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Sunday- Spring Forward!

I overslept this morning and it felt so good. Last night was a logistical nightmare getting home from Manhattan. The train system in NJ was designed by Berlin Wall escapees from East Germany. All trains from the burbs are routed to centralized collection centers and then funneled from Newark into Manhattan’s Penn Station. That’s because some genius back in the 60’s allowed the decentralized commuter rail system, the Central New Jersey Rail Road, to go bankrupt. The tracks are still there and are owned by conrail but they aren’t being used. No, instead we drive half an hour from the house to one of the NJ Transit stations to catch the train. Even the closest stations put me an hour and a half from Manhattan (on a good day) even though it’s only 36 miles from my house. I don’t drive directly to Manhattan because only cab drivers who never graduated past the “I am young and immortal” stage can navigate the streets without permanent mental damage.

So, I split the difference. I drive directly to Newark’s central collection train station that most NJ Transit trains go thru and take the PATH train. The PATH train is a small commuter rail train that goes from Newark to Manhattan and terminates at the World Trade Center (WTC) on weekends. On the weekdays, it takes you further up 7th avenue to around Penn Station. This is more convenient for me because I can drive most of the way, park my car in Newark in a safe lot near the train station for a mere $8 buckaroos for the whole day, fill my Metro card with $10 worth of rides (that’s 6 rides) and the adolescent, “Brook” and I share the Metro card between us. It’s perfect.

Except yesterday, it wasn’t. The rain was coming down really hard on the trip to Newark on Rt 78, a nice big highway. Ususally, the traffic moves at s nice clip on the weekends. We would have been in Newark in about half an hour. But the rain really slowed us down. We jumped on the PATH train with about 45 minutes to spare to make our 2:00 matinee for Curtains (highly recommended. David Hyde Pierce is a riot). But the PATH train got stuck in a tunnel underneaath the WTC, which already tends to give me the willies. We sat on the train for about 10 minutes with no particular explanation for what was holding us up. I got out of the WTC station at 1:45 and grabbed a cab. It was pouring rain and we had to get about 60 blocks to the theatre. The BFF was texting me frantically on the phone. He ended up leaving the tix at willcall. In fact, 45th street, where the theatre is located, was jammed. We sat in the cab a for a few minutes while the heavens opened up and the cab itself was in gridlock. From inside the taxi, we could see the theatre and with no time left, Brook and I got out of the cab and made a run for it. We got into the theatre after the overture, soaked to the skin and waited at the back of the theatre for a break between scenes to be seated.

On the way back, we hit a different set of problems. We exited the restaurant and the BFF walked us to 7th avenue where we coud catch the subway to the WTC and pick up the PATH to Newark from there. HE gets to go to Grand Central and takes Metro North home. HIS trip is blissfully uncomplicated. Ours is, um, different.

We get on the 1 line going to the WTC except that it actually stops at the Chambers street station about 4 blocks from the WTC and we have to walk the rest of the way. Don’t ask me why this is. The line clearly shows it going all the way to WTC but it never actually does. But last night, they decided to surprise us. At 14th street, the conductor announced it wasn’t even going to Chambers street. Nope, it was ending right here. Everyone off and find the 2 line. So we fumbled around in the grimy, poorly signed station for the 2 and took it to Chambers street, then hoofed it to the WTC. It’s spooky inside the WTC station. The station is right over the Pit and as you pass through it, you can see the huge eerie void and construction equipment working away by the light of some high powered spotlights. People pass through it silently as if to not disturb the dead any further. Personally, I don’t know how people in office buildings will ever be able to work there normally, but I digress.

So, we find the PATH tracks. Now, here’s where those East Germans display their brilliance. It turns out that after 7:00pm, you can’t go directly back to Newark from the WTC. No, first you must go to Hoboken. But, you say, you left your car in Newark. This is correct. So, after the PATH goes to Hoboken, it turns around and reverses itself partway and finally ends up in Newark. It roughly doubles the travel time but whatever. Sigh. We get on the PATH train, standing because there’s not a seat to be had, and wait a few minutes. Then a voice crackles over the loud speaker, “Due to weather conditions, there is a signalling problem on the PATH train tracks. Everyone off the train and find alternate means of transportation to Newark and Hoboken”. WTF?!! Now, what? Well, there’s only one way to catch a train to Newark and the car: NJ Transit. And the only way to get to NJ transit is to schlepp back to the Chambers street station and take the 1,2,3 back to Penn Station at 34th street.

Twenty minutes later, we’re at Penn Station at the NJ Transit hub. And here is a new twist on the commute strategy. Because we get to the station at 9:30pm but the East Germans have set it up that the Northeast Corridor line that we need to take will leave Penn on the hour and 14 minutes after. Brilliant. So now we have to wait half an hour to catch the NE Corridor train and the NJ Transit collection area, although nicely refurbished, is already filled with Jersey commuters. There’s not a chair to be had. People are sprawled on the floor and on the stairways. And it’s early. Brook and I find a couple unoccupied stairs and make ourselves comfortable. 25 minutes later, the collection area is literally packed to capacity as NJ commuters filter in from all over the city, many of them refugees from the PATH train, like us. We all stare up at the track sign waiting for the assignment. And this part is crucial, because when the track is assigned, you don’t want to be at the back of the line. Finally, the track assignment goes up and there is a mad, frantic dash for the one person escalator to track 10. It’s really insane. It looks like something from Tokyo with this mass of humanity, hundreds and hundreds of very annoyed New Jerseyans pushing and shoving one another down the escalator to the track and sprinting for the nearest open car. Everyone is desperately looking for a car where they won’t have to stand. Brook and I walk forward a long way before we find a seat. Twenty minutes later we are in Newark and 35 minutes after that, we are home. The whole trip from the restaurant to home took about 3 hours.

Is this any way to run a railroad???

Sorry I went on like that but I happen to be a big fan of mass transit. My grandfather was a Pittsburgh PAT bus driver. I stick to mass transit when I go to Europe on business trips and I love the efficiency of the Paris METRO-RER system. Last time I visited France, I only took a taxi once in the whole week and I visited two company sites, one in Paris and one in Toulouse. It was bliss. The trains run frequently, the stations are clean and the signs, even in French, are easy to figure out and plentiful. We have BADLY ignored our mass transit infrastructure in this country. it’s almost criminal. With oil at its peak, we have to get our act together on mass transit and from what I’m hearing coming out of NYC with “congestion pricing” and ignoring the defunct Central New Jersey Railroad (with Conrail owned tracks still in place *hint, hint*) in favor of digging a new expensive tunnel underneath the harbor, we are dangerously misguided in our attempts to get ahold of this problem. I hope that when Hillary is elected that she puts someone who’s spent some time in France in charge of the Department of Transportation because these East German dudes are going to be the death of us.

In other news:

NBC’s Tim Russert breathlessly exclaims that Obama won Wyoming!!! He WON it! He gains 2 delegates over Clinton. Why won’t The Monster concede already?

Folks, you can’t make this stuff up.

15 Responses

  1. Even with the likes of Pumpkin head polluting the media landscape, there is still some glimmer of hope.

    Don’t give up on the US press… Yet:

    Here Howard Kurtz exposes the fraudulent narrative about VILE Hillary going negative against poor choir boy Barack:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/07/AR2008030701158.html

    Don’t give up on the US press… Yet:

    Here Jon Last from the Philadelphia Enquirer explains in clear terms what every sober person should know by now: Hillary Clinton is by far the strongest GE candidate due to the quality of her coalition and her primary victories:
    http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20080309_One_Last_Thing_.html

    Don’t give up on the US press… Yet

    Here Bill Maxwell from St Pete Time add his 2c to the outrageous coverage against Hillary Clinton:
    http://www.sptimes.com/2008/03/09/Opinion/Media_tainted_by_anti.shtml

  2. You’re great! after the death of DKos, it is wonderful to have not
    only a refuge but a great and entertaining host! And as an old New
    Yorker I fully commiserate with the lame public transportation options
    for getting out of the city. And OMG RAIN!!!!!

  3. Hey lanikai! Welcome to Kossacks in exile. But please don’t feed the ego. 😉
    Yes, the rain sucks. As does the hurricane force winds we had last night and this morning.

  4. MABlue and ghost2: Thanks for the links. I am going to roll them all into one post today. I couldn’t do it without you two. 🙂

  5. Riverdaughter,

    ghost2 here. We aim to please! (insert bow here!)

    hey, site traffic now past 50,000. Antoher milestone. congratulations!

  6. You are apparently not using the PATH system right. To go to Midtown, you take the Newark train to Journal Square (in Jersey City), then cross the platform to get to the 33rd Street train, which runs up Avenue of the Americas (“Sixth Avenue”, not Seventh) to 33rd Street/Herald Square. From there, it might make more sense, absent rain, to walk to the Theater District. Or you can take a subway or bus up AvAmers. Returning late at nite is trickier, because the 33rd St PATH train sometimes pulls into a platform separate from the Newark train at Journal Square, so you have to, quick like a bunny, head up the stairs/escalator and over to the other platform, and down those stairs/escalator to catch the connecting Newark train, which usually arrives about 2 minutes after the 33rd St train. On the weekends, all 33rd St PATH trains do go via Hoboken, but the Newark train from WTC goes direct to Newark unless there is some bizarre problem. A couple of days ago, there was a fallen ceiling on part of the system, which screwed everything up, and there are signal problems and electrical outages affecting one line or the other on isolated occasions. But in general, going TO Midtown, you transfér from the Newark-WTC train at Journal Square. The 33rd St train arrives within 2 minutes or so of the Newark train that drops you off. Returning FROM Midtown before 12:30 at nite you can simply reverse the route and transfer to the Newark train at Journal Square or, if you have mobility problems and fear missing the transfer if you have to go up and over, you can simply go directly to the WTC station and take the Newark train direct. There is little or no reason to take the PATH to WTC if you are going Midtown. Just transfer to the 33rd St at Journal Square.

    Oh, and there is absolutely no chance that Hillary Clinton will be elected President in 2008. Nor can Obama be elected. An Obama-Clinton ticket, in either configuration, would be wiped out by perhaps the largest landslide in U.S. electoral history. The only electable Democrat is John Edwards, so if the convention deadlocks and the Clinton and Obama camps will not accept the other’s candidate, the convention needs to compromise on Edwards, with Bill Richardson as his running mate.

  7. Hey, L. Craig Schoonmaker, thanks for the tip. We’ll definitely go the Journal Square route from now on.
    But I think you’re a little late about Edwards. And I’m fairly certain that Hillary can win the WH. All she has to do is get more votes. That’s what the general election is for.
    Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

  8. Mass Transit is one of the issue I care deeply about (prison reform is another), and as usual, Hillary has a plan to tackle this issue.

    Hillary plans to increase federal mass transit funding by $1.5 billion dollars per year on top of the funding we already have. It usually takes about $100 million for starter systems to start in each city so imagine what that type of money can do for mass transit in our nation’s cities and towns! Also, she plans to add $1 billion dollars per year for intercity passenger rail to give people the option of passenger rail along with driving and short flights. Its right here (scroll down to Improving Public Transit). Her plan is a great start to rebuilding mass transit in America.

    Click to access poweringamericasfuture.pdf

  9. Public transportation that works is socialist. Pull yourself over from your home to your work by your own bootstraps. Sheesh.

  10. :”Oh, and there is absolutely no chance that Hillary Clinton will be elected President in 2008. Nor can Obama be elected.”

    Oh really?

    Would that be because the American people SO enjoy being part of America’s Bushist extreme moral and fiscal bankruptcy?

    Just asking.

  11. WS: The $1.5 Billion is just a drop in the bucket to what is really required. Think about it this way, we spend $12 BILLION A MONTH in Iraq. The committment to subsidizing mass transit in this country will be well-rewarded in the long term. I hope she ups that number significantly. It would be like taking out a home equity loan and replacing the roof instead of blowing it on a vacation.

  12. That 1.5 billion should be on top of current funding. On the DOT page, they said their New Starts Transit funding is at 1.4 billion so in actuality, it would be close to 3 billion in annual funding. Its a good start and will definitely help a lot of cities rebuild their transit networks. It would be great if we could have a mass transit bill akin to Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System though.

    There’s also the 1 billion for intercity rail on top of current Amtrak funding.

  13. WS: It’s a drop in the ocean. We need to get serious.

  14. Yeah, your right. Her plan could be a lot better. I’m just saying all that money is nothing to sneeze at either considering the low amount of funding in the past. That’ll help build a lot of transit systems every year.

    Obama’s plan isn’t as specific as hers is but I wish they could debate their differences on this issue.

    Click to access Obama_FactSheet_Transportation.pdf

  15. Yeah, your right, her plan could be a lot better. But I’m just saying that type of money is nothing to sneeze at either and the highest amount of funding for mass transit in a very long time. Cities and towns would jump at the chance to build transit lines and you will see a lot of them built under a Hillary presidency with her current plan.

    There’s also other initiatives like the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act which both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama support (as they should). There’s also a high speed rail initiative in California referendum on the ballot in November. Its estimated to cost 40 billion with California paying $10 billion and the feds paying $30 billion.

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