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.

Let's first eliminate the boring stuff. I don't want a Gap, Banana Republic, Chipotle, Olive Garden, Burberry, or any other sanitized national brand. New York made its name for being one of a kind, and all the one of a kind places are disappearing. That's a topic for another blog post, as soon as I figure out how to tie it into commuting.

What does TTIV have in mind for the black hole? A commuter's amusement palace to entertain us while we wait for trains. Everybody would benefit, and it would give the MTA plenty of extra cash to squander. Here are a few ideas.

Commuter Keno. Many people like the thrill of gaming and casinos. So let's cater to them by offering games of chance. Have you played Keno? It's kind of boring, until it becomes a commuter game. You'd get a card containing LIRR branches in one column, and delay types in another. You choose one from each column, say "Ronkonkoma, unauthorized person on tracks," or "Babylon, disabled train."

In the front of the room would be two aerated glass display cases, with balls bouncing around (think Bingo or Lottery). Every few minutes a ball from each box would pop up.

If your combination comes up, you win big! The MTA could offer bonus payouts if the branch you chose is actually experiencing the delay you chose. What a great game.

Most likely, they'll put a "Kay Jewelers" where Commuter Keno should go.

Virtual Reality Center. Imagine putting on those goggles for a simulated run through a crowded train station. Like an NFL running back, you'd clear a path for yourself using elbows, fists, and feet. You could choose various experiences, for example, knocking over Thanksgiving Eve amateurs to get to your train that's leaving in 20 seconds. Dispatch the guy in the seat next to you who's eating a liver and limburger sandwich in any way you see fit. It's your VR experience.

Most likely, they'll put a "Wolfgang Puck's U-Pay-Tons Steakhouse" where the VRC should go.

A dunk tank for repeat offenders. What if, as in soccer, poor train behavior was sanctioned with disciplinary cards? A commuter would get two chances, or "yellow cards," and the third offense would be a "red card" penalty, requiring an hour in the dunk tank. The offender would be encouraged to chat on his phone while customers throw balls at the target. If we're all lucky, the offender would drop into the water and his phone would be submerged and thus unusable.

Most likely, they'll put a Jamba Juice where the dunk tank should go.

If only Vornado would listen to TTIV, New Yorkers could once again have a "one of a kind" commuting experience at Penn Station. In reality though, when the new places open I'll keep my home equity line credit card handy. I may get hungry.

Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.
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  1. I am 100% onboard (all aboard!) with the Dunk Tank idea. You absolutely need to begin a petition to make this happen! They just put in some high price yogurt place in my station. I was hoping for a pole dancing venue, but I got yogurt at lap dance prices without the fun of the lap dance. Oh well, guess yogurt is better for me.....

    1. Better in what sense? Dairy is not so healthy. ;-)