final scenes from Zulu. Although faced with such all out attack, even Michael Caine would have been forced to say “Look chaps, the place is yours, we’re off.”
Actually, what it most reminds me of is a game that we used to play in the school playground, called British Bulldogs. Kids would line up on one side of the yard, run hell-for-leather towards the other side, with other kids attempting to take them out as they ran. With tripping, headlong tackling and kneecapping all allowed (OK, maybe that last one was an exaggeration), it was like legitimized lynching for under 16s. Such were the injuries that came with it that most schools banned it.
Still. I can get to play it every morning these days. Now, where did I put my machete?