Subway cat: Update

Despite all of the interesting places I’ve visited and featured on this site, by far one of the most popular subjects I’ve ever posted about is Sadie the Subway Cat. We first featured Sadie back in 2010, and had a nice photo feature on her earlier this year. Sadie is the resident cat at the New York Transit Museum, or rather, she was, up until recently. For all the Sadie fans out there, I figured I’d pass along the news that she has recently retired… and she seems to be enjoying her time as a retiree! Sadie worked at the Transit Museum for the past five years. The Transit Museum has stated that they are undecided as to whether they will be getting another cat.

We’ll miss you, Sadie! Enjoy your retirement!


Sadie hanging out in front of her favored money car on my most recent visit to the Transit Museum in September.

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Have you checked out “The New York Commuter’s Glossary” yet?

Have you checked out “The New York Commuter’s Glossary” yet? If you haven’t yet heard of the book, it is a humorous little collection of words and illustrations related to the art of commuting. It was written by Mike Malone – who is the man behind Train Jotting, illustrated by the awesome Joe Walden, and of course, designed by me. You can buy copies online, or if you happen to be in the White Plains area, Gary Waxman is selling copies at his newsstand in the train station. You can also find it at the Village Bookstore in Pleasantville.


Gary Waxman shows off the book


Yes, this book was designed while riding Metro-North

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Weekly News Roundup, 12/17

Here were some of the most interesting and relevant news stories to be talked about this week…

Extra Holiday Trains

Metro-North will of course be offering additional trains for the upcoming holiday, starting on Friday afternoon and continuing on Saturday and Sunday.

Permut looks to expand the Port Jervis Line

Metro-North President Howard Permut was the railroad’s Vice President of Planning before landing his current gig… so he’s got a pretty good sense of where and how things ought to be improved. Not only is he eyeing the New Haven Line for big improvements, but he’s also looking at service West of the Hudson. On his wish list is a second track on the Port Jervis Line, and a connection to Stewart Airport.


Improvements at Cortlandt to be finished soon

The train station upgrades at Cortlandt, which included new parking and amenities, are almost done – though slightly behind schedule.

Transit-based development considered in Mount Vernon

This week the city of Mount Vernon released a new comprehensive plan with suggestions for improvement. Suggestions included expanding Bee Line Bus service in the city, and further developing the areas surrounding the Mount Vernon East and West stations.


Construction of the Henry Hudson Bridge in 1936

Henry Hudson Bridge turns 75 this week

On Thursday the Henry Hudson Bridge turned 75 years old… and there was no way I could resist posting that old construction photo from 1936!

Rail Outlook 2012

Progressive Railroader has an interesting piece on thoughts for passenger rail in 2012, with thoughts on various transit systems across the country, including Metro-North.


A Look to Tappan Zee From Hastings, painting by Kent Patterson

Retired Metro-North employee, now artist, to have show in Briarcliff Manor

Kent Patterson worked for Metro-North for 37 years as a yard and train master, but in retirement has turned back to an old love – painting. Prominent in his work are the trains and scenery he worked with for so many years. His paintings will be on display in Briarcliff Manor, and are certainly worth checking out.

Photos from Santacon

Buzzfeed has an amusing collection of 22 photos from NYC’s Santacon, which was last weekend. And of course since it was in New York City, some mode of public transportation is involved. Who knew that Santa rode Metro-North?

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Reasons why I’m crazy for CooCoo…

I’ve mentioned it a few times on here, but I absolutely hate Metro-North’s phone information line. Back in the day you would call up and hit the first few letters of the station you were going to on your keypad. It was rather simple. Unfortunately, the system was “upgraded” to a voice recognition system that worked like crap. You would say your station name, and provided there was no background noise, only then would the system understand you. Anotherwords, if you were anywhere in the entire fricken city of New York, the schedule system didn’t work. But it would sure as hell patronize you… Can you repeat that? For folks without fancy phones with internet capabilities, this was pretty much the only option for getting train times on the go, besides having a timetable in your pocket.

Last week Metro-North announced a new way to access your train schedules: CooCoo. I had heard of it, as it had already been put to use for the Long Island Railroad, but had never used it. However, from the various articles written about it, I never quite realized how absolutely awesome CooCoo is. All you have to do is send a text message to 266266 (the number for CooCoo) with your stations like this: Goldens Bridge to Grand Central. Then CooCoo texts you back with the next five trains. Simple. Easy. Want to know the trains for tomorrow? You can do that too: Goldens Bridge to Grand Central 7am. Each train that CooCoo comes back with has a letter assigned to it… respond to the text message with just that letter, and it will text you more information about that train, like the duration and fare price, regular and onboard. CooCoo will also tell you if any of the trains are delayed or cancelled, which can also be a big help.

Now that I’ve started using CooCoo, I’ve come up with a few reasons why I absolutely love it:

CooCoo is easy to remember
I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what the phone number for the Metro-North info line is anymore. They got rid of their 800 number, and even THAT was confusing. Oh, and before they got rid of the 800, if you screwed up and dialed MTA-INFO instead of METRO-INFO, you found that you had called a sex line.

CooCoo, on the other hand, is pretty easy to remember. 266266. CooCoo on the number pad. Easy.

CooCoo is harder to confuse
Whoever tested Metro North’s phone system was probably in a white room with padded walls and there was no sound whatsoever. If you were anywhere outside a sterile setting, the system couldn’t understand the station you just said… which I previously mentioned is incredibly difficult in a city as loud as New York. It got frustrating really fast.

I purposely tried to confuse CooCoo. And you know what CooCoo said to me? “Emily, I am not that stupid.” Whether you typed Purdy’s or Purdys, Grand Central or GCT, CooCoo knew what the heck you were talking about. Want to really try to confuse it? Enter something like White Plains to New Haven. Instead of crapping out, CooCoo has the answer for you- with info on where to change trains, and what time your connection comes. CooCoo isn’t messing around.


Yes, as a matter of fact my phone does have the Prince of all Cosmos on it.

CooCoo is quiet and quick
In a restaurant and want to know when the next train is? Text CooCoo. Quiet, and quick. If I was sitting at a table next to someone shouting into their phone “GRAND CEN-TRAL TO GOL-DENS BRIDGE” I would probably want to slap them. Oh, and for stupid dyslexics like me, you can always look at that text message again if you forget or happen to transpose a few numbers in your mind (“Damn, was that train at 7:15 or 7:51?”).

CooCoo is so much more than train schedules
Want to know your horoscope? Sports scores? Weather? Flights? Movies? Even the schedule of the tides? CooCoo knows it all. Find out all the nifty things you can do with CooCoo.

While some news outlets have introduced CooCoo as a replacement to train departure boards, I don’t think that is the service’s niche. For instance, it doesn’t tell you what track your train is going to be on in Grand Central. Departure boards aren’t going obsolete anytime soon. CooCoo is instead a great service for anyone on the go, and to check if your train is on time – and I’m glad it has come to Metro-North.

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Heeling Autism Service Dogs at White Plains Station

Us train riders are generally accustomed to seeing various working dogs at the train station in White Plains. The K-9 officers are often there, accompanied by their assortment of German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers. But today, we had two special visitors. I had the pleasure to meet two young women, Danniela and Michelle, along with two young service dogs – Carly and Dina. Representing Heeling Autism, a part of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, they were at the station to get fundraising support. They weren’t looking for money, though – they just need your vote!

You may have seen commercials or advertisements for Pepsi Refresh. It isn’t a new soft drink – but a project to “Refresh America” by “giving away millions in grants to refresh individuals and communities.” Ideas are presented on Pepsi’s website, where people can vote. The top two organizations voted for will get a monetary grant from Pepsi. Heeling Autism is one of many groups in the running for this grant money. They are a Westchester-based organization that places service dogs with children with autism. If you’re curious about them, here is a great video from News-12.

So what can you do to help? Heeling Autism needs your votes, which you can do online here. You can also text 101731 to 73774. You are allowed to vote once per method every day, and voting ends August 31st. You aren’t charged anything by voting, just for the cost of the text message if you don’t have a texting plan.


Look at that adorable puppy face… doesn’t that make you just want to go and vote?

Be sure to vote and help this Westchester organization the funding that it needs!

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Living it up on the Subway, & Westchester’s Ads Amuse Me

Some people can’t stand riding on the subway… the massive crowds, the oppressively hot temperature, the noise, the rats… There’s a lot of potential stuff to dislike. However, some people like the trains so much that they ride them continuously. For eleven days. Apparently that is what happened with a thirteen-year-old boy named Francisco Hernandez Jr, a story that was published yesterday in the NY Daily News. Francisco was missing from his home for eleven days. And he was found at the Stillwell Avenue subway station, after “losing track of time” and riding the F, D and 1 trains. Did I mention he did this for ELEVEN DAYS? He also survived that entire time by eating junk food he bought with the ten dollars in his pocket. Where the heck can you purchase ANY food in the city for under one dollar per day?? Plus, the kid isn’t dumb. He didn’t want to be found, so he removed the battery from his cell phone so he couldn’t be tracked or called. Next time you ride the subway though, and you’re thinking how much you hate it, imagine living there.

In other news, the ads that Westchester County does for the train and bus stations make me laugh. They are so remarkably corny. Maybe the messages that they are trying to get across are valid: Feces and Phosphorus aren’t really that great in our reservoirs, but “Scoop the Poop” and “Don’t ‘P’ on Your Lawn” coupled with the incredibly lame people they have pictured, always makes me laugh.
For example, here is the Phosphorus poster:

DSC00495
Really, can you take that man seriously? Just look at the expression on his face! It looks like someone forgot to heed the previous ad, didn’t scoop their dog’s poop, and he stepped in it. While wearing new shoes. And he’s about to cry.

DSC00496
Here is a bonus closeup

Another ad I’ve been seeing a bunch recently on the train is this one about talking to your children about alcohol. They’ve just taken a stock photo of a young girl, telling us that she will have her first drink at age 14. I always wonder about people that are in ads like this one. For example, the woman in the genital herpes commercial that has to say, “I have genital herpes!” How desperate did that actress have to be in order to take that job? Does she get recognized as the “genital herpes lady”? Well, at least that was her decision to be in that commercial. Unfortunately this child had no choice. She was whored out as a stock photo child by her parents. Will friends at school recognize her as the “future alcoholic” from the ad? Perhaps my brain is just messed up from going through mountains of stock photography at work… It does get depressing when you start seeing these stock children all over and you recognize them!
sarah_first_drink

DSC00498
The embarrassment of being in this advertisement may actually lead little Sarah to a life of alcoholism…

Plus this girl looks a lot like the poor Child Abuse flyer kid.
child_abuse_ad
She’s an alcoholic and was abused when she was younger!

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Grand Central trains leave a minute “late”…

So on Friday the New York Times posted an article (which I believe was in the print version Saturday) talking about how Metro North trains leave Grand Central one minute late. There is an extra minute built into the schedule, so if a train is supposed to leave Grand Central at 5:59 on the public schedule, the conductor schedule actually reads 6:00. It may have actually been a helpful thing, but now that everyone knows? Probably not so much.

The article is getting posted on various different websites, but in the process they’ve lost the picture that was posted with the original article. In fact I do believe this is my favorite part of the article, this little running man.

runmanrun
Run little man, run!

That, and some of the comments…

Basically, you are destroying a helpful deception in order to make points for yourself as a journalist. SHAME ON YOU!

Now that the word is out, my husband and countless others will be missing more trains. Thanks alot, you just ruined my family’s dinner!

Do you have any idea what you have done!!! Shame on you. Just to score a few “journalistic” points.

This is like those placebo buttons at pedestrian crosswalks and in elevators that give us the illusion of control. Fun to know.

And my personal favorite:

Woo Hoo. What a scoop!! The train people were trying to do their customers a favor and the Times decides to blow their cover.

Next you’ll announce to all six year olds that there’s no Santa Claus.

Why is this on the front page of the New YorkTimes? I thought it was “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” not “All the News That Fits We’ll Print.”

I guess now you can at least take your time walking to your train in Grand Central (note that this extra minute only applies to trains leaving Grand Central)… I mean the last place you want to trip and fall (and hit your head and die) is on a dirty train platform, running to catch your train that was going to be there an extra minute anyways.

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Last Night’s Hudson Line Delays & Pointless MTA Alerts

Whenever there are delays, MTA never really says all that much. Trains last night were delayed on the Hudson Line, due to “police activity” near Peekskill. Apparently the “police activity” was due to a man getting hit and killed by a passing Penn Station-bound Amtrak train at around 5:56 PM. The man was identified as 71-year-old Steven Paige.

Peekskill Fire Chief John Pappas, apparently a very astute man, had this to say:
“You get hit by a train, it’s never good.”
Somehow I think we were all aware of that.

Pappas goes on to say that they were not aware whether the man was a commuter, but he was not wearing a suit or tie. He was clearly not a Metro North rider, as we all know suits and ties are required for all commuters that ride the train.

You can find more information about that incident here and here.

I’m not subscribed to MTA Alerts for the Hudson Line, but anyone who is, was an alert sent out about this last night? Because this is what I imagine the alerts were made for… reporting delays in service that might be… well, important to commuters. Instead all I find that I am getting are “alerts” informing me that I can take the train to see the Yankees game. I just looked at my old text messages, of the 8 I still have in my inbox, 7 of them were related to taking the train to the game. No offense MTA, but I’d like to know about train delays… and taking trains to the game? I get bombarded with signs for it every day at the train station. I’m well aware of it… and I’m sure all of your other regular commuters, the ones that are probably signed up for these alerts, probably are as well.

A possible alternate service for commuters, Rail Bandit actually announced yesterday that they have added Metro North to their list of Rail lines. Rail Bandit has real-time service and delay alerts, in addition to schedules, all on your cell phone. I’ve not used it, but Rail Bandit looks like it could be quite useful for people in the New York area, as there are also live updates for the Long Island Rail Road, PATH, New Jersey Transit, and other railroads across the country.

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