Saturday, March 31, 2007

Yes, I Rode Mass Transit

New York City is one place where mass transit can work for the average person as a rider. Two main reasons: It’s a complete liability to have a car; you can walk to your destination after you get off the bus or train.

I bought a 7-day unlimited pass for $24. I could ride any train or bus, any time.

Why is it a liability to have a car? Many reasons. It’s very difficult to find parking, and once you do, it’s expensive. There are lots in Manhattan that charge $100/24 hours to park. Even out in Queens, Steve rents out two parking spaces at $150/month. The insurance is outrageous. Your car is going to get beat up.

I rode the Q33 bus from LaGuardia Airport to Roosevelt Station in Jackson Heights, where Steve lives. We weren’t even off the airport grounds when the bus slammed into an airport employee shuttle! The bus lost its mirror. It was great theatre. The bus and shuttle pulled up alongside one another at the next light. Both drivers opened their windows and doors and began shouting and swearing at each other.

Riding the trains never loses its novelty for me. I’m a train nut, so it fascinates me to stand in the station, to crowd on to a train, to look at the ads, and to look out the window at the scenery. Not much to see in the tunnels.

New Yorkers are numb to the experience. When a New Yorker wants to get somewhere quickly and he has a few bucks, he doesn’t take the train. He hails a cab.

Steve in the cab after the Guggenheim. We weren’t in a big hurry, really. We just had a better option, and took it.

Cabs are expensive, fast, and exclusive. They go from A to B without any walking. Trains are cheap, slow, crowded, and generally leave you having to walk to your destination. Despite their expense, there are more cabs operating in NYC than in any other American city.

Some people in Central Indiana are clamoring for the trains. I’m not one of them. At a billion dollars for a single line from Fishers to Indy, we’re still about $10 billion from a system.

New York has 10 million people.
Indy has about 1 million.

New York is densely packed.
Indy is sprawled.

New York is a walking city.
Indy is nothing of the kind. The suburbs are sprawled even more.

You can’t park in NYC unless willing to pay a lot and to risk damage to your car.
You can park at a meter in downtown Indy at almost any time. I do it at least once a week. I use nickels and dimes.

It’s a shame that the NYC system isn’t private. I bet it could be profitable there, if it weren't a government operation. But there is absolutely no way mass transit will be profitable in Central Indiana. It will only be a tax dollar suckhole here. Breaking even would be a fond, wistful dream. IndyGo president Gil Holmes agreed with my reading of the balance sheet and my statement that it is a tremendous financial loser. This is why I asserted to him that mass transit is merely a transfer of wealth from those who do not ride to those who do, and on that basis unjust.

I think it's telling that cabs are seldom used in Indy. The average Hoosier uses a car because it is cheaper and every bit as fast, saying nothing of the sense of independence gained from driving.

At any rate, the trains were fun for me in NYC. Here are some assorted rail pics.

I love the tile in the subway platforms.

One of many images of Grand Central Station.

More Grand Central.

No comments: