Tag Archives: Transit

Weekend Explorations in NYC

Friday I stayed at home all day, but now I’m regretting it after seeing some other people’s photos of the dense fog that evening. It would have been interesting to head out to Broadway Junction, or perhaps take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

I did discover, however, that there’s a rather loud foghorn located somewhere near my neighborhood. Guess that’s what I get for living three blocks from the harbor. It adds a nice sense of atmosphere and isn’t particularly loud inside my apartment, but the frequency is so low it can be heard just about everywhere. I guess that’s the idea… If it couldn’t be heard over long distances, it wouldn’t be much of a foghorn. Just out of curiousity, does anybody know exactly where this thing is located?

Saturday, I took the subway into the city and did some walking around. On the (N) express from 59th Street, we passed a major construction site in the tunnel just north of 36th Street. Looks like the entire track and trackbed is being dug up and replaced, and there’s a couple work trains parked on the track north and south of the site, and some debris and equipment piled up on the north end of the platform at 36th. Anybody know exactly what all is being done here, and how long it’s supposed to last? Needless to say, all southbound (N) trains are running on the local track along the 4th Avenue line while this is going on. Also, northbound express trains are running very slow while passing the site; The (R) local actually passed us and got to Pacific Street before us. For any of those who like to check out work trains and equipment, though, I highly reccomend a trip to 36th Street.

I got off at Union Square, walked around a bit, and headed up towards Herald Square. Along the way I stopped to explore the ABC store just north of Union Square, which is an incredible place. Six floors of interesting and overpriced furniture and light fixtures. I especially liked the funky 1970’s stuff on the second floor. Once up at Herald Square, I spent some time wandering around Macy’s and riding the ancient wooden escalators.

From there, I took an (F) train to Roosevelt Island and rode the Tram back into Manhattan. The Roosevelt Island subway station was impressively deep, although I was somewhat disappointed to see that the escalators had been broken into two seperate runs with a landing in the middle. It would have been much more cool to have a single bank of incredibly long escalators, but I can understand the pragmatic reasons for having a landing.

I took advantage of my newfound ability to use my unlimited-ride Metrocard on the Tram, and it was very cool. Incredible views of the city and of the Queensboro Bridge, although the Tram seems to have been made redundant by the subway station.

From the Manhattan end of the Tram, I walked over to Times Square via Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center, and then took the subway home.

On Sunday (yesterday), I went to mass up at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and went out to brunch with some friends from the congregation afterwards. After that, I decided to walk up to the northern tip of Manhattan Island. I’ve previously walked from the Cathedral all the way down to Battery Park, so now I can say I’ve covered the entire length of Manhattan on foot.

I pretty much stayed on Broadway with only a couple exceptions. Around 125th Street I took a short detour to check out the Fairway store under the Hudson Parkway viaduct. What an incredible cornucopia for the senses! I also love their store on the Upper West Side (and Zabar’s. *drool*…) One day soon I hope to return with some money in my wallet. I remember readong somewhere that Fairway is also getting ready to open a third store in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn. Anybody know if there’s any truth to that, and when it’s supposed to happen?

I was also very impressed by the 12th Avenue viaduct in that area… Pretty incredible hunk of steelwork. I’ll have to return with my camera at some point.

Back on Broadway, I continued northward up to the Washington Heights area. The topography begins to get very interesting north of the George Washington Bridge, and I made my second detour a few blocks north of there. I noticed that Broadway was becoming rather dull while the row of apartment buildings at the top of the ridge along Ft. Washington Avenue looked far more interesting, so around 187th Street I headed up a very steep hill in that direction. It was interesting to see the backs of these buildings, with the “ground” floor actually a good 5-6 floors above the street behind them. I glimpsed an interesting subway entrance for the 181st Street station on the IND, and climbed a massive flight of stairs to get up to Ft. Washington Avenue (pant, pant). Once up there, I was treated to some incredible views. Again, I’ll need to return with my camera.

The neighborhood itself also seemed very cool… I love the Art Deco apartment buildings, and I’ve seen a lot of rentals advertized up there that are actually reasonably priced. I may look at the possibility of getting my own apartment within the next year or two, once I have a job and get some money saved up. (My current place isn’t bad for now, but my roommate is an annoying “daddy’s little princess” type from the suburbs and a total slob, and her boyfriend has slept over every night for the past two weeks. Don’t get me started.)

I continued walking north along Ft. Washington Avenue and found myself at the entrance to Ft. Tryon Park, along with another interesting IND subway entrance. The park itself was very nice, and I love the network of roadways connecting to/from Henry Hudson Parkway. I had to stand on a good vantage point for a bit and figure out where each roadway was coming and going. I also walked past the Cloisters (but didn’t go inside), and then climbed the steep trail back down into the neighborhood below. I found myself in Inwood and back on Broadway, and before long, walking across the Broadway Bridge into the Bronx. Nice view of the Harlem River and the tall bridge that carries Henry Hudson Parkway, and it was like a little taste of Chicago listening to the IRT subway cross the drawbridge on the tracks above me.

Now with very sore feet, I climbed the stairs at the 225th Street station and boarded the (1) train. I made it back to the Cathedral just in time for Evensong at 6:00, and came staright home from there.

I had another good walk last weekend, going from the Cathedral down to Union Square. I’ve walked that distance before down Broadway, but this time, due to the beautiful spring-like weather, I went all the way through Central Park from the northwest corner at 110th and CPW to the southeast corner at 59th and Fifth Ave. That is one huge park, and the crowds were out in full force… Great for people-watching.

By the way, I had a job interview on Thursday that went pretty well, and the guy has e-mailed me back asking for references. I’ll interpret that as a good sign. The office is in the Chelsea area, just off the 8th Avenue IND line (making Washington Heights even more attractive if I get this job). Wish me luck.

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)

NYC Trip

Just thought I’d give a quick rundown of when I spent yesterday in NYC. With a nice long holiday weekend, it was only natural that I spend a day in the city.

I drove up the NJ Turnpike to Jersey City, where I parked in a garage next to the Pavonia/Newport PATH station and took PATH the rest of the way into Manhattan. Arriving at 33rd Street, I walked down Seventh Avenue to around 14th Street to look around in some furniture stores in that area. I then walked east until I found myself at Union Square, where I browsed around the farmer’s market and some of the holiday-themed booths that are set up near the subway entrance.

Feeling a few raindrops on my head, I decided to head into the subway, and took the (R) train up to 5th Avenue/59th Street and check out the holiday shopping crowds. I walked around a bit up there, poking my head into St. Thomas Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral before crossing the street and checking out the ice skating rink and Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Down in the concourse level of the RCA Building, I was very pleased to find one of those cool Pret A Manger shops that I saw all over London. Here’s hoping that more of those open up in the US.

From Rockefeller Center, I boarded a (D) train of R-68’s up to Columbus Circle, where I transferred to a northbound (1) train of R-62’s. I got off at 110th Street and grabbed a burger at The West End before heading over to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for Evening Prayer. St. John the Divine, of course, was as magnificent as always, and it was hard for me to pull myself away from there. But I couldn’t stick around forever, and being in a somewhat ponderous and brooding mood at the moment, decided to take a walk down Broadway.

How far down Broadway from 111th Street? Well, at first I decided to try to make it down to my old high school friend’s neighborhood around 86th Street, which would make a nice healthy walk. Once there, I decided to continue on to Columbus Circle. Once at Columbus Circle, I figured Times Square wasn’t too far away, so what the hell…

About two hours later, I finally found myself down at Canal Street with two very sore feet. That’s right, a non-stop walk down Broadway from 111th to Canal Street. I parted Broadway and walked east on Canal over into Chinatown, and walked around some of the narrow side steets of Chinatown for a while. What a cool neighborhood at night, with all the shops facing the sidewalk and all the neon and colors… It was like something straight out of the movie Blade Runner. The coolest thing about New York City, I’ve found, is that no matter how many times I go there, on each visit I always come across something new and interesting.

By this point, as you can imagine, my feet are killing me, and I decided I wouldn’t mind riding around on the subway for a while before I head back home. I realized that I had still never seen the infamous Chambers Street station on the BMT, so I naturally headed down in that direction.

Finally, in front of City Hall and nearly at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, I ducked into the subway station and ended one incredibly long walk: From the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to City Hall, with only one stop at a Starbucks in SoHo to use the restroom and grab a latte. This was probably at least as long as the walk I took on my first-ever visit to NYC, from the High Street station in Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge, to the World Trade Center, and then up the East Side of Manhattan to around 86th Street and across Central Park to my friend’s place on Amsterdam Avenue. Damn, there have certainly been a ton of changes since there: The WTC is gone, my friend now lives back in Florida, and I’ve been through about a million changes in my own life.

Once inside the Chambers Street station, all I can say is: Wow. I was very impressed to find that it was all it’s been cracked up to be here on SubTalk. If Detroit had a real subway, I’m sure it would look something like Chambers. After a short wait, I grabbed a (J) train of R-40M’s headed toward Jamaica. This was my first time on this area of the NYC subway, so I decided to do some exploring, nevermind the fact that it was now pushing 10:00 PM.

We went through the Canal Street station, which I see is now the topic of discussion on another thread, and also the Essex Street Station. It was only this evening, after looking around on this site, that I found out what it was I saw off to the right-hand side of the train as we passed through: the old trolley terminal.

We then headed across the Williamsburg Bridge, which made the first time I had been across the Willy-B. It seems to have a very interesting configuration, with each of the two roadways divided down the middle by the bridge structure.

Once on the Brooklyn Side, we passed some cool old loft buildings as we slowly made our way down the line. At Myrtle Avenue, I saw a train of R-143’s for the first time ever, waiting on the other track as an (M) shuttle. I decided to take the (J) to Broadway Junction, where I would take the (L) back into Manhattan and transfer to PATH at 14th Street.

Out at Broadway Junction, I went upstairs to wait for the inbound (L) train, and was very pleased when a train of R-143’s pulled in. My impressions: This must have been a very new trainset, as it still had that “new car smell”. The interior didn’t seem as harsh as that on the R-142’s, and the sounds reminded me a lot of the M4’s on Philly’s Market-Frankfort Line. The only real negative was that stupid Mr. Ed voice that announces when the doors are closing. Somehere around Lorimer Street, I was cursed at by a drunken wino.

I got off at 6th Avenue and transferred to the PATH train, and drove home from Pavonia/Newport without incident.

This was hopefully the last major trip in my infamous 1986 Trans Am, as I’m currently shopping for a new car and hope to have one sometime this coming week. I’ll let everybody know what I end up with.

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)

PATH / HBLR / Hoboken Trip Report

Just thought I’d chime in with my own rundown of my Sunday in New York City…

I left Collingswood, NJ at about 8:30 AM in order to attend the 11:00 AM Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights. My original plan was to park at Pavonia/Newport on the PATH line and then take PATH and the subway to the cathedral, but since I was running a bit late, I decided to take my chances and drive all the way into Manhattan via the George Washington Bridge. Amazingly enough, I found plenty of street parking on Amsterdam Avenue just a few blocks north of the cathedral. Being a Sunday, I didn’t even have to feed the meter. Certainly something to keep in mind for future visits.

This is going a bit off-topic, but the worship service at the Cathedral was incredible. That’s two worship services I’ve attended there so far, and both of them were incredibly beautiful and sprit-filled. I’m not sure if it’s the building or the music or whatever, but the only other place I’ve felt the same “vibe” was at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. For you Episcopalians out there — or anybody else from any other faith tradition — I highly recommend it. The Cathedral takes very seriously its charter of being a “house of prayer for all people”… The liturgy included a passage in Hebrew — “Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Elohaynu Adonai echad” (“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”) — and there’s a large Menorah on either side of the High Altar… Unusual for a Christian church, and very nice touches. If I lived just a little bit closer to NYC, I’d be at the Cathedral every Sunday morning in a heartbeat. (I’ve actually become somewhat involved with the Canterbury Club, the Episcopal student organization at UPenn, which meets at St. Mary’s Church on the UPenn campus.)

Anyway, back to my trip… After the service, I got back in my car, and attempted to find my was to the Holland Tunnel. I got over to Riverside Drive without any trouble, but I attempted to get onto Henry Hudson Parkway with no success. I actually found my on once, but I was going in the northbound direction. Not good. So I eventually circled around and simply took 11th Avenue all the way down to the tunnel. I had to stop for gas along the way, as running out of gas in the Holland Tunnel would have ruined my day very quickly. Full-service gasoline in Manhattan is almost as expensive as self-serve in Chicago.

I finally made my way to the Holland Tunnel, and it was stop-and-go traffic all the way to the New Jersey side. However, while in the tunnel, I saw something very interesting: There’s a little tram that goes along the left-hand side of the tunnel, presumably to transport PA employees from one end to the other. It actually runs on rails, and is just big enough for one person. I saw a guy using it to head back to NY as I was sitting in traffic. Very cool! Do any of the other NYC-area tunnels have similar features?

Once in New Jersey, I found the Pavonia/Newport PATH station without too much trouble, and parked my car in a nearby garage. This was the first time I’ve ever ridden PATH. My impressions? The stations were incredibly cramped and claustrophobic, and the trains were unremarkable. Not surprisingly, they’re very similar to the Orange Line and Blue Line trains on the MBTA. As has been mentioned elsewhere here, the side platform at Pavonia/Newport was off-limits due to construction.

Emerging at Hoboken Terminal, I soon found Doug “BMT Man” and Pelham Bay Dave, and hung out with them most of the rest of the day. We checked out the new ALP locomotive on display, as well as the new Comet coach before hitting the new segment of the HBLR line. The ALP locomotive was very sharp-looking, and the Comet coach looked pretty much like your standard-issue NJT coach with a few modern touches.

On to my first-ever ride on the HBLR. Not bad for me to explore two new transit systems in one day. My impressions: A very nice, clean system with very cool LRV railcars. My only complaint is that it seemed exceptionally slow in many areas. But then, I’m more used to rapid transit. As others have mentioned here, the new extension offers and incredible view of the NYC skyline and the rail yards leading into Hoboken Terminal. This was the first time I had gotten a real good view of the lower Manhattan skyline since 9/11, and it just doesn’t look right. Without the WTC, it actually doesn’t look much different than the bland Jersey City skyline. What a shame… How many more words can be said about that day?

Dave got off at Exchange Place, while Doug and I got off at Liberty State Park and transferred to another train and got off at MLK Drive. Doug showed me around a bit before we grabbed the next train back to Hoboken. Once back in Hoboken, we headed down to the PATH station. Being unfamiliar with PATH, I naturally followed Dough into the next outbound train, which happened to be going to 33rd Street. For some reason the distance between stops seemed much longer than it had been on the way in. I finally realized my mistake at Christopher Street, and got off there for a train bound for Journal Square. I finally got off at Pavonia/Newport, and jumped back onto the New Jersey Turnpike for an uneventful drive home.

It was nice meeting up with Doug and Dave, and I’m sorry I missed the rest of you who were there. Hopefully I’ll see you all up at Branford on October 13th.

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)

Back from NYC and Philly: Full Report

Just letting everybody know that I’m back home safely in Chicago.

My week in Philly was very productive. As I’ve already announced here, I’ve accepted a nice job offer from Kitchen & Associates (how’s that for a name?), a 50-person architecture firm located in a converted schoolhouse in Collingswood, New Jersey. I also got registered for classes at Drexel; I’ll be taking two classes per quarter for the next four years or so to finish my undergrad degree in architecture.

I’ve also settled on a place to live. There’s an apartment complex called the Village of Stoney Run in Maple Shade, NJ located on highway 73 between highway 41 and I-295. The apartment complex, while located in the midst of suburbia, is secluded back off the highway amongst a heavily-wooded area. If figure if I can’t live in the city, then my next choice would be to live in the woods. The apartments are very spacious, and have most of the amenities that I was looking for. My paperwork is still being processed, so we’ll see whether or not I get approved. (I also have backup plans in place if I don’t get approved.)

On Friday, I met up with Jersey Mike at 30th Street Station, where he had just arrived from Connecticut for a weekend home from school. We didn’t do much railfanning, but we rode the Regional Rail from 30th Street to Market East, and then transferred to PATCO to Haddonfield, NJ. I gave him a ride home from Haddonfield and met his parents before we parted ways.

Saturday, I headed up to New York City. I drove up I-295 to Hamilton, NJ where I parked my rental car (a nice 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix) and waited for the New Jersey Transit train to Penn Station. During my wait on the platform, a couple Amtrak trains pulled by AEM-7’s roared through the station at 125 MPH. Impressive.

Once in New York, I wandred around a bit on my own before meeting up with the SubTalk crowd for lunch. While wandering around on my own, I took a (3) express from Penn to 72nd on a train of R-62’s, where I grabbed some breakfast at a nice little bagel place at 77th and Amsterdam. From there I walked to 86th, where I waited in sweltering heat about 20 minutes for a (1) local to Times Square. By the grace of God, the R-62 I eventually boarded was as cold as a meat locker and not as crowded as I feared. At Times Square, I transferred to the Shuttle to GCT, where I wandered around a bit and browsed through the Transit Museum gift shop. After grabbing an iced coffee at a nearby Starbucks, I boarded a train of Kawasaki R-142’s to Bleeker Street. My first impressions of the R-142’s are generally favorable, although I think the R-62’s have a much cooler sound, and that stupid “Mr. Ed” voice is annoying as hell. Due to some sort of delay, it was announced that my train would be skipping Bleeker and a couple other stops, so I had to get off at Union Square and wait for the next train. This was my first time at Union Square, and those platform extenders are by far the coolest I’ve seen! After a short wait, I boarded another train of Kawasaki R-142’s to Bleeker.

I walked eastward down Houston Street hoping to browse through the cool surplus store near Broadway-LaFayette, but for some reason it was closed. (Their posted hours indicated that they should have been open.) Having about 30 minutes to kill before lunch at Katz’s, so I browsed around a bit in the local shops before heading over to Katz’s. After a short wait, I met up with Kevin Walsh and Francis Sibilla. After spending an eternity in line, we finally grabbed a table near the back and chowed down. I barely made a dent in my sandwich, and to be honest, I’ve had better reubens here in Chicago. My meal seemed to be more about quantity than quality, and several flies buzzing around didn’t help my impression. Katz’s was okay for just one visit as a tourist, but I wouldn’t make it part of my regular rotation of favorite restaurants.

After lunch, Francis parted ways, leaving Kevin and I to our own devices. During intermittent periods between downpours, Kevin led me on a marathon walking tour of lower Manhattan. We covered the Lower East Side, parts of Chinatown, South Street Seaport (where we took a much-needed rest), the financial district, Ground Zero, TriBeCa, and SoHo. I feel like I walked about 30 miles, but it was well worth it. I saw plenty of cool things that I had never seen before, and of course one can’t have a better tour guide than Kevin Walsh. Back up at Houston Street and having walked a huge circle around lower Manhattan, Kevin and I caught a northbound (6) train to GCT. Once at GCT, we parted ways; Kevin headed home on the (7), and I waited for a northbound (5) train so that I could experience the Dyre Avenue… And I waited, and waited, and waited… Finally, I boarded a northbound (6) train, where it was announced that the (5) was running as a shuttle between 125th and 149th, and then in another section betweem 149th and Dyre. So, ruling out a six-seat ride to Dyre and back, I rode the (6) to 125th, where I grabbed a very crowded (4) train to 149th, then transferred to a (2) train to 96th/Broadway, and then finally a (1) train to 86th.

Once at 86th, it was about 9:00 PM and I had about 30 minutes to kill before meeting up with David Greenberger, so I headed over to the Starbucks at 86th and Columbus for some much-needed rest and refreshment. 20 minutes later, I finally forced myself out of the comfy chair and walked back down to 86th. I met David just outside fare control, and we took the next southbound (1) train to Columbus Circle. Once at Columbus Circle, we poked around a bit and scoped out some signs of an closed-off crossunder below the IRT tracks before meeting up with RIPTA42HopeTunnel. From 59th we headed northbound on a (C) local train of R-32’s — my only venture to the B-Division all day — to 168th Street, where we transferred to the IRT once again. This was my first visit to the super-deep stations on the West Side IRT, so this was quite a sight. Due to some sort of delay, we ended up waiting quite a while for our southbound (1) train, even watching one (1) train breeze through the station without stopping before ours finally showed up. Somewhere along the way — it may have been 96th Street — we transferred to a (2) train of Bombardier R-142’s that had been diverted to the express track, and was making express stops only to 34th. I got off at 34th, as I was pretty exhausted and eager to head back to my hotel room, and we all parted company there.

Back at Penn Station, I waited about 30 minutes for the next NJT train to Trenton, which left around midnight. After a screaming child and his parents mercifully got off at Newark, the rest of the ride was quiet and uneventful. As the train was approaching my stop at Hamilton, a passenger seated a couple rows behind me was carrying on a conversation with the conductor about NJT new bi-level trains. I joined the conversation and mentioned that I was visiting from Chicago, where bi-levels rule the roost. The NJT conductor feared that the introduction of bi-levels would induce mass confusion while boarding and alighting on NJT trains, but I told him that Chicago commuters have been using bi-levels with no problems for many years.

The passenger and I both got off at Hamilton, and continued chatting. Turns out he works for the NYCTA (I forgot exactly what he does, but he had been a conductor for some years before), and we chatted for a while on the platform about trains and such. He’s even familiar with nycsubway.org and SubTalk. Before parting ways, he gave me a little MTA booklet outlining “Operators Rules and Regulations” for OPTO. It’s been a pretty interesting read so far… Thanks, mystery MTA employee!

I finally got back to my hotel in Maple Shade at around 2:00 AM, and promptly crashed.

Sunday and Monday found me running around and finding a place to live, and I suddenly found myself bored on Tuesday afternoon. So I decided to head out to Atlantic City to see what that place is all about. The thought that came to my mind was: Daytona Beach on steroids. Tacky as hell and brimming with massive casinos and blue-haired ladies sitting in front of slot machines, Atlantic City was just about what I had expected. There’s a neat little amusement part on the pier near Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino (where I had parked), and the boardwalk itself is a cool place to watch people. Later that day, I made one last visit to Jim’s Steaks at 4th and South Streets for yet another big fat steak hoagie. I flew back to Chicago this afternoon, and I’m now preparing to pack all my belongings into cardboard boxes.

I start my new job on Wednesday, September 4th. That prior weekend (Labor Day weekend) will be spent packing up boxes, loading up a U-Haul truck, driving to New Jersey with my car in tow, and unloading said U-Haul truck in New Jersey. Wish me luck!

Thanks to Jersey Mike for meeting up with me in Philly, and thanks to Kevin Walsh, Francis, David Greenberger, and RIPTA42HopeTunnel for meeting me in NYC. Special thanks to Kevin Walsh for the very cool walking tour of lower Manhattan! Watch for some photos to be posted soon.

We’ve got a nasty thunderstorm bearing down on us now, so I’d better get offline.

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)

Sweet Home Chicago

I just returned from my NYC/Philly weekend trip on Sunday, and I thought I’d let everybody know the latest details of my housing situation, as well as my observations from my first-ever trip to Philadelphia.

I arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC around 11:30 PM on Friday, after our bus spent about the past two hours crawling through traffic on I-95 and the Buckner Expressway into NYC. Given that I had arrived at Boston’s South Station straight from work, I was already very tired and about half-asleep as I lugged my baggage through the bus terminal and toward the Times Square subway station. However, once I got down to the IRT platform level and listened as a train of R-62’s pulled into the Downtown platform, I felt the Life Force entering my body once again. New York is beginning to feel more and more like a home-away-from-home for me, and it felt good to be back in town. New York has that effect over me, almost like a caffeine buzz. I’d probably grow fatigued from it after a while, but it sure feels good in the meantime. My train finally showed up, and I took it up to my friend’s place near the 86th Street stop. I promptly crashed on his living room sofa.

Saturday morning after breakfast I headed down to Penn Station and grabbed a NJT train to Trenton, and after a short wait, the SEPTA R7 train into Philly. First observation: NJT trains are much more comfortable than SEPTA’s commuter trains, despite the fact that a couple of horny teenagers, after arguing with each other as we left NYC Penn Station, were making love to each other in the seat behind me at least until about halfway to Trenton. This was my first time ever in New Jersey, and I was a bit curious to see if NJ is really as bad as the rest of the country thinks it is. No comment…

Approaching Philly, I was struck by how horrible some of the neighborhoods are in the city, at least near the NE Corridor tracks. I’ve seen some pretty horrific neighborhoods in Chicago, but at least over the past few years, Chicago has had a rather aggressive policy of demolishing abandoned buildings in bad neighborhoods. In Philly, block after block of abandoned buildings lined the streets, many of them half-collapsed and/or burned-out. Not a very good first impression.

Once into Center City, I marveled at the magnificent 30th Street Station before heading over to the nearby stop on the Market-Frankfort Line to buy a daily visitor pass. That station’s mezzanine approaches IND proportions, and Philly seems to use a rather antiquated fare collection system. My day pass was basically a strip of newsprint with a validation sticker on it, and the turnstiles look to be the same type that Chicago replaced a few years ago.

Once down on the platform level, I watched a few of the Subway-Surface trolleys go past before my train showed up. I found it interesting that the trolleys are single-ended and use actual trolley poles; I was expecting LRV’s more like Boston’s Green Line. Finally, a train of new M-4’s showed up, and I still can’t decide whether I like the M-4’s or not. The exteriors are probably the brightest and shiniest I’ve ever seen on a subway car, and I was impressed by the cushioned seats on the inside, but there’s something about the look of those cars that doesn’t seem right. Also, the interiors seemed very cramped even though they look considerably larger than the CTA and IRT subway cars I’m used to.

I rode the train only one stop, getting off at 34th Street, and then did a bit of walking around the Drexel campus. Given that it was a summer Saturday, the entire area seemed a bit deserted and there really wasn’t much to see. I got back on the MFL subway to around City Hall, where I transferred to the Broad Street Subway southbound. My destination: South Street, even though I wasn’t 100% sure which subway stop it was closest to. I got off at Walnut-Locust, the next stop. The Broad Street Subway cars sort of reminded me of the older Red Line cars here in Boston, except with bars over the interior cabs and railfan windows. Interesting feature. The mezzanine at Walnut-Locust is absolutely huge. I went up to the street level and did some walking around before making my way over to the hip and trendy part of South Street, closer to the Delaware River. I ate lunch at Jim’s at South Street and 5th or 6th, quite possibly the finest cheesteak I’ve ever had, and then headed over to the river to rest for a bit on a bench. I then walked up to Market Street and took the MFL back to 30th Street Station, where I would soon catch the R7 train back to Trenton and NJT back to Penn.

Not a very long visit to Philly, and not really long enough to get a good feel of the city, but the overall vibe I got from Philly was fairly positive despite my initial first impressions. It seems like a very down-to-earth city that has been on the edge of death for decades, and is now kicking and clawing its way back. If nothing else, Philly is a survivor and a fighter, and I admire that a lot. I’d certainly rather be in a city that is working hard to improve itself rather than in a city that’s convinced it’s already perfect and no longer needs to change or grow.

Judging by the heading I’ve chosen for this posting, it should come as no surprise that I’ve made the decision to move back home to Chicago (more about that later). However, I still wanted to give Philly a fair chance and I’m glad I did. If for some reason my plans in Chicago don’t work out, Drexel University in Philly remains a viable option.

Having returned to NYC, I stopped for a while at my friend’s place to change clothes and catch my breath. After dinner, I headed over to the 72nd Street/CPW stop on the IND and embarked on my annual pilgrimage to Coney Island. After riding the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel (my first time ever on the Wonder Wheel), and spending a lot of time just walking around the place and absorbing the atmosphere, all the stress and worries in my life finally began to melt away. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something about a summer night at Coney Island that makes me feel like a kid again. Before leaving I said a silent prayer that Coney Island be around for many more summer nights to come.

Heading back into Manhattan, I took my favorite subway line, the Culver, to Jay Street/Borough Hall and then transferred to the A train back up to the Upper West Side. The station at Smith/9th Street is as magnificently raw and nasty as ever. I love that place!

Sunday morning I went to morning worship services at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, and even headed out with the young adults group over to Central Park afterwards. I met a few nice people, and felt very much at home there. It reminded me a lot of my old church back in Chicago (Fourth Presbyterian), and made me even more anxious to get back home.

By this time it was getting well into the afternoon hours, and time for me to head back to the bus terminal to catch my bus back to Boston. I said my goodbyes to my kind host and to New York, and caught the next express bus to Boston. I then spent the next 4-1/2 hours seated across the aisle from a screaming infant, while a bunch of idiot high school students were being as loud as possible in the back of the bus. Note to self: Next time, just pay the extra $30 and take Amtrak.

As I mentioned before, I’ve made the decision to move back to Chicago. Once I have a stable job and housing situation there, I plan on taking night classes at the City Colleges and getting my general education credits out of the way, and then hopefully transferring to the Illinois Institute of Technology (my first choice of schools all along). And if IIT doesn’t work out for whatever reason, Drexel remains an option.

I guess it would be pretty easy to dismiss my three months living in Boston as a failure, but I don’t see it that way. I moved out here because I thought I didn’t have any other choice, but I now realize there are some other choices available to me. If I want to take advantage of any of those choices, the time to act is now. There’s little question in my mind that it was a mistake to move here, but I have no regrets whatsoever about spending the summer here. I’ve been able to explore a new city, I’ve gotten some excellent work experience that will look good to prospective employers in Chicago, I’ve met some great people, and I’ve realized just how much I love Chicago and my community of friends there. It will be nice to be back home.

Over Labor Day weekend, I’ll be in Chicago looking for a place to live, and I’ll be loading up my U-Haul truck and driving back to Chicago the following weekend (September 8-9). Hopefully I’ll be able to find a place available for immediate occupancy this weekend and be able to move right in, but if I can’t find a place right away or the place I find isn’t available until October, I’ve got some close friends in Logan Square with an extra bedroom who have already offered to put me up while I get settled. I’d have to put my stuff in storage for the month of September, but oh well… I wouldn’t have to pay for September rent, and the extra round of heavy lifting would probably do my waistline some good anyway.

Wish me luck in finding an apartment (as well as a job and eventually getting accepted into IIT)… I’ll need it.

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)

I’ve Arrived

Just letting everybody know I’ve arrived safely in Boston. I’m slowly getting my stuff unloaded and unpacked, and I’ve got four job interviews this week. Hopefully by next week I will have settled into some sort of daily routine.

I think I’m off to a good start… Yesterday morning, while waiting at Kenmore Square for an outbound C train, I caught a glimpse of one of the new low-floor LRV’s on the inbound D line. Hopefully soon I’ll have a chance to actually ride one.

Special thanks to all those who had me in their thoughts while I was on the road.

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)