Saturday, June 11, 2011

For a poet and a one-man band

And every stop is neatly planned.
For a poet and a one-man band. - Paul Simon, "Homeward Bound", 1966"

Second Avenue, June 2006
The MTA, the New York Transit Authority, has a novel way of squashing criticism, that I hate to say, must have been dreamed up by a woman.

The residents up New York's Upper East side are angry at the state of the sidewalk and bus services on Second Avenue. And rather than tackle the problem that has been going on for five years and will continue it seems for at least another five, the MTA has apparently sought to solve the problem by showing that it doesn't exist.

First the problem.

Every weekday morning, along with hundreds of others, I stand on Second Avenue waiting.

I hate to think of the millions or billions of dollars spent by the City of New York in lost productivity. Because time spent standing, waiting for a bus is time wasted. And there is an increasing amount of time now being spent by New Yorkers standing waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Five years ago we had bus shelters and space. Look at the photo above. I took it in June, 2006.

94th Street and Second 2006
And here's another, taken around the same time.

Those were the days. People living near 93rd and Second Avenue had a choice of the two bus-stops. Now we have one.

We, the locals, would not be peeved if we had to put up with the inconvenience for a year or two, but it has been six years to date and the end is not in sight. When will we have our sidewalks back? The latest news is that we MIGHT have them back in 2016, but seeing as the completion date has already been pushed back several times, I doubt it.

Look at the bus-stop we have now. One would think that in New York in 2011, that "temporary" should not mean ten years.

Same bus-stop, 2011
And to add insult to injury the number of buses servicing the area has been substantially cut. AND a new system has been put in place. There are now "Select" buses.

"Select" buses have flashing blue lights and do not stop every stop. "Select" buses need to have wide sidewalks where they stop as tickets must be purchased within one hour from machines on the sidewalk at the bus-stops.

I don't know what it is like to ride in a "Select" bus. That is because the sidewalk where I live is too narrow for the ticket machines. To get a "Select" we'd have to walk to either 103rd or 87th Street.

So every weekday morning I stand with a dozen or so other frustrated people, watching the Select buses fly by with their blue flashing lights. Last Tuesday I counted five Selects as I waited for our "Local" bus. The first two Selects had a few people in them. The next were virtually empty. Someone was counting the commuters hailing cabs. He got to eight and then our bus was in sight.

And now for the "solution".

A few weeks ago, as a result of the many complaints it seemed we had achieved a reaction. Perhaps something was going to be done. For one morning as we took our seats on the bus we saw a pretty young woman holding a clipboard. She was from the MTA and was surveying the Second Avenue commuters.

Lining up for the bus - Even New York kids wear black
I watched her and listened. She was like a breath of fresh air as she approached the commuters, selecting the least hassled and ... was I imagining it .... preferring middle-aged males. I listened to her questions, and their answers.

"What do you think of the bus service?" she asked sweetly.

"Oh it is wonderful," came the replies.

"Did you have to wait long this morning?"

"Oh no, hardly at all!"

"Has the service gotten better or worse?" she smiled.

"Oh better, definitely".

Ad so on ad nauseam and nauseatingly.

The women next to me sneered. "Listen to the old fools," she grumbled.

I however, was impressed. I have great admiration for the use of creativity in solving problems.

Suddenly a majority of the people were contented with the lack of service . The men were happy.

Even I was happy. I admired the solution. And I liked the young woman.

Plus, she had a lovely smile.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I love this story your story definitely put a smile on my dial xxxx

Anonymous said...

They don't sound like my vision of New Yorkers. Britons? (Australian connotation) Grinning and bearing it?

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