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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/28 - Off the Rails

There have been a lot of breakdowns in the NYC subways lately, and commuters are not happy. The system is the responsibility of the governor. Critics accuse him of focusing on the grandiose, such as the opening of new stations, rather than on the aging infrastructure. He is, after all, preparing a run for the presidency. In an op-ed piece in today's NY Post, John Podhoretz offers statistics that reveal the strain the system is under. In 1982 there were 898 million rides; in 2015 there were 1.7 billion. In 1980 the city's population was 7.07 million; in 2016 it was 8.5 million. In 1990 13 million tourists visited NYC; in 2016 it was 60 million. Shouldn't the massive increase in ridership have provided enough funds to keep the trains running smoothly, despite the hefty wages, benefits and pensions of MTA employees? Then again, if the powers that be insist on extravagant cosmetic changes, revenue can disappear in a hurry. Joe Lhota, who led the restoration of the system after the 9/11 attack, has been hired to fix the situation. Perhaps he can work another miracle. The political hacks appointed to the board by Governor Cuomo have been useless.

Here's a list of facts about the NYC subway systems, gleaned from, text edited by yours truly. I whittled it down from 33 and combined a few: If all the tracks were laid end to end, they would stretch from New York to Chicago... Only 60% of the system is underground... Times Square is the busiest station, more than 63 million riders per year... Believe it or not, the system is only the seventh-busiest in the world. Tokyo, number one, has nearly twice as many riders... The deepest stop is 191st Street, the platform 180 feet below street level... The Smith-Ninth streets station is the highest, 88 feet above street level...There is a fairly accurate economic principle known as the New York Pizza Connection, which states that the average price of a slice matches the cost of a ride on the subway. A slice at Delmar in Sheepshead Bay is currently $2.75, same as a single fare... In 1916 a worker excavating under the East River survived being sucked through the river and shot up into the air after the pressurized tunnel he was digging cracked... The first female subway conductor was hired in 1917... The worst accident occurred in 1918 when a conductor filling in for a striking motorman lost control of his train while entering a tunnel on Brooklyn's Malbone Street. 97 people were killed, 200 injured... The subway started taking tokens in 1953 when the fare was raised to 15 cents. Turnstiles were unable to accept two different types of coins... In the days of tokens, criminals would often intentionally jam turnstiles and then use their mouths to suck tokens out of the slots. In response, booth clerks would often sprinkle chili powder or mace into the slots to deter thieves. Tokens were made obsolete after 50 years by the Metrocard... MetroCard swipes are tracked and have successfully been used as an alibi to acquit people of crimes... The first air-conditioned subway cars were introduced in June 1967... In 2008, 44 old subway cars were dumped into the ocean off of the coast Maryland to serve as an artificial reef... Michael Jackson filmed the music video for Bad at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station. The MTA has rejected several proposals to install a memorial to the King of Pop at the station... Due to the popularity of the book and movie The Taking of Pelham 123, dispatchers avoid giving trains leaving Pelham Bay Park a 1:23 departure time... The MTA maintains a fake building in Brooklyn Heights. The brownstone actually contains electrical equipment and a secret entrance to the subway system... There is a secret train platform underneath the Waldorf-Astoria that the rich may use. FDR used it to help hide the fact that he needed a wheelchair... The MTA will email or fax a late letter if a delay causes one to be late for work... The A train travels the longest route, 31 miles from 207th Street in Manhattan to Far Rockaway in Queens. It also has the longest gap between stations, 3.5-miles from the Howard Beach/JFK Airport stop to the Broad Channel station... NYC subway cars traveled 344.9 million miles in 2013.

The floating book shop had only two customers today, but they bought in bulk. My thanks to Eileen, who purchased The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty and Eyes Only (Sisterhood) by Fern Michaels, and to Natalia and Bendict, who bought five books in Russian, stocking up for their annual summer sojourn to their daughter's house in Monticello.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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