Fare increases are in inevitable but depressing reality when it comes to riding the train. Starting March, Metro-North has unfortunately had to raise fares yet again. This, of course, has happened many times throughout history. In 1951 the New York Central distributed a brochure to Harlem and Hudson commuters regarding an upcoming fare increase, which I’d like to share with you… complete with an anthropomorphized sad train. Sad train is sad :(
Just the other day I was chatting with a coworker about riding the train – she lives in Mount Vernon and mentioned occasionally riding the “red line” into the city. I had to chuckle a little bit – it is usually the uninitiated newbies that refer to the Metro-North lines by their colors. The color of each line, however, is deeply ingrained in all of us. From the signage on the platforms to the printed timetables, we all pretty much know that the Hudson Line is green, the Harlem blue, and the New Haven red. But where did these colors come from, and how long have they represented each line?
Most obvious is the New Haven Line. The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, of which today’s New Haven Line was once a part, long used red for printing and locomotive paint schemes. Although not part of the core Metro-North lines on the east of the Hudson River, I’ve always thought that the selection of orange to represent the Port Jervis line was a little bit clever – much of the line runs through Orange County. I’m not sure how the Harlem became blue, and the Hudson became green (you’d think it is backwards – blue seems more appropriate for the line that runs along the Hudson River), the two colors have been established long before Metro-North ever came into being. Their first usage on timetables dates back to around 1965.
Blue ink on white paper eventually became the standard for Harlem timetables, though there were a few times over the years where the rules were totally broken. One of the most odd was an early timetable printed by Metro-North in 1983 – in maroon ink. I have no idea why anyone would have thought to print a Harlem Line timetable in maroon – my only assumption is that it was to catch people’s attention as it highlighted the electrification project underway north of White Plains.
Most amusingly, you’ll note a little mark on the bottom right that reads “Form 112.” Form 112 was the number assigned to Upper Harlem timetables since the New York Central days, which at that time meant service from Pawling to Chatham (or in the early 1900’s, North Adams, Massachusetts). It is a little bit odd to see that form number used for service north of White Plains. Calling stations like Valhalla, or Mount Kisco the Upper Harlem seems like blasphemy to me.
Today you won’t find form numbers on any of Metro-North’s timetables. Their inclusion in the early timetables almost seems like an in-joke amongst the old railroaders working for this new company. You won’t see “Upper Harlem” timetables either – the entire line is usually printed in a single timetable, making this particular timetable rare.
Below is the rest of the timetable, which is a bit interesting to see… especially the listing of the fares when Metro-North took over from Conrail in 1983.
If you haven’t realized by now, I tend to shy away from discussing the various political issues surrounding the MTA. I like to stick around in the history zone, and talk more about art and photography-related things. If you want politics and opinions, and can stomach about ten advertisement banners per page (my personal faves are the animated fat loss banners of the sketch-woman clenching a fatty gut in her hands), Second Avenue Sagas is probably the place for you.
However, we’ve almost completed the first week with our new MTA big boss Joe Lhota (albeit unofficially, until confirmed by the senate in January), and I had to say something. The media is scrutinizing his first moves in the big chair (fare hikes in 2013!), but I had to say, I liked this one article that I found: New MTA chief Joe Lhota calls on prosecutors to throw book at riders who attack transit workers. I think that is a good a place as any to start. What you probably do know from reading my blog, is that I do have a tremendous amount of respect for train conductors (I’m not going to say employees, as you all know there others that I do not hold in such high esteem). They are on the front lines, the public face of the company, and they deal with idiots for a good portion of their days. Many get significant compensation for this work, but it is a tradeoff for having few days off and transporting your drunk ass home on holidays like New Years.
In the summer when there was the New Haven Line incident of the stuck train near Greens Farms (which I never really said much about, either), passengers were furious. And one of the reasons was because during the incident the conductors hid in their cabs, or reportedly removed their uniforms. I always found myself giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they weren’t being shitty employees – they were just afraid of what a train full of irate passengers could do. I want to know what the statistics are for conductors that have been assaulted by passengers. And the sad thing is, that I would guess it is probably in the 90% range, if not higher. There have been broken noses, broken fingers, employees that have been hit with umbrellas, spit on, or had a glass bottle broken over their face when sticking their head out the cab window. And these are just stories that I know. I certainly support stiffer penalties for that sort of thing – I don’t care what job you’re in. You shouldn’t be doing that stuff to fellow human beings (or even animals for that matter!) I’d also be okay with a new MTA slogan of “ride the goddamn train/bus/subway and don’t be an asshole” but somehow I don’t think that would go over too well.
Every once and a while I get an email from some person looking for high resolution copies of what train tickets look like. I wonder if people are really that stupid… but no, by now this doesn’t really surprise me. What legitimate use would people want this for? There aren’t any. These people are looking to make forgeries. While I generally just delete emails like this outright, there are the occasional times where I want to send them photographs of really old tickets. If they believed me, and attempted a forgery, it would probably give a conductor a good laugh. I mean, what would you say if some guy tried to use this on the train today?
And that is actually not that old
Ignoring the dimwit forgers, it is actually quite interesting to look at the evolution of tickets, just as it is to look at old timetables. I will admit that I have quite a few more timetables than I do tickets, cash fares and the like. But all the same, they are fun to look at. Below are some of the ones that I have and have scanned. Do you have any old Harlem Division tickets? I would love to see them… please email me! Then we can have a part two, because I’m apparently in love with multi-part posts.
Yesterday the New York Post reports that Metro-North and LIRR may be phasing out yet another thing to save money: the discounts for buying tickets online. I have to admit though, I am curious: how many people have actually used Web Ticket? It has been around for a few years… I’ve used it a few times. But the one and only reason why I have is because of those discounts. Hell, they even market the whole thing by saying “Welcome to a convenient way to buy Metro-North train tickets for less.” Would people still use Web Ticket if there were no discounts? Anyone have thoughts on that? I don’t think I’d use it. There are quite a few people out there that need to buy their ticket from an actual person, they won’t use the machines. And certainly they wouldn’t use Web Ticket. But people that buy from Web Ticket probably have no issues buying from one of the many ticket machines available. And isn’t that more convenient? Buying the ticket when you need it, and not worry about the ticket taking a few days to come in the mail? The Mail and Ride system is separate, being subscribed and not having to buy the ticket on your own is convenient… and I imagine people would still use this service.
Another proposed change would effect returning tickets: a small fee will be charged, instead of being free. I suppose I can understand this, and so many places nowadays won’t accept returns period. Or they charge fees of an arm and a leg, and possibly your first-born child. Most people don’t even realize you can return tickets.
The possible elimination of off-peak fares remains the big change. Apparently more information will be revealed next week, after the MTA has their monthly board meeting.
If you buy a monthly ticket to ride Metro North then I am certain you noticed the increase in fare on your July monthly. We all knew it was coming, and I guess I am happy that the increase was not nearly as bad as it was supposed to be. Anyways, I always wonder about people who take the train down from Wassaic to Grand Central. I personally don’t know anyone who does… but there must be at least a few of them. But it is a long and expensive ride…
$372 to $412… an increase of $40. Wow…