Friday, December 25, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Encroachment Should Come With Penalties

Webster's Dictionary states that personal space is "the physical area immediately surrounding someone, into which any encroachment feels threatening to or uncomfortable for them." Yes, encroachment in a confined space is a problem, and nowhere is it felt more than on a crowded Long Island Rail Road train.

In the NFL, encroachment is called when a defensive player enters the neutral zone, making contact with an opponent prior to the snap. There is no neutral zone luxury on the LIRR, and you certainly can't expect conductors to act as referees, so unchecked violations are a regular issue.

There are different levels of encroachment. Some egregious, and some minor. Let's look at a few.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Wheel Of Blame

The MTA Wheel of Blame
Delays occur frequently on the Long Island Rail Road, and the MTA sends explanatory messages to subscribers when they happen. Just about every communication can be attributed to one of five unique issues, and more often than not, the statements are useless.

I assume the MTA Communications department office has a large, prize-style "Wheel of Blame" to determine delay messages. They spin the wheel, an item comes up, and click "send." Communication responsibility fulfilled. Is it accurate? Who cares?

Let's review the slots on the Wheel of Blame.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

There's More To Life Than The Quiet Car

TTIV frequently explores the merits and shortcomings of the quiet car. The program's success has certainly been uneven. Why? It is only effective if the rules are followed voluntarily, and that is not always the case.

No matter though. Let's be visionaries for a moment and assume the program is a massive success. What if the MTA decided to build on that success and introduce different kinds of cars for different kinds of commuters?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Citi Bike: Cobblestones and Sweat

In my last post I wrote about trying Citi Bike. This past Thursday night, I downloaded the app and familiarized myself with bike docks near my usual destinations. On Friday morning, I was ready to try it. At 53 degrees and sunny with no wind, conditions were perfect.

Upon my arrival at Penn Station, I checked the app and saw that there were six bikes at the dock on 8th Avenue. Fantastic! This is going to work out well.

Friday, October 23, 2015

New Adventures In Commuting

Trains, trains, trains. Buses, buses, buses. Subways, subways, subways. Blah blah blah. When you read TTIV, do you feel like things get repetitive sometimes? Nah, me neither. Every day is a new experience when riding the rails. But how about we try something new? TTIV has decided to embark on a new commuting experience, Citi Bike.

The Citi Bike program has been around since 2013. When it started, the bikes were terrible and the program received lukewarm grades at best. A newer fleet of bikes have been introduced and many people are happier with the program now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Going Off The Rails Again

TTIV published a post​ a few weeks back, containing random musings. Thanks to all the positive responses, we're doing this again. As I sit here watching game 4 of the NLCS between the Mets and Cubs, my mind has wandered, as it often does, to commuting. Let's get right to the sound bites in another edition of "Off the Rails."

Friday, October 16, 2015

Subway Characters

Quite the morning on the subway today, saw some interesting characters.

All the way from Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to Park Place in Manhattan, this woman made her nails hot pink. By the end of the ride, I had a nail polish headache.

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, people are wearing pink. And then some are riding pink and rocking the purple.

Commute Off-Peak At Your Own Risk

Earlier this week, a friend who doesn’t often ride the LIRR took the train home from meetings in Manhattan. He found himself surrounded by numerous amateurs, which is no surprise since it was 3 PM, and certainly not rush hour. Amazed by the plentiful rudeness, he gave me real-time text updates for the duration of his off-peak trip.

TTIV takes no pleasure in what he endured. However, there's a sense of vindication in knowing that I’m not the only one who gets frustrated by lack of self-awareness. General disrespect of others in the shared space of a train car is unfortunately the norm.

Today's post is a cleaned up transcript of our conversation. TTIV protects the identities of contributors with Shakespearean names, and today's contributor is "Borachio."

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Open Door Policy

Hey! Remember TTIV? It's been a few weeks since I've shared any musings. I could say I've been too busy to write, but that's a copout. The truth is that I've looked at my backlog of ideas and have been less than excited by them. Combine that with an unhealthy obsession of binge-watching "Dexter" on Netflix, and I've gone radio silent.

Well, not completely silent. I've posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so if you're on those sites, can you please throw TTIV a like? Or a follow?

That was shameless. Let's get back to the core business of TTIV, which is to point out the weird, wacky, and unusual things that present themselves on the commute. Today, we've got an interesting one.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The MTA Is Very, Very, Very Sorry

The MTA published an explanation and apology for September 2nd's commuting mess. The letter is little more than a weak attempt at damage control, and it got me thinking that the people who run the Long Island Rail Road's public communications should take a walk down the yellow brick road, see the wizard, and inquire about some extra brain power.

I often defend the LIRR when stuff happens, because hey, stuff happens. But in this case, the problem was exacerbated by poor communication, and that's one thing over which they had control.

Knowing that service improvements are as likely as getting a decent bagel outside New York, I'll quell my frustration by picking this press release apart.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Communication Breakdown... It's Always The Same

When I wake up in the morning, I check my phone. First things I want to know: Is everyone is ok? Were there any emergencies overnight? Did TTIV get any new subscribers? I mind the important things.

Today, I had about 75 messages in my personal email account. When my inbox is this clogged, I know that the Long Island Rail Road is attempting to share their latest service troubles. The LIRR is terrible at communicating concise information, so they overcompensate with a barrage of endless messages that do not stop until the situation is resolved.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Evil Fun With AirDrop

If you have one or more Apple devices, you may be familiar with “AirDrop.” It lets you easily transfer documents between Apple products. Party 1 offers a file or photo to Party 2. If Party 2 accepts it, it's done. Easy as can be.

On the train, we sit close together. If there are AirDrop-enabled Apple gadgets in range, they will appear by name in your AirDrop folder.

When forces for good harness AirDrop, it's a benign and useful tool. But today on TTIV, we’ll explore what kinds of fun we can have when we leverage this technology for evil purposes.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Off The Rails

We live in a world of sound bites. Twitter allows 140 characters per tweet. News channels have talking heads on all day long but who listens? You flip to the channel, you read the news crawler at the bottom of the page for a few seconds, and then you move on. Even Kim Kardashian only tweets one nude photo of herself per hour. Are 500-600 word essays about commuting life passé?

Who knows. I'm not a social media analyst. But in today's post, TTIV will serve the sound bite consumer community. We're going "Off The Rails" with a "Twitterized" series of thoughts.

Please Don't Feed The Animals

This morning, a woman was handing out bananas as a promotion for some business on the Hicksville train platform. As I walked down the platform to the spot where I like to board, I noticed that most everyone was holding a banana. I wish I'd taken a photo. Highly refined apes on their way to work, but still apes.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Three Numbered Paddles

Have you sat on the train near a phone abuser? If you're a regular TTIV reader or occasionally take the train you know it's an epidemic. If you're in the mood for peace and quiet as you wind down your day, it can be difficult if you are within earshot of some inconsiderate boob talking about his medical test results.

I can usually detect within 30 seconds whether a conversation will drag or end soon. This superpower of mine comes from spending a lot of time on the train and observing people. You get to know patterns. When I encounter phone abusers, I move seats if at all possible. 

But what about the peace-seekers who cannot easily read the signs? Do they have a right to know when these blowhards will finish their conversations? Of course they do.

Octavius and I spoke about this, and we came up with a solution. The answer is... three numbered paddles.

Sunday, August 09, 2015


On my walk from the parking lot to the Hicksville train station last week, I came upon an unusual sight. In high-traffic areas, things are often left behind. You might see discarded food wrappings, coffee cups, the occasional glove without a partner, or a hat.

And then sometimes you find a bowling ball.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Guest Story: The Golden Slipper

Hey #TTIV readers, I'm pleased to publish another guest offering. This one's from "The Duke of Albany," who recently shared a story about Edgar, the angry traffic cop who attempts to direct traffic into the Hicksville parking facility. 

The Duke's latest tale is about a shoe and the gap. The Duke even provided his own crude drawing.

To be clear, we're NOT talking about the Gap that sells khakis. For those unfamiliar with train commuting, there is a gap between the train and the platform, and humans with the most primitive of brain functions can comprehend that they must step over this gap. In recent years, there have been a handful of people who have somehow managed to fall into the gap. If you were to open the skulls of these people, you'd likely find chop meat. 

As a result, the rest of us commuters have to listen to endless recorded "Trainsmart" messages from helpful safety pundits such as Al Roker and Alec Baldwin. They remind us to step over the gap.

That gap is what today's post is about. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Mom Of The Year Candidate

From the "you can't make this up" files:

On subway platform. Large woman is leaving her little girl with another woman and walks away. Child cries. Mother turns around, screams "CHILL THE F OUT!" and continues walking. 

The little girl drew poorly in the genetics sweepstakes. I hope she will be ok.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Readers Sound Off: What Makes For a Good Or Bad Commute?

Hello again, friends and neighbors! It's time for "Your Opinion Matters." Yes, the best kind of post is the one that writes itself. I ask readers a question, gather up the responses, and make a story out of it. You get some variety in your TTIV read, and I get content that didn't have to come from my brain. We're all winners! Hooray for us!

When it comes to good and bad commutes, there are some standards on which most everyone can agree. For example, an uneventful ride in a quiet, comfortable car with clean seats makes for a good commute. Major delays make for a lousy commute.

TTIV wanted to know about other things that make the commute good or bad, and took a reader survey. As usual, TTIV protects the anonymity of contributors with Shakespearean pseudonyms.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Floppers

If you commute with any regularity, you know the floppers. A flopper is a person who makes a less
than graceful landing into his seat. The wheels of his 747 don't gently kiss the ground, the plane bumps and skids onto the landing strip. The final approach to the terminal is bumpy. You get the point.

In short, the flopper sits down with a THUD. The flop is so eventful that everyone in the vicinity is immediately aware of the flopper's action. #TTIV has characterized several distinct flops, and they're the topic of today's story. Let's get to it.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Man Up, MTA

The MTA wanted to keep this a secret
Everyone makes mistakes. It doesn't matter what line of work you're in, role seniority, or how much of a professional you are.

On Friday, a Long Island Rail Road engineer made a mistake and sideswiped another train near Jamaica Station. Fortunately, no one was injured. All passengers were evacuated safely. As you'd expect, the evening rush was snarled and Penn Station filled up fast with stranded commuters.

We're human and stuff happens. It's how you handle your mistakes that make your mettle. The MTA proved their preference is to slink away from accountability rather than take the bull by the horns and own the situation.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Guest Story: Even More Fun With Edgar

We've shared a few stories on TTIV about the "rental cop" who directs traffic into the Hicksville Municipal parking lot. Not knowing his real name, we've given him the moniker "Edgar Wrentilkoppe." It isn't Edgar's fault that his job is difficult and unnecessary, but the way in which he conducts his business is aggressive and often frightening.

A TTIV reader contributed his own anecdote about Edgar, and it's the subject of today's story. We'll call our contributor "The Duke of Albany." #TTIV always protects reader anonymity with a Shakespearean pseudonym. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

More Fun With Edgar

I used the Hicksville parking facility this past week, which I rarely do. I'm glad I did, because now I have a story to tell you.

Regular TTIV readers will remember the headache I'm going to talk about, which is dealing with the traffic director. I like to call him Edgar the rental cop, or "Edgar Wrentilkoppe." For those of you who aren't familiar with him, he was first introduced in this post.

Once again, Edgar's traffic directing skills amused me.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Guest Post: SEPTA vs. LIRR

TTIV is excited to share the unique commuting perspective of a reader who recently moved from Long Island to Philadelphia. We will give this reader the Shakespearean name, "Phrynia."

Phrynia now travels on the regional SEPTA, or Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority train service. I couldn't resist the opportunity to compare commuter rail lines, so I've been pressing Phrynia for information. She provided an avalanche of interesting details about the differences between SEPTA and the Long Island Rail Road.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Bouncy Seat

Hey readers! Do you remember this post about the types of seats you encounter on the commute? I wrote about a train seat that felt similar to those warm, sticky soft toilet seats of the 1970s. Somehow, they've lost their support structure, resulting in a dropped out center. How does a seat get like this? Who knows. But it happens frequently on the Long Island Rail Road.

Today, I boarded my evening train about ten minutes early. The car was about 25% full, and I had my pick of seats. I swiftly hunted for just the right aisle seat and came upon one that clearly had a dropped center. The aisle seat directly behind it was not occupied, so I sat there. I took out my computer to do some work, but I put it aside so I could tell you this story about... the bouncy seat.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Commuting Improvements

Roll out those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer! Those days of soda, and pretzels, and beer...

The commuting challenges change with the calendar. Wouldn't it be terrific if someone in charge of big ideas and innovation at the MTA stepped up and introduced new seasonal programs to improve the experience for commuters?

Of course, it is highly unlikely that a "new ideas" role actually exists within the MTA. I don't know this for certain, but I base my assessment on the fact that the MTA has introduced nothing creative to the Long Island Rail Road commute in about 100 years. But let's imagine for a moment that such a department exists, full of vibrant types who consider the suggestion board ideas, rather than saying no to everything presented.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

Intern Season: Lesson #2

Recently, another "Intern Classroom Lesson" took place. I'm going to tell you what happened, with the help of a few crude drawings.

I boarded at Hicksville, my usual station. The train car was virtually empty, and I had my pick of spots. As a creature of habit, I chose an aisle seat somewhere in the middle of the seating layout, for reasons I'll explain in a future post. A young man boarded at the next stop, and was soon the recipient of some TTIV guidance.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Intern season: Lesson #1

Folks, as I mentioned in this linked post, it's intern season. These eager and idealistic future leaders have much to learn, and need to balance their classroom knowledge with boardroom reality. When it comes to commuting though, there's no classroom education. Becoming knowledgeable takes real life experience.

Recently, I witnessed a young person en route to a summer job in New York City. His commuting skills could have benefited from classroom training.

Get it? TRAINing! Ok stop groaning. The scenario was amusing, and it even made me remove my headphones to watch it play out. What happened, you ask? Read on, class is now in session.

Friday, May 29, 2015

An Irate TTIV

Sometimes you're irritable for no reason, and yesterday was one of those days. I was sitting in a three-seater on the aisle on the way into Manhattan, and the middle seat was empty. There was a man next to the window who wasn't doing anything so so terrible, but every move he made annoyed me.

Usually, I strive to be balanced and reasonable in my posts. But the night before I'd driven about 200 miles to western New Jersey and back to pick up something I bought on eBay. The traffic wasn't even that bad, quite frankly. I was simply tired. I had nothing to be grouchy about, but this was my state of mind. Thanks to the magic of blogging, I'm going to share with you the things that got under my skin.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Stop And Smell The Roses

My oldest son is a fan of expressions and idioms. When I take him to school we have good chats for the mile or so drive. He recently told me that people don't often "stop and smell the roses."

You know what? He's right. I should stop and smell the roses more frequently. Of course, commuting takes up a lot of my rose-smelling time. But I'll make lemonade out of lemons and do the next best thing. If I don't have time to stop and smell the roses, I will take time to stop and write about the various smells on the Long Island Railroad.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's Intern Season, But Hold Your Fire!

People all over the northern hemisphere are thrilled that it's spring. After the winter we’ve had, some good weather is in order. I'm so happy to see leaves on the trees and hear birds singing. I could live without the ragweed mess and endless potholes, but it’s part and parcel of this time of year. I’ll take it all.

What else comes with spring? The end of school. Final exams are finishing up and college students are looking forward to some real world experience.

That means my train will be populated with 1) regular daily warriors, 2) tourists en route to
Broadway shows, and 3) interns. Interns by definition know nothing. They exist to contribute at a low level and to soak up the experience. For the commute, this means a lot of mistakes until they understand the rules.

I've always had a yen for teaching, so I'd like to provide a few guidelines for the young commuters. 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Coping With Sound Bombers

I’ve stated many times that headphones and music are the first line of trench defense. When opponents compromise your fortress, you’ll find yourself in battle. 

I know what you're going to ask. “Huh? What are you talking about?” I’m referring to vocal artillery fire. Commuting is war, and enemy cell phone abusers frequently detonate sound bombs. These mercenaries are armed to the teeth with discussion points about dinner plans and colonoscopy results, and they fire at will. Oftentimes, you have to take cover in a new trench.

We’ll now dispense with the military metaphors, as I never served in the armed forces. I’m sure TTIV readers who have will point out that I’m using them incorrectly.

My question today is, "what does it take to quiet a sound bomber?

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The TTIV Poetry Throwdown

Marsh, TTIV's Eastern Pennsylvania Bus Bureau Correspondent, rearranges song lyrics like a wizard. For as long as I've known him, he's thrown them down like Eminem at a rap battle.

The bus commute has been tough lately. During a recent Lincoln Tunnel delay, he came up with the following. Weird Al Yankovic has nothing on Marsh.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What's On The Commuting Agenda?

In an earlier post, I asked TTIV readers to share what was in their commuting survival kits. Some responses were typical, some unusual. Splenda and Oxycodone were my favorites, and judging from reader comments, yours too.

I'm also nosy about what people do on their commutes, besides obtaining medical test results via cell phone at obnoxious volumes. So I asked the TTIV community. In today's post, we'll look at what they said.

Shakespearean characters are back to protect TTIV readers' privacy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Destination... Black Hole

Have you been to Penn Station recently, near the ticket windows on the 7th Avenue side? If so, you've likely noticed the scene depicted in the photograph. The shops selling greasy fast food like KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Auntie Anne's Pretzels were shut down. All that remains is a mysterious black wall that extends for 500-1000 feet.

According to news reports, upscale restaurants are coming to the space. But who wants to eat at Penn Station? I have no interest in some big-name, overpriced place with a basement feel and corporate card prices. 

I suppose you can't fight "progress." Vornado Realty can do what they want. However, that won't stop TTIV from dreaming about what COULD go into this space to improve commuting.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Critical Concerns and CRUDD

Have you noticed the uniforms the Long Island Rail Road Conductors wear? They're not flattering and they look uncomfortable. The Engineers who drive the trains, however, wear whatever they want. A TTIV reader was curious about the inconsistency, and wrote a letter to the LIRR Public Relations Department, or as I call it, the Committee Responsible for Useless Data Dissemination (CRUDD). 

The CRUDD's response was weak. I think the TTIV reader exposed a security risk.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Haste Makes Waste

Hey #TTIV readers. Some of you told me that my post last night about the panhandler and train delays came off as insensitive. I reread the post and decided you were right.

My intention was not to focus on the injured man, but to look at it solely from the perspective of the commuter who simply wants to get home. If you want to publish essays, you have to be balanced.

Moral of the story: Don't publish an essay the same evening you write it. If you don't have an editor, allow yourself extra time to review what you've written from a fresh perspective. I've updated the story.

Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate all of it.

-- David

Another Day, Another Massive Delay

It happened again, folks. Around 4 PM on April 9th, a known panhandler either jumped or fell between two cars as the train he was on left Penn Station. All service was stopped, the man was taken to a hospital, and commuters were stuck. I was happy to read that the panhandler only has minor injuries. He is expected to recover.

This turned the evening commute into a disaster. I'm on vacation this week, and admit I was sad to have missed a day of excellent TTIV material. But I got over it quickly, as several readers fed me bits and pieces about their experiences. It's great to have a TTIV Information Bureau.

I have some thoughts to share.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Who wants to have some fun?

I am at a place called Funplex. Am I having fun? Yes. Have you been to Penn Station on a Friday around 6 PM, when there's a "track condition" causing delays? 

That kind of fun. If you look at the photo, it looks like Penn Station on a Friday afternoon, although Penn hasn't yet opened a "Foam Frenzy" pit. 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Three Men In One!

On the train, guy boards with a full set of golf clubs and places them in the overhead rack, eliminating space for everyone else. He's wearing sunglasses, and chatting on his phone. 

That's like three obnoxious people for the price of one. What a bargain.

Hanging It Up

Hey all, it's been a lot of fun writing about commuting. Thanks for sharing your stories and reading mine. Lately, I've noticed a major change in the behavior. People are courteous, they respect the rules. I haven't smelled any unpleasant foods at all.

Given this dearth of material, I'm going to hang it up and find something else to do with my train time. I suppose it's a good problem to have.

Happy commuting, and I KNOW you'll encounter uncommon sense.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fixing What Isn't Broken

Exhibit A: Man in yellow safety vest directs traffic
while three managers supervise
Back in September 2014, it suddenly became difficult to get to the Hicksville parking facility during morning rush. Why? A man in a safety vest was directing traffic into the lot. Rather than improving traffic flow, he made things much worse.

I was incensed by such an egregious waste of tax dollars, and wrote this linked post in frustration.

I have updates to share. The man in the vest is still directing cars into the garage, the traffic is still unnecessarily awful, and it's dangerous.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Steel Snake Survival Kit

Survival kits are important. Every time there's a weather event, you hear about the importance of them. Hurricane Horatio is coming! Gather fresh water, canned food, chainsaws, and batteries!

Commuting also requires a survival kit. Two rides per day takes strategy to maintain your sanity. In prior posts, I've written about my own survival kit, which includes headphones, a fully charged iPhone loaded with music and podcasts, my computer, and a book or other reading material.

Knowing I couldn't be the only one, I asked fellow steel snake warriors what they must have when going from point A to B. Some of the responses were run of the mill, and some were unusual.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The iPad Hero

Don't you hate when you leave behind something important? It happens to people on the train all the time.

On Friday, I got out of the office on the early side and headed to the rat hole that is Penn Station, along with 829,609 other people. Got a great seat, pulled Alan Paul's One Way Out, the Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band from my bag, and read about Duane's sessions with Eric Clapton. The time flew by and before I knew it, I was in Hicksville.

I closed the book and stepped out onto the platform. Just then, someone about 20 feet ahead of me screamed. "Excuse me! Sir! Excuse me!" What was going on?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Morning Wine, Discretion, and Vegas

On my way into Manhattan yesterday, I witnessed a new odd behavior. You may be thinking, "how many odd behaviors can you possibly see on the Long Island Rail Road?" If you are a regular commuter, you know the possibilities are truly endless. Today, we'll talk about the morning drinking habits of a fellow commuter. Yes, I said morning.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Stay Hungry

Have you ever been hungry in Penn Station while waiting for the train?  Yes? How unfortunate. Why? Because Penn is the worst place in Manhattan to be when you need something to eat. Penn's choices make me choose hunger 82.9 times out of 100. The other 17.1 times, I've regretted the indulgence.

Let's look at what Penn has to offer.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Midnight Rider - Answer Key

On Monday, I shared a story about taking the wrong train, which has now happened more times than I care to admit. I entertained myself by writing the story as it happened and weaving in Allman Brothers Band references.

Many of you counted the references and came back to me, asking if your counts were accurate. The number of references was 18. Here is the answer key.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Midnight Rider

I have a wrong train story to tell. One evening, I got on the Babylon train instead of the Ronkonkoma train, a mistake that cost me a lot of time. Bored, with time to kill, I opened up the computer and wrote about it to keep busy. To further entertain myself, I worked in Allman Brothers Band song references.

How many ABB references can you spot? Winner gets... well, the winner gets nothing, really. We don't have a budget for prizes at TTIV. The winner gets to name a band and I'll work its songs in as references in a future blog post.

Recently, I had a pretty challenging week at work and couldn't wait to get home. It was Friday night and I'd been in the office past 9 PM. Completely spent, I trudged to Penn Station and boarded my train. On went the headphones, on went some early Allman Brothers, and on I went to Zoned-Out Land.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Gum and Paperwork

This morning I put $40 on my MetroCard at the vending machine. I then went to the turnstile and the card got stuck mid-swipe. What the heck?

MetroCard Swipe
Source: NY Daily News
Some jerk decided it would be funny to block the card swiper with gum or some other sticky substance. When I pulled the stuck MetroCard out, it had buckled along the magnetic stripe. When I tried to swipe the card at a different turnstile it wouldn't register. Great.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Worst Seats In The House

To optimize the commuting experience, I need a high quality seat. What represents a high quality seat? For me, it's the aisle of a three-seater, no one in the middle, no bottles rolling around on the floor, and no sticky mystery liquid under my shoes. What's interesting about that? Probably nothing.

Bad seats make more interesting blog posts. Just as you can go to an event in a stadium or arena and get stuck behind a pole or a person with a tall hairdo, you can board public transportation and have a lousy experience because of where you sit. Today's post is about the worst seat in the house on trains and buses.

I'm going to tell you about the worst train seats. Our North Jersey Bus Correspondent, Chintan, will tell you about the evil of the final bus row.

Let's start with trains, shall we?

Photo courtesy of Long Island Fail Road,
Any seat in the six-seater. Unless your travels involve five other people you know, sitting in the six-seater stinks. There is a row of three seats facing another row of three seats. The legroom between them is minimal. Unless you keep perfectly still, you will find yourself playing foot games with the person across from you. See the guy without a face drinking a cheap beer in the photo for an illustration.

While any seat in the six-seater is awful, a middle seat in the six-seater is even worse. No legroom and no elbow room. I'd rather ride on top of the train car where I'd catch a nice breeze while ducking to avoid overpasses.

The vestibule. Some people will make do when there are no empty seats by sitting in the vestibule. There's no way I'm doing this, especially in the winter. The train floor gets grimy with salt, snow, slush, etc. I suppose it depends on just how badly you need to sit. Better bring a lot of Purell.

The wheelchair accessible benches. The newer M-7 train cars have an area near the vestibule where benches fold down for able-bodied people, but fold up so that wheelchair-bound folks have a place to park.

I never sit on those benches. Why? I don't think they really want people to sit there, because they're not designed for humans. The angle of those seat backs make you lean forward a little, just enough so that by the time you reach your destination, you feel about 100 years old. I'd rather stand.

Let's switch over to the buses now. Chintan told me about the dreaded final bus row. During rush hour, buses fill completely. If you're lucky, your fanny won't land in the final row.

The Evil Seats of the Final Bus Row. Talk about a rock and a hard place.  For those of you who may not be aware, typical New Jersey Transit buses have eleven rows with four seats (aisle in between), and a twelfth row with five seats. The twelfth row is the hell row. The evil seats reside on either side of the middle spot, and you're better off walking to work or calling in sick.

The last row's seat back is 90 degrees with no incline. Depending on the bus make and model, the row is adjacent to engine or the air conditioner, maximizing noise and odor. The row hangs off the back of the bus behind the rear wheels. Lucky twelfth row denizens get a roller coaster ride, without the headache of going to an amusement park.

That's just the row. Let's look at the evil seats.

In the two seats designated by red arrow in the crude drawing, you are completely helpless and out of control. You are squashed between the center and window seat occupants with your bag in your lap, praying there's no traffic.

The only alternative is to stand for the entire length of your commute or until someone gets off. Standing on a bus is not fun. A bus has to maneuver along highways, make turns on local roads, bounce over potholes, curbs, etc. Try navigating that while reading or playing on your smartphone.

The good news is that your day will only get better after sitting in.... the Evil Seats of The Last Row.

Thanks Chintan for your contribution. The evil seats of the back row sound a lot like the evil middle seat on the train. There's no easy commute anywhere, it seems. 

Keep sharing your travel tales, either by email or using #TTIV on social media. Commuting is a lot easier when we share and compare stories. 

Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.
Share your commuting stories on the Facebook TTIV site, on Twitter, using hashtag #TTIV, or via email.
Sign up for the blog mailing list by entering your email address in the "Follow By E-Mail" box.
Twitter: @davidrtrainguy
If you like the blog, tell a friend!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Blabber Car: The MTA Needs Visionaries

Recently, I published some thoughts on throwing in the towel and declaring the Quiet Car program a failure. I came up with a solution more likely to succeed, called the "Blabber Car." The Blabber Car would be a place for cell phone yammerers to annoy one another for the duration of their commute, leaving the rest of us in peace in other cars.

Given reader encouragement, I submitted my idea to the MTA Suggestion Box. I was pleased to get a fast response. Well, until I realized that just like the small envelope you get from the University when you apply to college, the fast response is merely an efficient rejection.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Blabber Car!

How many times have I ranted about the quiet car and the blatant disregard people have for others? How many times have I sat in that car, needing some down time after a long day, only to have to listen to some blowhard drone on and on about nothing in particular for the entire ride? 

It occurred to me that maybe the failure of the quiet car program is due to the method. Maybe there should be a Mobile Phone Car, or a Blabber Car instead! I can't believe I never thought of this before. 

Put all the pariahs in one place. Everyone wins.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The New Penn Station Will Be Great!

Here's an old flyer about how much better the new Penn Station would be than the old Penn Station. I wonder if the copy writers actually believed what they wrote. New Yorkers rarely agree on much, but one thing we all agree about is the sad state of Penn Station.

The labyrinth with low ceilings, poor lighting, and fast food make it the kind of place that people immediately want to leave. There's much talk about improvements, rebuilding, and moving to the Farley Post Office across the street. I see very little actually happening. Maybe the next generation of commuters will have a better experience. For me, I look to spend as little time in the station as possible.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Unthinkable Happens In Valhalla

What a horrible story coming out of Valhalla yesterday. Seven people dead due to a train-car collision. My heart goes out to the people impacted by this.

As is typical of news reports, witnesses were quoted in one of the papers I read this morning. To my surprise, one of the quotes was attributed to an old friend who I haven't spoken to in some time but is often in my thoughts. He was on that train. I'm glad he was quoted instead of being named as one of the victims. 

I wish I had words that could make sense of something this devastating. We're all one mistake away from the other side. Don't forget to live.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Turnstile Is Sending A Message!

As I sit here watching the Super Bowl, my mind has wandered to subway behavior. Why, you ask? Because my mind always wanders to train behavior. And because I haven't written a blog entry in a week. So, it's time to delve into subway behaviors. 

Mostly I write about things I see on commuter trains, but the subway has its own flavor of oddities. Much has been said about the things people do on the subway, such as eat, dance, preach, hug the poles, sell candy, and sing. But I'm not going to do that. No, I'm going to look at the things people do before even getting to the platform.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sunday, January 25, 2015

We Are The Four Percenters!

The MTA Fare Hikes are coming. You may remember, back in the 2014 there was the threat of an impending rail workers strike, but it was averted with a last minute agreement. We all knew at that point that the fares would go up, and now the day of reckoning is coming. The MTA just published a press release outlining fare changes.

I'm glad those 2014 hearings where customers were invited to speak their minds about fare increases were considered carefully before they were ignored. The MTA states that fares will go up by an average of 4%. What will I receive in return for increased fares?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Skunks On a Train

Ever heard of snakes on a plane? Today, I experienced skunk on a train.


Yes, skunk on a train. That's a new one for me. I rode the A Train from 34th Street down to Chambers Street, and the whole train car reeked of skunk. I've heard of coyote sightings in New York City, but skunks? Just another reason to keep a pair of nose plugs on hand when commuting.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

New Year, New Peeves

All right! We're into the swing of 2015 and it's time to dig back in with some brand new peeves. It's been a few weeks since I returned to work from an extended and relaxing vacation, and that's enough time for me to regroup and re-establish commuting irritants.

It seems that many of you have done the same, because several of you have written to me with your own peeves. I'm excited to share them with you. Remember Octavius? He alerted me to Rackophobia and the Aisle Shimmy. Reader Mike G reminded me of Wednesday Travelers.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Piece Of History, Right Under My Nose

Perhaps you've noticed, I've been captivated recently by the beauty and history of the original Penn Station. This interest started when I was researching my post, "A Tale of Two Commuting Hubs."

I've been commuting from Hicksville Station for a long time. Usually, I have tunnel vision as I rush to the platform. But today, I saw something that I never really took notice of before. What was it? A 5,700 lb. stone eagle, proudly perched on a pedestal.

What's so significant about that?

The original Penn Station was adorned with 22 stone eagles. You can see six of them in the black and white photo, on either side of the clock. When the building was demolished, the eagles were destined for the landfill. Hicksville High School teacher Samuel Goldberg claimed the eagle and brought her to Long Island. Since 1965, the eagle has been at the station.

The years were tough on the bird. Her beak was broken. She was dirty. But in 2010, she received a restoration, funded by taxpayers and private donations. I'm thrilled that my tax dollars went to repair and restore this magnificent and important relic. 

Great architectural works with a rich history always capture my attention. I'm looking forward to seeing her every day on my way to work. I've often commented that Penn Station today is a rat hole. The eagle lets me participate, in my mind, in sophisticated train travel from a bygone era. And that's pretty cool. 

18 of the 22 Penn Station eagles are displayed in various locations throughout the country. One is in the Smithsonian, and another is located at the current Penn Station. Take a look next time you're in the area. The USA is a young country, and these birds are over 100 years old. They're an important piece of our heritage.

If you want to commute with me from Hicksville, let me know. I'll meet you by Big Bird. Just look for the guy staring upward, admiringly. I won't be tough to find.

Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.
Share your commuting stories on the Facebook TTIV site, on Twitter, using hashtag #TTIV, or via email.
Sign up for the blog mailing list by entering your email address in the "Follow By E-Mail" box.
Twitter: @davidrtrainguy
If you like the blog, tell a friend!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Tale Of Two Commuting Hubs

Have you commuted out of the two Manhattan rail hubs? Grand Central Terminal is at 42nd and Park Avenue, and it lives up to its "grand" name. It is the crown jewel of the New York Metropolitan area's commuting infrastructure. In stark contrast, Penn Station stands at 33rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. To put it bluntly, Penn Station is an ugly rat hole. When you can honestly say that the Port Authority Bus Terminal is a commuting cathedral compared to Penn, you are really making a statement.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Incompatible Neuroses

Today on the train, I brought out the neuroses of a fellow passenger. Shocking, I know. Let me explain what happened.

I'm always on my computer when commuting. I'm either surfing the web, working, or writing for TTIV. This morning was no different. I had to prepare for a meeting by typing notes. I wasn't in the quiet car, but mornings are typically silent unless some amateur commuter decides to have an in-depth conversation with his doctor about his gall bladder, or has an urgent trade to make.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Back and Better!

Happy New Year everybody! It's been a great holiday break. I haven't taken a two week vacation in years, and I feel well rested and ready to return to the grind. Besides hanging out with the family and taking some much needed down time, I completed my goal of revamping TTIV. I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. Here are the key changes.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Thursday, January 01, 2015