Track Tales

Track Tale #1

April 6th, 1999 by Conductor


April 6, 1999.
As promised, here’s the short version.

I get to the Church Ave. station, swipe my card, and walk to my spot on the platform.

I look down the tunnel, and a train is coming; a few seconds later it’s revealed to be the 2.

Joy.

I glance at the woman standing next to me, and the undisguised look of disgust on her face told me all I needed to know.

  • One: This 2 had not followed a 5 train.

For you non City dwellers, the 2 should be preceded and followed by the 5 train during rush hour.The 5 is supposed to run up Lexington Avenue, while the 2 makes the 7th Avenue run. They split up after President St. with the 5 running express and the 2 running local.

  • Two: If you get two 2 trains (or two 5’s) in a row, chances are pretty good that there’s some problem with the 5 line (or the 2).
  • Three: If the people around you look at the 2 in disgust, that means there hasn’t been a 5 for a while, or if there was, it was packed like the last flight out of Saigon.
  • Four: You should start reviewing your alternate routes, how you can get to them from here, and how much time you’ll save or lose.

While going through the motions of fact number four, I recalled from the traffic and transit reports that the northbound R was running up the D line from DeKalb Avenue. While I could hop on the bus and head for the D/Q station at Church Ave., it would take another 10 minutes (assuming a bus was actually there) to get to the other station. Added to that the slowdown that had to be taking place with the B, D, Q, and R trains all sharing the same track from DeKalb north, then switching to the 7 at 42nd St., negated any possible time I might make up. The F train is twenty minutes away, so that’s out. Taking another bus to the 3 or 4 is just not workable at this time of day, since buses in Brooklyn employ formations similar to the Wolfpack of German U-boats or the Box formation of the 8th Air Force’s bombers in WW2. (For those unfamiliar with these tactics, imagine three or four buses at once, followed by nothing at all for 10 to 15 minutes.)

So I get on the 2, with the intent of getting off at Franklin Ave. and transferring to the 4, which also runs up Lexington Avenue. When this works properly, you might lose 10 minutes, but it’s usually between 2 and 5 minutes. At this point, things are still fine, as I expect little folds like this to happen every day. After about 3 minutes, the tunnel brightens a bit, indicating an approaching train. The cynical among you already know it’s the 5 trundling in. With an exasperated sigh, I get aboard, hoping for a smooth run, but knowing better. The next indicator was the decided lack of speed at which this supposed express train proceeded. This is usually a precursor to the downward spiral of announcements (DSA), which I’ll post later. We creep into Atlantic Avenue, and the masses do their push and shove routine. Not too bad this morning, but there are more ahead, I’m sure. We crawl out of Atlantic. Almost.
The next 20 minutes are not pleasant. The DSA finally bottoms out at one of the least popular ones.

“Due to a Stalled train at Grand Central (where I want to go, of course) this train is going up 7th avenue.”

It took them 20 minutes to come up with this, but they couldn’t do it while we were in a station. Apparently, putting us in a position where we could seek alternate means of getting to work goes against some unwritten edict handed down from the time of wooden cars and fabric seats.

We switch to the 2 line (there’s a crossover for screw-ups like this).

We get to Nevins St., and the exodus begins. For some reason, people pour off the train and cross the platform as if the next Lexington Ave train will have better luck than this one. Now that I’m essentially on the 2, the plan is clear and non-interactive for the next half-hour or so: ride to Times Square, get on the shuttle, and finally arrive at work.

This ride is uneventful, and I move to the other side of the car at 34th St, as the second influx of Long Island Railroad people scrambles in. (The first influx was at Atlantic Avenue.)

I get off at 42nd St, dodge the masses trying to get on the train, and join the flow of people heading upstairs to the Shuttle. After weaving through this crowd, I manage to get a decent spot at a door, and once the masses get off, I board, get to Grand Central at last, and go into my building. At this point, pissed off at the trains, and the one or two people at work who I know will make some dumbass comment later. Why? Well, since they never ride more than three stops at most, and usually take cabs everywhere, cannot (or will not) grasp the fact that when I’m on a train, in a tunnel, between stations, and that train isn’t moving, I’m unable to do three things.

  1. Get any closer to work.
  2. Contact anyone not already on board the train.
  3. Anything whatsoever to influence the progress of this train, or any other train in front, behind or next to it.

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