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Trip To Boston and NYC. Public Transit Impressions.


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A week ago, I took a trip to visit Boston and NYC to celebrate my 30th birthday. I was in Boston for 1 day and NYC for two days. Boston is an ok city and NYC is amazing. Like a bigger, better version of Chicago. The entirety of my trip was spent on public transit so I got experience a small taste of the public transit infrastructure in both cities.

Stating off with Boston, The city has a horrible design so it is easy to get lost and the way their their public transit is set up there, doesn't really help things. Also, everything stops running at midnight so if you happen to be out later than that, you are screwed. The rapid transit trains don't really mesh well there like they do here in Chicago, Sort of, they just designed all the lines and they just happened to meet up at certain points and those point aren't where you want to go and can place you far away from where you want to go. Getting from Logan into the city is a pain in the neck compared to getting into the city from O'hare on the Blue Line, which coincidentally is the same name of the Boston "T" train that goes closest to the Airport. You have to take a bus to the Blue Line Train station. It's not that bad of an inconvenience but being used to either taking the Blue or Orange lines after arriving at O'Hare and Midway, it seems like a huge oversight. Logan Airport is nicer than O'hare though, albeit smaller. The Green Line, which is basically a light rail train, is the line that goes to Fenway Park. Again, with the way Boston is set up, it's really easy to get lost even though the train station is basically across the street from Fenway. Pro Tip: when leaving Red Sox games at night (or day games for that matter also) the "T" commuter rail also stops at Fenway and it is closer than walking to the Green Line station. Take that train instead to avoid the crowds on the Green Line and possibly not even pay at all. (The conductor did not collect fares either on the train nor at South Station.) As far as the physical condition of the system, the trains and stations appeared very old and dirty. The trains in particular were very old, dirty and rusty and looked like they haven't been touched since whenever they were purchased. (even our oldest #2600's looked like Rolls Royce's compared to these cars!) The commuter rail trains weren't as bad but still looked kind of rough. In total, I think Chicagoland area public transit, despite it's flaws has Boston beat by several miles.

To get to NYC I took the Acela Express train. The trip was uneventful as I fell asleep during the high speed section. (I spent the whole night looking for a 24 hour Starbucks and/or McDonald's to charge my phone and computer. I didn't find one. When I say Boston shuts down at midnight, IT SHUTS DOWN!) Arriving at Penn Station in NYC was a bit of a bummer. It is basically a bigger, glorified subway station, which I might also add is the most confusing train station in the world! I visited Grand Central Terminal before I left NYC and the two are like day and night. Grand Central Terminal is not just a station, but a living breathing work of art. I might even say it is the Wrigley Field and/or Fenway Park of train stations. As far as the actual NYC subway is concerned. I think both systems are about at the same level, the only area they have us beat is the more extensive express service throughout the city.The quality of the trains are about the same and the cleanliness is about the same also. The NYC subway system is very extensive so it helps to do your homework before you go because unlike in Chicago where every route pretty much runs the same route every day, One route can have several variations throughout the day. (I.E. The B runs weekdays only, but during rush hour, runs local in the Bronx and express in Brooklyn and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. It's full time counterpart, the D, runs express in Manhattan at all times, down both Sixth and Eighth Avenues and also in the Bronx in the peak direction. Local everywhere else.) Yes, and that's just one route. I stayed in the Bronx the duration of my time in NYC and therefore, I spent a lot of time on the 6 train. the Lexington Avenue line is not as bad as I thought it would be, my only gripe was the trains would back up around Grand Central, causing delays. I also went to a Yankees game on 9/11. the 4, B, and D trains stop at Yankee Stadium. I don't understand how both stations are local stops (the 4 runs on the elevated, while the B and D trains are in the subway.) but then again, I don't understand why the CTA hasn't built a station on Madison on the Pink Line to serve the United Center. I went to the NYC subway museum. It is actually old decommissioned subway station. It is very nice albeit limited in exhibits. I wish Chicago had something like this. After my time in NYC, I took the Lake Shore Limited home. I had dinner in the dining car and it was surprisingly good. You get to see the Hudson River valley before nighttime hits and in the morning, you can see a little bit of Lake Erie. Overall, Boston was ok.The only reason I would go there was to attend a Red Sox game. NYC was amazing. In fact, I'm seriously thinking about moving there. They are hiring conductors for the subway, so I think I'm going to apply. 

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Tearing down the headhouse of Penn Station is probably the single worst act of architectural vandalism in this country's history! Supposedly they are trying to do something about that, maybe moving the station across the street to the former post office. The lease for Madison Square Garden is supposed to run out in about ten years, so if it isn't extended, maybe they'll tear the Garden down & rebuild the station, although they'll never match the grandeur.

The only good to come out of tearing it down was the movement that saved the headhouse of Grand Central Terminal, which was also slated for demolition.

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  • 7 years later...
On 4/3/2023 at 9:20 PM, Busjack said:

There is an article in the April 2, 2023 (print) NY Times that NY subway "token sellers" have to get out of the booth and are now station customer service agents.* Only about 20 years after CTA did it?


*Probably behind paywall.

Fortunately the article was open to read, at least for me. It’s almost a 100% match between their new roles and the CTA station workers, but there are still some things that caught my eye. I didn’t know they completely eliminated the option of paying for farecards with cash. The Ventra machines still take cash, but don’t give out change. And their booths do look quite cramped, I’m surprised how much equipment they have installed in there.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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  • 1 year later...

Neil Steinberg of the Sun-Times, is (to put it mildly) not impressed by the T. Apparently he rode both the subway and commuter rail, and found the commuter rail dirty. If he only knew about the Hyundai-Rotem and CRRC MA problems. And while he is correct that one has to take a bus  from the Logan Field terminal to the Blue Line (one time, for fun, I took the water taxi), one can't even take a train to the NY airports.

Update: As he mentions, the Silver Line BRT serves the terminal. Massport info.

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