Bye bye Joe Lhota, hello Sadie the cat?

In case you missed it, two big things in MTA land went down this week – (or should I say up?) fare increases are totally happening in March, and Chairman and CEO of the MTA, Joe Lhota, will be resigning. We’ve certainly had a seemingly endless revolving door in terms of MTA chiefs. Lhota has been at the helm of the MTA for just about a year, so I guess he didn’t really set any records for longest time served.

People have been debating who should get the nomination to replace Lhota, and if you ask me, it should totally go to Sadie the subway cat! A few weeks ago I updated you on Sadie, who formerly worked at the New York Transit Museum, but has since retired. I had a chance to talk to the wonderful museum employee who has adopted Sadie, and it seems that she is certainly enjoying retired life…

 
  
 
The subway kitty is now an apartment kitty, and with a nice view!

I bet we could convince Miss Sadie to take the post as chief of the MTA, though. Think about it, we’d just have to pay for her cat food, litter and vet care, and that can’t be more than $1,000 a year, right? That is a bargain compared to the $350,000 that Jay Walder got paid in 2010 as MTA chief. And it wouldn’t be the first time a feline was in an executive position at a transportation company – just ask Japanese cat Tama, who worked herself up from the position of Stationmaster, to Super Stationmaster, and now Chief Operating Officer at the Wakayama Electric Railway. Apparently putting animals in executive positions at railroad companies seems to be a perfectly acceptable business practice in Japan. So why not hire a cat and get ridership up?

In other news, when it comes to the cuteness factor, Sadie beats Joe Lhota hands down. Jay Walder, too.
sadielhota
Sorry, Joe Lhota.

In all seriousness, it will be interesting to see who will be replacing Lhota. And a little bit of a shame, as I thought he seemed pretty competent. (And yes, I admit, I always thought he was pretty cool for actually starting and maintaining a twitter account.) The likelihood of a cat getting the position is probably less than the world ending tonight, so we certainly wish Sadie the best, and to keep enjoying her retirement. But on the off chance that she does get the job, I know who Sadie can hire as her deputy!

grumpycat
The trains aren’t running? GOOD!

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Celebrating Grand Central Terminal’s Centennial: The 100 for 100 Project

Provided you haven’t been living under a rock recently, you may have heard that Grand Central Terminal’s Centennial is fast approaching. While Metro-North will be kicking off celebrations in February, I thought it would be more fun to get the party started now. That’s why I Ride the Harlem Line will be counting down the next 100 days to Grand Central’s Centennial with a historical photo of the Terminal. That’s right – 100 historical photos, posted one per day, for the next 100 days. I like to call it the Grand Central 100 for 100 Project. While there will, of course, be a few iconic photos in the mix that you’ve certainly seen before, I’m hoping that the majority of them you haven’t seen. It is a great way to visually explore the history of the Terminal, and to see Grand Central in a new light.

Grand Central is truly a monument of New York City. Not only is it functionally important – a great example of what a train station should be – it is architecturally significant, and paramount, an important precedent for historical preservation in the United States. Besides all that, Grand Central means a lot to me – and this is one of the few ways a lowly commuter interested in history such as myself can celebrate it. Grand Central, and its Centennial Committee, plan to hold their festivities on the first of February – which seems entirely appropriate – for the committee contains the rich, and the famous. Grand Central unofficially opened on the First of February in 1913 – not to the public, but to the rich and the famous. It was not until the gorgeous Information Booth clock’s hands moved to midnight, commencing the new day of February 2nd, that the Terminal opened to the public. Thus, February 2nd is the day that our project will be counting down to, one photo at a time.


A poster advertising Grand Central Terminal’s opening on February 2nd, 1913.

Our photographic countdown will be comprised of nine different topics, with the photos in each moving in a roughly chronological order. Posting a new photo on the blog every day doesn’t seem to be the best format in which to present these images – thus I’ve decided that the better place to post them all will be on social media. Facebook and Twitter are conducive to sharing – and I want you to share these photos. I want everyone to celebrate Grand Central and its 100th birthday – for it is our monument, not just a pretty building for the privileged.

Part 1: Construction of Grand Central Terminal
Thursday, October 25th

Part 2: Outside views, and the Changing Urban Landscape
Sunday, November 4th

Part 3: Waiting for the Train
Saturday, November 10th

Part 4: Trains in the Terminal
Sunday, November 18th

Part 5: Famous Faces
Friday, November 30th

Part 6: Around Grand Central
Sunday, December 9th

Part 7: The Main Concourse
Saturday, December 29th

Part 8: Noteworthy Events in the Terminal
Wednesday, January 9th

Part 9: Grand Central Terminal, Restored
Thursday, January 24th

So today, we begin. The first photo, and all subsequent photos, will be posted daily at 11 AM. Make sure to like or subscribe over on Facebook, or follow @mtaHarlemLine or the hashtag #100for100GCT on Twitter to see all the photos. There is also an unofficial countdown clock on the top of this site, which will link to the project photos, and count down to the centennial. We’ll also be celebrating with other Grand Central-themed posts over the span of the next hundred days, and will have something special on Grand Central’s birthday, February 2nd. Let the festivities begin!

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Nobody likes a late train… and other such twitter nonsense

One of the things I hate more than being dull and serious is a late train. To amuse myself while waiting for late trains, I began using twitter to invent odd reasons for the lateness. Derailed circus trains, planking customers, and rabid pigeons have all been presented as reasons for lateness, despite their relative insanity. Although it started as a joke, I now feel the obligation to come up with something crazy every time I hear there is a late train.

Below you will find some of my favorite nonsensical tweets about late trains, several of which have been designed to annoy @MetroNorthTweet. Over the years, Metro North’s twitter account has been operated by several individuals – the most recent of which has decided twitter is absolutely pointless and is not a platform in which customers can be helped. Their current modus operandi is to copy and paste to everyone “call 511, idiots, twitter sucks.” The new tweeter also made it a point to unfollow me, though to my immense amusement they are still best pals with @fuckedcommuter. A fine endorsement for the railroad, I see. If you want to read more about my thoughts on Metro-North’s attempts at social media, you can find it here. But now, onto the insanity:


Note: Gregory, occasional blog reader, railfan, and photographer was that week arrested for train photography at the Virginia Road crossing in North White Plains. He claimed that while this was all ensuing, police asked him if he knew “the cat girl.”


Based upon a factual incident, where 3 young females attempted to fit into an M3 bathroom. Clearly they should have waited for a train using M7 equipment.

By all means, if you have a suggestion for a future reason for a “train delay” – please comment. And if you’re not following me on twitter, you totally should.

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Photo of the Harlem Line during yesterday’s snowstorm

Will someone please remind me, what month is this? Just a few days ago riders on the Harlem Line were suffering delays due to fallen leaves on the tracks. Now we have to worry about a massive snowstorm that has blanketed the area, knocking out power for many residents of both Connecticut and New York. The Harlem Line is notorious for its falling trees in heavy storms, and this snowstorm was no different. Service from North White Plains to Wassaic has been suspended for almost 24 hours now due to fallen trees. Grand Central was open throughout the night for stuck passengers – they were probably more lucky than the riders that found themselves stuck on a train yesterday evening. I did manage to dig up a photograph of yesterday’s storm damage, a photo from Hawthorne.


I am the Abominable Snowman, and I have shit snow on you, Harlem Line.

Hopefully service will be restored by tomorrow morning. In the interim, the now useless @MetroNorthTweet (who has given up on attempting to be useful on Twitter, such a shame) advises you to call 511 for absolutely everything – especially if you have any Abominable Snowman sightings to report.

Edit: Metro-North says normal Monday morning service is a go from Southeast on down the line. There will be bus service for stations north of Southeast.

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Attention: Cows do not count as pets on Metro-North

In case you are unaware, I just wanted to let you all know that on Metro-North cows do not count as pets. People can, and do, take both dogs and cats on the train. That is a normal occurrence. However, one of my favorite questions to ask Metro-North employees is what is the craziest item you’ve ever seen a passenger attempt to bring on the train? I’ve heard quite the array of answers, from patio sets to snowblowers to sheetrock. Animals occasionally factor in – snakes, iguanas, (live) chickens… there are rumors of a goat on the Upper Harlem, but I’ve found no one to confirm this.

Anyone who is employed by Metro-North’s customer relations department is bound to have quite the experience in being asked some pretty crazy questions. I know that in my short stint as a phone tech in a computer service center I was asked (and told) some pretty crazy things. Thankfully, I’ve been on the opposite side of customer service questions for quite a few years. I am the stupid customer. Or perhaps more apt – the trickster.

Trouble always seems to be two steps behind me, and I can’t resist playing a little joke every now and again. In this case, I couldn’t resist messing around with @MetroNorthTweet – Metro-North’s presence on the social-media site Twitter. I will not lie – I was aware that Ted, the normal person behind @MetroNorthTweet, was not around and another person would be monitoring the account. Yeah, that probably played a little part…

First, I had to set the stage. I’m so proud of myself, I thought of this on the train platform.

Now, I assure you, I had no intentions of messing with @MetroNorthTweet solely to post it here. Just the fact that other people started chiming in made me decide later on that I should post this. In fact, it was probably the highlight of my day! Thanks Metro-North, and Chamelle for being such a good sport!


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Excerpts from the diary of a train rider

When I started this blog, the majority of it was observations about people I saw on the train, or while waiting for trains. I haven’t really done a post about my observations lately, but for the most part the majority of things I see are remembered as short tidbits, and nothing worth writing an entire post about. If I actually kept a diary, tidbits like these would likely be found inside… just quick thoughts about the things and people that surround me on a day-to-day basis. As I don’t really have anything to post today, I figured I’d leave you with a collection of some of my recent thoughts while riding the train. But rest assured, I am currently working on a pretty big project for the site, and when I (hopefully) debut it next week, I think you’ll all be pretty pleased.


People leave things on the train all the time. I was just thinking the other day, if someone was about to forget their phone, or bag, or wallet, I’d ask them if it were theirs, so they don’t get off the train without it. But then I realized what a terrible person I am – if you were about to forget a bag from Junior’s the only thing I’d say is, “that’s mine!” I don’t want your wallet, or your laptop. Just give me your cheesecake.

Sometimes the guy in the ticket booth at White Plains gets rather excited when he announces trains. Once I heard, “Now on trrrrack one is the train going to… nowhere. Never mind. This train only goes to North White Plains,” and, “Nooooooooowww on trrrrrack one is the 5:59 local trrrrrain to Southeast, making all local stops. Yes, this train will be making all the stops you know and love. Trrrrrrrack one.” I haven’t heard him lately, though. I wonder where he is.

When my train passes Mount Kisco in the evening, there is usually this dark-haired woman named Christine on the platform. I know nothing other than her name, and that she likes to laugh. Sometimes when the doors open I poke my head out and say, “Hello Christine.” I gave her my little card that has this website’s address on it once. Maybe she’s reading this right now. Hello, Christine!

Sometimes I see this girl on the platform when I wait for the train in the morning. She looks like she is in her early twenties, and has quite the assortment of Nike shoes and athletic attire. The only time we ever spoke was when she was drinking a bottle of soda and dropped the cap. We both watched, it was like slow motion, the cap hit the platform and rolled precariously close to the edge. I think I said to her, “Wow. I really thought that was going to fall!”

I have an overactive imagination. I also have a bad habit when I observe people, determining who they seem to resemble physically, and calling them that in my mind thence forward. Regular riders of my morning train are an older Sarah Palin, and an Amy Winehouse – minus the drugs.

I like to read books on the train, and I try to read a book per week. After calculating it out, I really only spend about six hours per week on the train – three of which are reading, and three of which are bullshitting with other people. It isn’t a lot of time when I compare it to hours using the computer. I probably am using the computer for ten hours, if not more, each week day. This is probably why I gained twenty pounds after graduating college.

Usually the train I take in the evening uses M3 equipment… though very rarely we have an M7 instead. The M7′s have that nice seat adjacent to the conductor’s cab, it is dark and quiet and away from all the other people. When I got on the train there was an old man sitting there. The next stop the train was going to be making was a short platform, so the conductor told people in the back of the train to move forward. A woman went to do just that, and the old man sitting by the door there just flipped out. “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK THAT SIGN IS THERE FOR?!?!” he shouted, while pointing at the sign to not cross through the cars while the train is in motion. The woman looked so afraid, like she was almost going to wet herself. The old man was relentless. Later on, after the old man had gotten off, I asked the conductor if he knew who he was. He told me the man worked for Metro North’s safety department. Too bad that detail was conveniently left out of his diatribe. I always wondered if she complained about the crazy man on her train…


In reality this cat’s name is Henry, and he is awesome

Walking to the train station the other day, this strange animal ran out in front of me. It took me a few moments to realize it was a cat, and not an ordinary cat, a three-legged cat. If I had a three-legged cat, I’d name him Tripod.

Sometimes the bus driver really freaks me out. One of these days he’s really going to flip the bus over. A few days ago he accidentally hit the curb so hard I was slammed into the window… and I have a several inch long bruise on my arm to prove it.

I follow @OWNEYtheDOG on twitter. For those who don’t know, Owney was a real dog that used to ride on mail trains back in the day. Owney was apparently murdered – shot dead, and was later brought to the taxidermist. He’s on display at the Post Office Museum in Washington DC. The thing that freaks me out is that whoever does the twitter posts as if they were that stuffed dog. This disturbs me. Even taxidermied dogs are on twitter! Next thing you know, my mother will be on there.

I’m used to people telling me that they like my hat. It does freak me out when they sneak up behind me and attempt to whisper it in my ear. Most especially if they reek of alcohol. However, the thing I really don’t get is why people during the summer ask me where my hat is. I may like hats, but I’m not an idiot.

My grandmother is wonderful. I think it takes only a little sip of alcohol to make her tipsy. She tells lots of good stories then… stories about the original Penn Station, of taking the train all over the country in the ’40s, being afraid her train was going to fall off the Horseshoe Curve… How she’d take the kids on the train and buy the cheaper child ticket, even though some of the kids were too old. Of course my one uncle would admit such to the conductor… the other just had such a bad temper, my grandmother told me she’d buy him rubber dog toys to take for the ride, he’d break all the regular toys.


When I get a text message, my phone makes the sound the M7 trains make. It baffles people at work meetings. It really baffles them when I’m riding my usual train – an M3. But then someone decides they’ll text me five times in quick succession. Then I just look like an idiot.

Everyone always wants to blame Metro-North, but sometimes it is the passengers’ fault that the train is late… like the time there was a man standing in the doorway that refused to move. Despite the conductor yelling at him, he still stalled the train.

I heard some news about banning smoking on the platform. I like this idea. I’d rather not be subjected to your disgusting and headache-inducing habit. Inevitably someone complains about the thought and says, “Remember when they even had smoking cars?” You know what I remember? The tar-black ceiling of Grand Central when I was a kid… all from cigarette smoke. Ah, yes. Nostalgia.

If I had to pick the station with the most obnoxious people, I’d likely pick White Plains. They are like animals there. They’ll push anybody over to board that train, even a little old lady with a cane. Because it is such a populated station, there are always going to be people running for the train and not quite making it. If the conductor kept the doors open for all of them, the train would never leave. When this happens the person usually shouts profanities at the conductor, and probably writes an angry note to Metro-North (I don’t think I could be a conductor, I don’t have thick enough skin). The most amusing part is that White Plains has the most trains of any station on the Harlem Line. In rush hour, there is another train in just five minutes. Is it really worth all that anger?

It is amusing to me how many people still attempt the old trick of hiding in the bathroom to evade paying the fare. Conductors should have mops available on all trains to give to these people. If they aren’t going to pay, and they are going to be in the bathroom, they might as well clean the damn thing while they are there.

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Harlem River Bridge Fire, Metro-North Suspends Service into GCT

The twitterverse is abuzz with news and photos of the fire that has suspended all Metro-North trains into and out of Grand Central Terminal. The fire is a trending topic in the New York area, and folks in the city, including the NY Fire Department, are posting pictures.

Metro-North’s statement below was sent to everyone that is subscribed to their alerts service.

Service is temporarily suspended in and out of GCT due to a fire in the vicinity of 138th Street Bridge.

As of 1:20 PM Metro North has issued the following statement regarding alternate methods of transportation:

Service remains temporarily suspended into and out of Grand Central due to a fire in the vicinity of the E. 138th Street Bridge.

Outbound customers departing Grand Central are advised to take New York City Transit’s 4 or D train to E. 161 Street where they can transfer to a Harlem, Hudson or New Haven Line train at Yankees-E. 153rd Street Station.

Inbound customers traveling to Grand Central are advised to do the following:

Hudson Line–Take a Hudson Line train to Yankees-E. 153rd Street Station and transfer to the 4 or D subway line.

Harlem and New Haven Lines–Take a train to Woodlawn Station for the 2 or 5 subway line.

During this incident, New York City Transit is honoring cross fares.

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Metro North Operations Control Center: After Hours

Metro-North released some images of their new Operations Control Center… and looking at those big screens… well, I couldn’t resist. Here’s what goes on in the control center after hours:





In all seriousness, the new control center looks pretty awesome, and it helps get your train to where it has to go on time. Metro North’s facebook page has more info, with a non-photoshopped image.

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The best stock photo EVAR.

Every time I look at stock photography, I think my IQ drops a few points. I have seen some of the most stupid things in my life on stock photo websites. I wonder why in the hell people would ever purchase these images.

Case in point:

And guess what, this is model and property released! It could be yours! This image is great for all big businesses and trendy organizations looking for the perfect picture!

Interested in buying this image? You can buy it at Thinkstock! We advertise all over the internet about how wonderful our images are, and this is exactly what we’re talking about. Superior quality stock! EDIT: After one year, Thinkstock has finally come to their senses and deleted this piece of shit.

In fact, I couldn’t help but take one of Thinkstock’s real banners (that I see everywhere) and help them out a bit – added their best stock image onto the banner!

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