Travel Back Thursday: Subway Advertisements

By now, some of you might have figured out my slight fascination with the history of public transportation systems. I highlighted the Washington, D.C. Metro’s opening day last month, and decided to scrounge up a photo from the New York Subway system to carry the theme forward.

This shot is one of a few old advertisements found on the New York Subway from decades ago.

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Photo Of The Day: B Train, New York City

Routine experiences like commuting take on a new meaning when we travel. There’s a thrill to taking the New York City Subway or the Paris Metro when it’s not part of our everyday; a sense of the exotic in the midst of the mundane.

Flickr user Mike GL captures just that in this shot of the B Train in New York City. He manages to get both the movement of the train and the still feeling of the passengers waiting for the next one to arrive.

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[Photo Credit: Mike GL]

Photo Of The Day: Into The Light

Are these people boarding a spaceship or just exiting the subway? The rays of light make an everyday scene look ethereal. Taken in New York City by Flickr user Skylar Grant (on a roll this week with yesterday’s shot of the Williamsburg bridge) with an iPhone using Instagram, the photo uses the most of the app’s technology, filling the square frame just perfectly, with a nice balance of color saturation and contrast.

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[Photo credit: Flickr user Skylar Grant]

Is NYC’s subway about to get more expensive?

I was in New York recently, where there is talk that the MTA is considering raising the city’s subway fare from $2.00 to $2.50 per ride.

Why? The New York Times recently reported that the state of New York is trying to work out a bailout of the MTA, which is saddled with a $1.2 billion deficit. Failing to do that, the MTA says it plans to raise fares and toll revenue in 2009 some 23 percent to close that budget gap, along with making what the Times describes as “deep cuts in service.”

That means a jump in single-ride fares, and the cost of a 30-day MetroCard could increase to $104 by late next spring.

Obviously tourists are more inclined to be impacted by the simple single fare increase, even though $2.50 still seems like a pretty good deal for such a massive subway network. Sure, New York’s subway system is rundown, dirty and generally disgusting, but it does get you to pretty much anywhere you want to go in one of the world’s largest city.

I think of Berlin, where I live: Also a big city, with an amazingly extensive and efficient subway system. But single-ride fares there are nearly $3.00. Then again, I’d happily pay that in New York if they’d clean the subway up and figure out some way to let passengers known when they can expect the next train.

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Subway from JFK to Manhattan is looong, but cheap

While a taxi is the most comfortable way to travel from JFK airport to Manhattan, it isn’t exactly cheap. (Unless, of course, you are traveling from the UK. Then it must seem like a bargain). The trip will set you back a flat fee of $45 plus tip. If you have more than 3 people traveling, it makes sense. New York taxis don’t charge you by the person or by the luggage, unlike some places. (Hello Panama! Hello Rome!)

The good news is, you can take the subway from JFK airport straight into Manhattan for $7. The bad news is, it will take you at least an hour, maybe more during peak times. It is not the smoothest system out there. You first have to take the air train to the subway terminal. Here comes the tricky part, which confuses a lot of people. You have to figure out if you want the Jamaica subway station or Howard Beach subway station.

Here is how I decide: If I have to go downtown Manhattan (south of 14th Street), I take the A train from Howard Beach. If I have to go to midtown or uptown (north of 14th Street), I find the Jamaica Station E train to be faster.

Taking the subway from the airport into the city is a good way to prepare yourself for the urban jungle that awaits you in Manhattan. Most escalators in subways don’t work, so you might find yourself schlepping your bag up 50 stairs. There are other subway joys, such as the turnstiles, which are absolutely incompatible with wheeled bags. Then there is the problem with limited space, which seems to only bother you, not the other 15 people who just squeezed their butts into an already packed train.

When you finally arrive at your hotel (or your friend’s tiny studio), you will be drenched in sweat and the phrase “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere” will take on a whole new meaning. This is when a nice chilled Manhattan comes in handy.