Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Service of Inflation—I’ll Say!

Thursday, August 10th, 2023

The pack on the right cost $20 for 48. The pack on the left, $24 for 28.

It was 10 years ago this month that in my blog I hit the subject of inflation head-on even though we’ve been hearing about it more recently for a few years now. Some price increases of late have taken my breath away.

According to US Inflation Calculator, “The annual inflation rate for the United States was 3.0% for the 12 months ended June, according to U.S. Labor Department data published on July 12, 2023. This follows a rise of 4.0% in the previous period.”

OK, I’ll be a sport and give a company or service the green light to increase their prices by 5 percent. But that’s not what’s happening.

Energy

I go through AA batteries like a hotdog stand does mustard. When I run out–in about a year and a half–some Connecticut friends buy me a giant pack from Costco. The previous purchase cost $20 for 48. The new pack costs $24 for 28. The manufacturer claims that these last longer. They had better!

I was away for 10 days in early June, and nobody stayed in my apartment which most would describe as small. Con Edison reported that I’d used 27 percent less electricity than the previous period. Huh?

Here’s to Your Health

I just got a notice from my supplemental health insurance to expect my premium to increase 12.4% next year.

Don’t Go There

Cars taking the nine MTA bridges and tunnels that don’t have E-Z Pass will pay 10% more.  As of last Sunday, those with the pass, +5.5%.

By the end of the month, bus and subway riders will pay an additional 5%.

Anticipated congestion pricing of $23 in Manhattan gives many of us the shivers.

Hop into a yellow taxi at rush hour and before you move one inch, you’re facing $9.00 on the meter.

Do you have examples of services and manufacturers that might be taking advantage of all the talk about inflation by stepping on the gas with their prices?

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Service of Elevators, Busses and Trains that Seem to Know When You’re Late

Monday, May 8th, 2023

This ensemble is made of rabbit fur. It’s at the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” exhibition at the Met Museum

Have you noticed that if you’re running late elevators, buses and trains don’t cooperate? Waits for the first two are interminable and the trains stop and sit between stations. This usually happens when someone is picking you up to dash to an event.

Even if you leave early, such glitches can create stress. One of my “things” is I hate to be late.

Thursday I had a hard-to-get timed ticket for a member preview of the Karl Lagerfeld exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I got in a bus in plenty of time until traffic and a driver-in-training felled my schedule. The driver didn’t know how to reenter traffic after letting passengers on and off and he would then stop at almost every green light.

I began to squirm in my seat and to warn my friend by text as tick, tick, tick happened and I felt helpless. I still had a few long blocks to trot to the museum once the bus arrived at my stop.

I spoke with a passenger opposite me in the almost empty bus. He said, “Lucky we’re not stuck in an elevator.” I mentioned a memorable instance when a Business Week employee spent the weekend–Friday night through Sunday–in one. He said he remembered. He also said that many of the elevator starters are elderly and can’t hear the high-pitched ring indicating that someone is stuck in an elevator.

He told me of a recent job—turns out he was an elevator repair man—where a guy was stuck in an elevator overnight. He was suspicious when he opened the elevator door and asked the trapped victim how come he didn’t have to go to the bathroom in all that time. The fellow admitted that the elevator starter let him out to use the facilities. My bus companion then asked the person why he was playing this game. Answer: For 12 hours overtime. “Ah,” said the repairman, “I wouldn’t try for more than two. There’s video in every elevator and your boss will see in the tape that you stepped in and out. You’ll lose your job.”

Then he said to me, “Don’t you feel better? Didn’t I distract you?”

I imagine that he needs to entertain many a person until he lets them free from one of the malfunctioning contraptions he fixes. You’d need someone to calm you if you were floating many feet in the air locked inside a box.

I agreed and thanked him and dashed off the bus a few stops short of my destination. I was in fact late, but we were allowed in to the exhibit anyway, and the whole time my friend was calm and unperturbed.

These things happen and are largely out of our control. Do you get into a swivet when you’re late due to an equipment breakdown or system failure or do you shrug and relax and thank goodness for phones?

From the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” exhibition at the Met Museum

Service of Entitlement

Monday, February 20th, 2023

Have you noticed that the world seems to revolve around some, at least they think so. They are right even if wrong. I’ve observed such behavior by mothers especially of young children. They are exempt from rules or empathy.

Here’s what inspired me to write about this dynamic, one that I’ve noticed over many years: I saw a mother settle her three-year-old in the seat behind the bus driver on a local Third Avenue Manhattan bus last week. She parked her stroller in the aisle near the door [Photo above]. There was little room for oncoming passengers to slip by. I was amazed at her audacity when she did nothing to move it as the bus moved to the next stop. There was plenty of time to find my phone and snap the photo well before the fireworks.

When he realized she was obstructing the entrance, the driver told her she couldn’t stay where she was with the stroller and an argument ensued. Another passenger—her back is to the camera; you see a part of her plaid wool jacket in the photo —took her side, saying the driver was terrible and “you work for us!” [Actually, he works for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).] The driver said: “It’s not my rule, it’s the MTA’s.” Verbal attacks continued. The supporting passenger took a photo of the bus’s number–5927–as she exited.

The mother claimed that he was a bad driver as an excuse for staying up front. Hard for her to know this as he hadn’t yet moved an inch when she’d helped her child into the front seat and staked her position.

For one thing, this couldn’t have been the woman’s first time on a bus with a 36-month-old toddler. She had to know the layout.

Finally, she folded the stroller [photo right]. But she didn’t need to. None of this was necessary!

The bus has an area–the circular section with metal floor–designed for such gear. [See the photo, left.] I park my rolling shopping bag filled with groceries there and others their suitcases and large parcels. Women who entered the bus with strollers after the entitled mother got off headed to that spot. [See the photo below.]

I waited for the mother and the supporter-passenger to exit and told the driver how I interpreted the scene and explained that I didn’t enter the fray on his side for fear of starting WWIII. He agreed and said I was right to stay out of it and when I mentioned that I’d taken photos—and planned to write about the instance on my blog—he gave me his name: Jonathan Green. He was grateful for my support and thanked me many times. It happened on Thursday, February 16 around 8:45 am.

I’ve felt picked on in meetings and nobody took my side during or after. That’s why I spoke with the driver so he could forget about the incident and not let the unfairness of the verbal attack gnaw on his spirit the rest of the trip.

Adding flame to the fire with strangers in these incendiary times would have been risky for me. However, I’m sent a monthly survey by the MTA and in response to February’s I wrote about what happened last Thursday. While I doubt the MTA would connect the dots between my writeup and the woman in the plaid jacket who may have lodged a complaint about Mr. Green, you never know. Maybe we’ll balance each other out.

Do you think that there are categories of people—such as mothers or children’s caretakers—who should be given a pass to do as they please when out in public without regard for others’ safety or convenience? What about those who care for disabled people? The elderly?

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 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 an Honor System in the Face of Record Shoplifting

Monday, October 18th, 2021

Honor systems must be on my mind–I just wrote about some in May–“Service of Unmasking the Honor System: Do I Trust My Fellow Citizens?” There are countless schools, colleges and universities that follow honor codes impacting social and scholastic behavior. During an NPR fundraiser listeners were told they are on the honor system to contribute if they tune in to the programs.

Statistics such as the record number of shoplifting incidents since 1995 in NYC this year fly in the face of an honor code. As of mid September there were 26,386 complaints, a 38 percent increase since 2014. Instoremag.com referenced the New York Post for this information.

It also reported on a shoplifter the Post called “Man of Steal,” who only now is in jail after 45 previous shoplifting arrests just this year. He’s 22 and has been caught in 74 offences in the past six. The manager of a Walgreens drugstore that he’s targeted countless times said corporate policy is to call 911 and otherwise do nothing to stop shoplifters.


Image by moakets from Pixabay

Before you smirk, as some friends would, saying: “What do you expect, it’s NYC?” take a look at what Lukas I. Alpert reported on marketwatch.com: “A father-daughter duo from Atlanta has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for deploying an army of professional shoplifters to steal millions of dollars of merchandise from retailers such as CVS and Target and then selling the goods online.” This group headed by Robert Whitley, 70, and his daughter, Noni Whitley, 47, are said to have stolen $6.1 million before they were arrested two years ago.

And Neil Vigdor reported in The New York Times that Walgreens closed five stores in San Francisco because of “organized shoplifting.”

Yet the Metropolitan Transit Authority [MTA] counts on passengers paying for rides on the honor system on certain bus routes. We purchase a ticket from a kiosk [photo below]. The driver collects nothing. When first instituted passengers were checked for receipts by people at bus stops. I haven’t seen one of these checkers in years.

Last week a woman dressed in a cotton NYU Langone hospital uniform, [the hospital is nearby], rushed to the kiosk for a receipt as the bus was already at the stop. I thought, “What makes some people responsible and others constantly looking to scam the system?” I’ve never found the answer. Have you?

NYC bus ticket kiosk

Service of Signs of Recovery: More than the Lifting of Restrictions

Monday, June 28th, 2021

Farmer’s Market Union Square NYC June 2021

During the pandemic New York went silent and not just because the streets and sidewalks were practically bereft of cars and people. Casual conversations among strangers who made it outside stopped. I no longer greeted or complimented dogs I’d pass on the sidewalk. We didn’t walk close enough for conversation.

Buses from 10 routes stop here and no bus in sight.

But this has begun to change. It’s evident illustrated by the energy at favorite gathering places such as the Saturday farmer’s market at Union Square [photo above] and an uptick in the New York tradition of chats or comments between strangers. I first observed the custom during countless bus rides at my mother’s knee. Honed in the art of conversation with strangers she excelled wherever she traveled.

I was waiting too long for a bus at 7:30 a.m. last week and struck up a conversation with a couple who were already there. A first. They liked my idea for helping out the suffering yellow cab business by creating a system in which potential bus passengers would sign in for a voucher for a free taxi ride if they waited more than 15 minutes–especially during off peak. Tweaking existing kiosks at stops would make such an initiative possible. Win win.

On another day I noticed a man of a certain age [do you say that about a man?] sitting across from me on a crosstown bus. He wore an orange shirt and carried a black tote bag. I got off at my stop, walked to Home Depot on 23rd Street and held open the door as I sensed there was a person behind me. I have a thing about letting a door slam on anyone because when it happens to me it puts me in a bad mood. It was the man in the orange shirt who said “thank you.” That happens but not always.

Done shopping I walked to Third from Sixth Avenue to grab an uptown bus. About to cross Third, I again saw that orange shirt and recognized the tote bag held by the man–he was ahead of me. At the uptown stop I staked out a spot and as the local bus slowed along the curb, the man walked over and said “I must be following you,” and I replied “I’m the stalker,” and he said, “I’m not a very good stalker.” That was it. A New York moment and welcome illustration that the city is edging back to some of its endearing customs.

Have you noticed subtle ways in which your town or city is relaxing and easing into the best of its old self?

 

Grand Central Terminal busy again on a Sunday.

Service of Peeking Out of the Pandemic

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

Image by bridgesward from Pixabay

Last week represented a few firsts for me since early 2020: I took a short ride on Metro North to have lunch with my sister and a few days later I went to a bustling landmark Manhattan restaurant filled to the gills.

As I exited the train in a Northern NY suburb the air was clean–different from the cocoon  Manhattan had become. There were no homeless people sharing the sidewalk by the railroad. In fact, there were few people around as most in this commuter town were probably at work either at home or in the city.

Image by analogicus from Pixabay

A few days later staff took guests’ temperature at the Manhattan brasserie. The room temp was warm and merry. Exhilaration of wait staff and guests practically levitated indoor and outdoor tables. I felt the same wonder I’ve felt as a tourist in a wonderful foreign city, but I was in my hometown.

Alan Burdick wrote that while exciting it felt “slightly nerve-wracking” as “social life has begun to bend toward a semblance of normalcy: dinner parties, restaurants, spontaneous encounters with strangers, friends and colleagues on the street or in the office.” I didn’t find it “nerve-wracking.” Joyous and grateful was a closer description.

And I didn’t experience “a period of heightened anxiety as we meet people face-to-face,” as Adam Mastroianni predicted people would in a phone conversation with Burdick reported in the latter’s New York Times article “So You Want to End the Conversation?” Mastroianni is at Harvard working towards a Ph.D. in psychology. For one thing, we each knew the others had been vaccinated so there was no worry there. And we were so glad to see one another.

I admit I’m not in a rush to attend a gathering with many people and I did have concerns about the safety of public transportation I needed to reach my destinations.

Were you apprehensive about first in-person gatherings or experiences after an overlong intermission?

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Service of Puzzling Popularity in Fashion, Architecture and Digital Aids

Monday, November 18th, 2019

The usefulness or wisdom of some popular products or devices baffles me. Here are a few examples:

Vested Interest

I like the look of vests and own some but not the quilted ones for use outdoors. Sure they look great but don’t people’s arms get cold when they wear them without an overcoat or jacket?

On a Tear

While I admire jeans that are worn from use over years–I have some myself that I wore for years to garden [when I had one] and to clean house. I’ve not seen one person who looks good in jeans with faux rips, tears and holes. They are obvious and sad.

Romantic Garden Elements

When I bought my house eons ago I thought a gazebo would be a wonderful addition to the pond surround and envisioned picnics and early evening meals there. An interior designer friend warned me that I’d never use it, would have to maintain the wood and that because of its design the weather would soon destroy it. I never bought one but still think some are stunning and romantic. They remind me of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies–didn’t they dance in and out of one?

Last summer I attended a luncheon party in a gazebo that was equipped with screens–an essential addition: We didn’t share our meal with one fly or mosquito. I still question the practicality of these elegant wood structures.

Where’s the Bus?

Passenger information display systems indicate the number of stops away a bus is [or the expected wait time]. They are terrific when they work: You can determine whether to wait at the express or local bus stop–they often are a block apart in NYC and you can miss a bus if you’re not waiting at the right spot. The information is handy in decision-making: Do I give up waiting and walk or take a taxi to get to an appointment on time?

The problem is they are unreliable and often don’t work: You don’t know when to rely on them. I took the photo below early one weekday morning. In fact, a limited/express Select bus showed up first–none appear on the screen. And while the nearest bus stop was in sight of where I stood, there were no other buses in view even though the digital sign indicated two locals were one stop away.

Are there popular clothing styles, architectural elements or transportation improvements that puzzle you and make you question why people buy them?

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