Archive for the ‘Subway’ Category

Service of Robots

Thursday, April 13th, 2023

Image by Erik Stein from Pixabay 

I’m a fan of robots. A crack surgeon used one to operate on my husband years ago in the technology’s infancy. At the time there was such a line of doctors wanting to use the device that for the doctor to schedule a spot we showed up so early on a Sunday morning the surgery was spookily deserted.

Robots are increasingly accepted in the medical world. The jury is out with some skeptics as a surveillance device for a city because of privacy issues. More about that later.

In “Meet NYC’s New Robot Cops,” New York Magazine’s John Herrman wrote: “Mayor Adams, joined by NYPD leadership, announced the acquisition of twoDigidogs — Boston Dynamics Spot robots, to be specific — at a cost of $750,000.”

According to Herrman, “They’ve been adopted elsewhere by bomb squads; the NYPD suggests they could be useful for surveillance or in hostage situations. It is still, in practice, an unarmed remote-controlled robot dog with limited range, a profoundly weird vibe, and a top speed of about three miles per hour.”

In addition to the Dididogs, New Yorkers visiting Times Square or a subway station may come across a K5 “autonomous security robot,” wrote Herrman, that will be tested with a police officer in tow. One official described it as resembling a robot vacuum. What alarms some is that the surveillance device, manufactured by Knightscope, “is capable of sucking up a lot of data wherever it goes.” Private clients use them to patrol unattended areas—warehouses, sidewalks, garages, parking lots.


We should be familiar with uber surveillance by now. Most of us receive all sorts of adverts in our social media feeds and email boxes after we’ve Googled a product or disease and sometimes even after a mention during a phone conversation. And as worker shortages continue, robots will increasingly be in our future. Won’t it be fascinating to see how effective they are and how else they will impact our lives?



Image by Eduard Reisenhauer from Pixabay 

Service of Escalators: When Moving Stairs Stand Still

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

Escalator at the USPS at 909 Third Avenue has been broken for ages…

The best escalator I’ve come across is one of the many at the Javits Center. It takes you to the highest level accessible by escalator and is near 34th Street. It starts off flat for a long stretch before heading downward making it easy for the faint of heart and those with suitcases. There should be more like it.

But this post is about escalators that are out of order or might be.

The escalator that takes you up and out of the basement where the goods and cashiers are located at Trader Joe’s on Third Avenue and 32nd Street is often on the fritz. Fortunately, there’s a small elevator that holds a few customers. I can’t lug up the frozen stairs the bottles of juice, fizzy water, milk and soup that weigh down my little carrier-on-wheels. It won’t survive the strain.

It’s been months since one of two steep escalators has been out of order at the post office at 909 Third Avenue. [Photo above.] I’ve never seen anyone working on it.

A week ago I was at the elevated Woodside, Queens subway stop which intersects the Long Island Railroad. I was early meeting a friend. It was cold –the station is outdoors. I thought I’d grab a cup of coffee at a bodega downstairs but decided against it as the up escalator was on the fritz with a line of weary passengers slogging up the narrow stairs. [I later discovered an elevator.]

The escalators at Bloomingdale’s, such as this one, always work.

Why this list of broken escalators? I thought of them because of the buzz about the super steep new escalators at Grand Central Madison, the $11+ billion, 700,000 square foot station that connects the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side of Manhattan. (Previously trains from LI stopped only on the West Side at Penn Station.)

After I wrote the copy above I came across what Adriane Quinlan wrote in curbed.com. We were on the same wavelength. She described the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s longest escalators as follows: “Arrayed in four ranks that parallel 45th through 48th Streets, each of the 17 chugging sets of steps is about 182 feet long and drops 90 feet vertically to the mezzanines above the tracks. It takes one minute and 38 seconds to ride down — an interminable lifetime for a restless commuter, particularly if you’re late.”

She quoted one commuter as describing it as “entering a ride at an amusement park.” She reported that “the MTA is bad at keeping even its everyday, one-level escalators running, let alone the longer ones.” (Remember what I discovered at the Woodside station.) And “According to the MTA’s own portal, almost one in ten of its escalators quit working at some point last month, probably just before you arrived with bags of groceries.” Quinlan reported that one of the new escalators at Grand Central Madison was being repaired an hour after opening.

There are 22 elevators and 47 escalators–at 45th, 46th, 47th, and 48th streets. I couldn’t determine, after a quick search on Google, whether any elevators went from street level to tracks or if passengers would first go to mezzanine level and then to the train. Nor could I learn how big the elevators are. I expressed my concern to a friend about whether there were a sufficient number of elevators to take passengers out of this MTA canyon at rush hour if enough escalators were disabled. She’s an engineer. She assured me that she was certain that any number of studies had been made to determine the number and size of elevator required in such an instance.

Don’t get me wrong: I think that the service is terrific. Quinlan reported that one passenger from Queens whose job is on First Avenue in Manhattan saves 40 minutes on his commute. I simply was concerned, given my observations of broken escalators, about being stuck in long lines for elevators up or down in the manmade ravine should there be multiple escalator glitches caused by repair delays. Maybe the MTA should find out who services the escalators at department stores, like Bloomingdale’s, that seem to be in order most of the time.

Are you escalator averse? Do you have escalator anecdotes or favorite ones?

I took this photo of an escalator from street to mezzanine level at 42nd Street before Grand Central Madison opened.

Service of Misinformation

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

New York Transit Museum at Grand Central Terminal

A friend is a Dolly Parton fan. I read in timeout.com that I could pick up a special edition Dolly Parton MetroCard at Grand Central Terminal, so I hotfooted it over there thinking “What a fun surprise for him!”

In my search I was sent from pillar to post, ending up in the basement and before heading over to one of the many kiosks that sell MetroCards I asked a man behind what used to be called a token booth if he sold them and if not, which kiosk did.

He said he didn’t have any. As for the kiosks, “Try any of them. It’s a kind of lottery. But they are only good until November 15.” This didn’t sound right.

I lost the lottery getting ye olde standard card. I only tried once. I figured how many $6.50 full-priced transit cards did I need? They charge $1.00 for each new card with minimum purchase of two rides at $2.75 each. None of the coverage about the special edition cards I read mentioned you had to luck into getting one.

But that wasn’t the end of it. I received more incorrect info from a salesperson at the Transit Museum on the ground floor. He stood at the door and wore a branded T-shirt. The store sells all kinds of subway iconography-inspired paraphernalia from socks and coasters to umbrellas and toys—but no MetroCards. He told me that the cards were to be discontinued by the end of this year. I suggested he meant 2023 but he was adamant. I wasn’t going to argue—even though I’d recently written about the development here and the end date was fresh in my mind. There’s a good reason: Credit card companies need the time to upgrade the technology of extant cards so that their cards can suck money out of bank accounts. [I dread my future credit card bills that might be pages long reflecting every bus or subway ride. I wonder how companies were bamboozled into agreeing to take over a responsibility that belongs to the Metropolitan Transit Authority.]

Have you been disappointed by faulty information when you tried to buy something? Were you misled by people who should have information yet spread incorrect warnings?

MetroCard Kiosks at Grand Central Terminal

Service of What $6 Million Pays For These Days

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

There was some tongue-clicking and eye-rolling regarding the cost of adding surveillance cameras to every NYC subway car to the tune of $6 million. [I’ve subsequently heard that it will cost less but for the sake of argument and knowing that things always cost more than estimates in the end, I’m sticking with the six.]  

If the project takes place, there will be two cameras per car. Nobody will watch live. The tapes will be used to police a scene should a crime happen. This post isn’t about the effectiveness of such shadowing, though maybe it should be.

I was curious to see what else $6 million will buy these days–in addition to the paltry garden at The Morgan Library that I wrote about the other week in “Service of Switch and Bait Marketing.” According to Google, here are a few projects:

  • a site in Milwaukee slated for an apartment high-rise
  • a California Water Desalination project’s design and construction of a pilot
  • 230 miles of fiber infrastructure to connect 3,442 homes and businesses in West Virginia with broadband access
  • to plan a bridge project slated for 2060 in Seattle
  • an estimate for bathroom construction in a Staten Island park

Six million dollars is an arbitrary number but it’s interesting how little or how much it will buy these days. I think the West Virginians got the best deal and the folks in Seattle the worst. And you?

Service of the Impact of Being Deep-Sixed: A Forecast

Thursday, September 8th, 2022

Hold on to your hats: Here’s a forecast of a few changes that will cut off some from access to crucial services and might put others out of business.

On the Road Again

Was NYC always so discriminatory?

I’m happy with my MetroCard that New Yorkers use for bus and subway rides. It’s easy to add money and is featherweight.

By the end of next year it will be extinct Anna Rahmanan reported in timeout.com. We’ll all be using OMNY vending machines that take money from a swipe of a smart device or a contactless chip credit or debit card. OMNY stands for One Metro New York.

This sounds great if you own the proper device and welcome a link between your smartphone, smartwatch or fitbit and your credit card or bank account. No such links for me. By next year I assume that all credit cards will be updated with a contactless chip.

Will the OMNY machine know who is eligible for half priced fares? What about those who don’t want to use their credit and debit cards for this purpose or don’t own the devices or cards? Does NYC have a contingency plan for them? One can only hope.

Attending to Business

Alex Harring predicted in The Wall Street Journal that traditional business cards are being replaced by QR codes, jewelry with business details or implanted chips. He calls the traditional cards germ swappers.

He reported that “The technology chief at Boingo Wireless Inc. had a chip inserted, between his left thumb and index finger, that carries his contact information. New acquaintances can use their phones to download the details.” If the recipient doesn’t have the app installed on their phone the technology doesn’t work. Oops.

Harring continued that some use “physical cards with QR codes, scannable digital cards or chips embedded in physical items that allow people to share contact details with a tap.”

The technology had best be flawless and operational wherever people network. Maybe a person should carry a few germ swappers just in case–yes?

What Did You Say?

What’s going to happen to the audiology business now that the FDA has approved over the counter hearing aids?

Woof and Meow

As soon as New York Governor Kathy Hochul signs the anti puppy mill bill there will be no more pet store sales of dogs, cats and rabbits here. Future pet parents are to go to breeders. According to abc7NY.com, “‘The Puppy Mill Pipeline legislation would allow retail stores to partner with area shelters like Bideawee and like ACC and rescues to adopt animals,’ Bideawee CEO and President Leslie Granger said.” Full disclosure, all my pets have come from animal welfare agencies and shelters except one who was rescued by a friend from an abusive home. Are legitimate pet store owners in New York State expected to close the door and walk away from their investment of time and treasure?

The questions for this post are highlighted in each section.

Service of Living Underground

Monday, February 28th, 2022


Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

What happened last week was a one-off: The shower water turned freezing and I shivered rushing to clean away a head full of cream rinse.

The next day was the first of the war in Ukraine. I saw Clarissa Ward, #CNN #News, reporting from a subway in Kharkiv. It was filled with families fleeing bombing, most standing--at least where the camera captured them--as there wasn't enough room to sit. Others huddled in darkened subway cars.

And I grumbled about a dose of cold water?

Ward and many others equated the readymade shelter to London subways during the WWII blitz. One mother, sandwiched between her nine and six year olds, carried a quarter bag of what looked like chips which she showed Ward when asked “do you have any food?” Ward asked her why she seemed so calm. “For the children,” the mother replied quietly.

Subways are homes to many others around the world. David Meyer wrote “Hundreds of people are living in NYC subway stations and tunnels, MTA says.” According to Meyer in his New York Post article, a subway task force studying underground incidents recently uncovered 29 “homeless encampments” in 89 stations and tunnels–housing some 350 people.

Euphemisms are the language of civil servants. When a person is found on subway tracks–whether they are suicidal, fall, are pushed or for any other reason–they call it a “track intrusion.” According to Meyer, “Taskforce Leader Jamie Torres-Springer says that homeless tunnel encampments directly lead to track intrusions.”

Lisa Daglian of the MTA’s Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee told Meyer: “Nobody should be living in the subway system, whether it’s in a subway car, whether it’s in a subway station, whether it’s in a subway tunnel. That is not a home. There needs to be sufficient housing for people to live.”

Do you find yourself complaining about minor mishaps or discomfort and then reprimand yourself when you compare them to real problems? Can you imagine looking to a subway for shelter during hostilities–whether as the result of an invasion or the war on poverty?

Service of Fear III

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

How do you determine when to be afraid? Has your fear gauge changed over the years?

In 1972 we were booked for a week in St. Croix. A few days before we left eight people were gunned down at the Fountain Valley Golf Club in what turned out to be the worst murder in the history of the Virgin Islands. We thought, “We live in Brooklyn. Are we going to let a few murders stand in our way?” Nobody else felt as we did: Our hotel was empty and there were few tourists on the island. Did we take a chance?

These days the incidence of murders, stabbings and injuries on New York City subways has increased so much that 600 additional policemen and women are being assigned underground. In a New York Times article Andy Newman, Edgar Sandoval and Téa Kvetenadze reported “Even though the subways have only a fraction of the ridership they had before the pandemic, violent crimes have persisted and at times increased. For 2020 through mid-November, there were more incidents of felony assault, rape, homicide and robbery in the subways than during the same period in 2019.” Meanwhile ridership is down 70 percent.

Because of Covid-19 I’ve not been in a subway since March 2020 and didn’t plan on using it soon. The latest information isn’t going to accelerate my return to a convenience I’ve counted on for decades. I’ll wait for the all clear.

A server in a Brooklyn restaurant who worried that the vaccine might impact her fertility or her future child, should she become pregnant, was fired because she refused to get a vaccine. Rogge Dunn, a Dallas labor and employment attorney and professor Dorit Reiss, University of California Hastings College of Law say that private businesses have this right according to MacKenzie Sigalos on cnbc.com. There are exceptions such as when an employee is allergic to vaccine components or when a union has negotiated other rules.

Has the pandemic–or life experience–changed or impacted your fears? Does it make a difference if there are others to pick up the pieces should something happen to you? Are you generally fear-free? Do you hesitate before taking a subway? Should employers force employees to be vaccinated? Would you be more comfortable entering a business where you expect to stay for a time if it claimed all its employees are vaccinated?

Service of Cartoons

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

I was given every chance to show talent for drawing or painting when young. Sadly I’m like a tone deaf person who loves music: My stick figures are not convincing and I admire people who can translate on paper or canvas a thought or scene.

Nevertheless I see material for cartoons all over the place. Here are recent examples that a sketch would capture far better than I can with words.

Achoo

I was passing an urgent care office—they are at street level all over Manhattan, many with large windows neither frosted nor with shades drawn.

Behind the reception desk at one was an attractive staffer blowing her nose into an enormous wad of Kleenex. Struck me funny.

Ying &Yang

Walking to the subway this week on 77th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues I passed on my left a Christian Science church and on my right, Lenox Hill Hospital. The contradiction brought a smile.

Seating Arrangements

The subway car was jammed the other day. A little boy about 10 sat next to his mother. She didn’t suggest he give up his seat to fellow passengers encumbered with packages, disabled or elderly. The scene inspired this invented scenario: In every seat are kids and 20-somethings. Standing are people with canes, crutches or pregnant.

Do you come across scenes that would make poignant or amusing cartoons? Do you have a favorite cartoon?

Service of Congestion Pricing that is Giving Yellow Taxis the Flu

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

I tucked this horrible decision on the part of New York Governor Cuomo into an early December post, “Service of I Love New York… But Don’t Push It.”

It’s too important a move–a giant $2.50 surcharge on every ride in yellow taxis in Midtown Manhattan–big enough to fell an essential NYC industry.

A judge postponed the measure from January 1, which was the deadline when I originally wrote about the debilitating tax. It started last weekend. I’m appalled. As a result, I forecast the end of an industry that served me, my parents and grandparents so well. According to Google, it was the first Yellow Cabs that in mid-1880 knocked “less predictable” competitors out of the ring in the big apple.

Yellow cab owners have invested so much in their businesses, and NYC’s citizens whose cabs touch a toe below 96th Street and are slapped with the surcharge, don’t deserve this. Tossing a tax on the vulnerable to solve your financial difficulties in an allied but otherwise unrelated sector isn’t the way to go.

I’d written on December 6, 2018:

The January 1, 2019 $2.50 congestion pricing fee will help destroy the already limping yellow cab industry and hurt citizens of modest or microscopic means who rely on traditional cabs. Many can’t manage busses or subways, can’t afford limos or don’t have smartphones to hire car services like Uber or Lyft. The fee impacts “any yellow cab, e-hail or other for-hire vehicle trips that start, pass through or end in a designated ‘congestion zone’ below 96th Street in Manhattan,” Vincent Barone wrote in amny.com.

What’s the destination of the some $400 million the tax man anticipates collecting? According to Barone, it will help the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA]  which is “financially strapped.”

Services like Lyft and Uber are charged a $2.75 fee but because they can fiddle with their basic price which yellow taxis can’t, they could make rides cheaper than traditional cabs—another stab to the financial heart of their competitor.

Barone reported: “‘The fact that it will cost $5.80 to step into a taxi cab now is going to be devastating for the taxi industry,’ TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said after a City Council oversight hearing on the surcharges, referencing the existing fees on taxi trips. ‘The other sectors … have more flexibility. They have to add $2.75 on but they’re not bound to a metered fare, so they can reduce the price of the trip so that the passenger doesn’t feel the effect of the $2.75.’”

I took [too] many yellow cabs last weekend between my current and future apartment filled with TJ Maxx bags holding my plants, food and other items movers don’t carry. My suitcase was embarrassingly heavy. Each driver was helpful, grateful and cheerful. Only one pointed out that drivers don’t benefit from a penny of the surcharge yet their volume will be impacted. “People don’t take us for short trips like they did before–look at the meter: $9 for a few blocks.”

Do you think that there is a chance for a rollback to a more reasonable surcharge such as 50 cents instead of $2.50? What impactful action might we take to put the brakes on this poorly conceived method of paying for the city’s subway system? Why does this city care more about bicyclists than about pedestrians or taxi drivers?

Service of Two Marketing Home Runs & a Third That Strikes Out

Monday, December 10th, 2018

I am gleeful when I see a clever marketing campaign and am almost offended when what I thought was a smart organization falls short.

Here are two good ones and one not so.

Poster Perfect

I enjoyed a witty set of advertising posters on the Lexington Avenue express subway produced by Seamless, a food ordering and delivery service that’s part of the GrubHub family. It reminded readers that it knows its neighbors and what they most like to eat.

The campaign, written in a New York-y voice is eye-catching, and a mini relief for passengers in uncomfortable circumstances, inspiring them to smile.

Some of the headlines were:

  • “The Most Potassium-Rich Neighborhood –Murray Hill– based on the number of banana orders. No one’s cramping here”
  • “The Loudest Neighborhood–Park Slope Brooklyn –based on the number of chip orders. Your neighbors can actually hear you crunching”
  • “The Neighborhood in Most Need of a Vacation–Dyker Heights Brooklyn– based on the number of tropical smoothies ordered. Just take one already.

Subway Smiles

Another subway campaign hit the spot. Coca-Cola: Happiness starts with a smile – YouTube was produced by a Belgian agency. An actor looking at something on his tablet on a crowded train begins to laugh and his giggles are contagious. The tagline is “Happiness starts with a smile.” Towards the end of the ride people wearing red tee-shirts with the Coke logo hand passengers cans of soda and a postcard with the theme.

The Long and the Short of It

The second Obama Foundation Summit produced a lame campaign as far as its outreach to me is concerned. It came via email. The subject line “I want to hear your story Jeanne.” The theme: “Common Hope Uncommon Stories.”

Janelle Monáe, who signed the email, wrote: “No matter how different each of our tales are, we must do what we can to help each other achieve the extraordinary. When someone shares their story, we see the world through their eyes. That’s why I’m reaching out today. I want to hear your tale. Tell me your story in 10 words or less: How do you work towards a better future?”

I can be succinct but 10 words on a serious subject doth not a serious request make–even for an elevator pitch. Think that was a typo? Its impact on me: I stopped reading well before the bright red DONATE link at the bottom. I can think of some snarky 10 word retorts, such as “Get rid of the president,” though I’m not sure that they reflect me and my story. How many personal stories “work towards a better future?” Am I being persnickety and too literal? Have I lost my sense of humor?

Have you seen any clever ad campaigns on public transportation—trains, busses, subways? Was the Obama Foundation’s communication a fundraiser for the hip and therefore way over my head?

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