Tag Archives: NYC

Doors closing

One of my favorite things about public transportation is the culture that develops among riders. There are things we just do, regardless of our life stage or social standing, that identify us as bus (or train) people. If you’ve never hollered for the driver to open the back door, panic rising in your voice; woken from a nap just in time for your stop; or engaged in at least one book discussion or sports debate with a stranger, you haven’t been riding long enough.

And if you’ve never hurried to catch a vehicle, only to have it close its doors (or pull away) just as you arrive, well, then you can’t call yourself a transit rider.

Watching this Gothamist video feels like looking in the mirror.

Speaking of love…

The latest installment of Grist’s dating column, “Treeshagger” (I know, I know) is all about how to find your soul mate (or at least someone you wouldn’t mind sharing a coffee or two with) on public transportation.

No matter how many “met on the bus” stories I hear, I never get tired of the topic. And this particular column happened to include the best transit hookup story I’ve ever heard. Peep it:

Did you hear about Patrick Moberg, that dude who found the girl of his dreams on the New York subway? Like a twee Wes Anderson hipster-man, he drew a picture of her in full rosy-cheeked glory, set up a website (NYGirlOfMyDreams.com), and struck gold when a friend of hers saw it and put him in touch with her.

I imagine their first date was a bit awkward, given that she already knew she was the girl of his dreams and all, but still. Wish I’d known about this dude on Valentines Day.

On the flip side: Not everyone you meet on PT is a potential love interest (ahem). Jezebel’s Social Minefield column recently tackled the ever controversial topic of transit etiquette. In case you don’t have time to read it, I have taken the liberty of summarzing: Be aware of others, and be courteous.

Don’t let the pigeon ride the subway

I ain’t one to link to random videos on the internets, but I’m making an exception for this (via: my cousin-in-law, Eli, who, unlike Chicklet, is most assuredly not a Mo Willems reader). The video is cute and all, but what caught my attention was the caption.

The passengers of this train have nicknamed this pigeon ‘Henry’ and claim that at least once a week he is seen riding the subway and always walks off at the same exit.

That’s even better than the rooster on the 248.

Speaking of old-school transit ads…

Back in the day, NYC subway ads were used to select beauty queens. Seriously.

Miss Subways 1940Miss Subways 1940

The Miss Subways pageant was a monthly contest run by the New York Subways Advertising Agency between 1941 and 1976. To compete for this coveted title, entrants had to be female, between the ages of 14 (!) and 30, New York City residents, and–most importantly–subway riders. Though the finalists were selected by a modeling agency, the winners were chosen by the contestants’ fellow riders–through a call-in voting system. The photo and bio of each month’s winner were displayed in the ad space of every car on three major lines.

Feminist issues aside, the fact that these beautiful, instant celebrities–recognized by more New Yorkers than the most successful of Broadway actresses– were of, by, and for the community of everyday riders* made the subway seem glamorous and full of potential. (The first Miss Subways was Mona Freeman, who went on star in several popular teen films. ) The ads for the contest encouraged riders to think this way: Look around this car! Next month’s selection may be riding with you! [Indeed.]

The contest was discontinued in 1977 and briefly revived in 2004. Caroline Sanchez-Bernat was crowned Ms. Subways to help commemorate the New York Subway’s 100th anniversary. In the modern version of the contest, the application included short essay questions. Here’s part of Ms. Sanchez-Bernat’s response to, “What does the subway mean to you?”

…I can rely on it to get me safely to work in the morning and home at night. It’s also my favorite place to people watch.… The more I ride the subway the more I learn about what it is to be a New Yorker…

I couldn’t have said it better.

*The subway being one of the most democratic forms of transportation–and subway riders being a diverse and fair-minded lot, barriers that existed in mainstream pageants were more easily transgressed in this one. The first black Miss Subways won the title in 1946, 35 years before the first black Miss America. In 1949, the first Asian woman became Miss Subways, and several other women of color won the title over the years.

The art of public transportation

The latest evidence that art and public transportation are inherently complementary (previous examples can be found here, here, here, and here): MoMA’s London Underground poster exhibit. If you won’t be in NYC between now and mid-January, check out Slate’s review and slide show (via: Bus Nerd).

This one’s my favorite.

Zero (Hans Schleger), Thanks to the Underground, 1935. Lithograph Printer: The Baynard Press, London. Gift of G.E. Kidder Smith, 1943
A bus chick with places to go

Where everybody knows your name

From The New York Times (via John in The Market), a story of “Bus People” for whom commute = community.

AS the city bus rumbled through northwest Queens one recent cloudy morning, Mary Apelian, who lives in East Elmhurst, offered the lowdown on her fellow passengers. She pointed out the young man whose wife just had twins (“He says he doesn’t get much sleep”)* and the woman whose grandchild was gravely ill in the hospital a while ago (“We were all so concerned we sent him a gift certificate”). And where’s Mitch? Wasn’t she supposed to be riding today?

Welcome aboard the QM22, where everybody knows your name. Passengers are apt to announce “It’s so nice to see everybody!” as they board and to be greeted by choruses of “How-are-yous,” near-cheers, hugs and kisses. They call themselves the “Bus People” …

“We’re all like family,” said Ms. Apelian, who has been riding the QM22 for more than two decades. “Everyone has a different story, and we share it all.”

I’m sorry that this story has a sad ending (the route is a casualty of NYC’s massive transit cuts and will be discontinued in June), but I still find it inspiring. This, ladies and gentlemen (well, and this, this, this, this, and this), is the reason I ride the bus. When’s the last time you got a birthday card from someone sitting next to you in traffic?

*Can I ever relate! I miss my bus naps.

Speaking of kids…

1) Another car-free parent, Jeremy Adam Smith in San Francisco, shares his reasons for riding (and walking) with his son (via: Carfree with Kids):

You can buy eco-products from here to the end of time; you can recycle and reuse everything you can; you can even buy a hybrid. But most scientists and engineers agree: The single best thing you can do for the Earth, the greatest positive change you can make, is to give up owning a private vehicle altogether.

Many people will see this as a terrible sacrifice — and in some places, it is almost impossible. But after fifteen years without a car — five of them as a parent — I don’t think we’ve sacrificed a thing. And in fact, our carfree family has gained a lot…

Jeremy goes on to list many of the same benefits that my family–and the (few) other car-free families we know–have experienced: quality time; contact with community; improved health; resourcefulness; and a real, on-the-ground knowledge of one’s city that simply cannot be duplicated from the isolated bubble of a car.

Can I get an “amen!”?

2) Some fun gifts for Chicklet and Bus-Baby-to-Be from my cousins-in-law, Erin and Eli, in NYC:

Transit Museum SWAG
Cute SWAG from the New York Transit Museum

Transit Museum SWG
The important parts of a subway car, or, as Chicklet calls it, “a light rail”
Transit Museum SWAG
“Chew, chew, chew!”

So far, my gratitude is overcoming my envy (I wanna go to the Transit Museum!), but the emotions are pretty much neck and neck.

Thanks, guys!


Posts will continue to be slow in the coming days. (The project is not yet complete, I’ve just recovered from a nasty bug, and my poor little Chicklet is still sick.) In the meantime, get thee to a library and check out The Subway Chronicles, a fabulous collection of essays by well-known New York writers (Colson Whitehead, for one) about their experiences getting around on PT. Talk about a perfect ride read!

And yes, I know that the book came out in 2006, but 1) I’m almost always late to the party (that is, when I’m not leaving early) on stuff like this*, and 2) my “to read” list is so long, I have actual relatives whose books are waiting to be cracked.

Speaking of New York…

Streetfilms is celebrating 200 fun, informative films–all free and easy to watch and share–with a cool promo. Congrats (and thanks) to the Streetfilms team.

* And by “stuff like this,” I mean any newly released form of art that is not related to Toni Morrison.