January 22, 2018

Subterranean Explorations on Second Avenue

When I actually lived on Second Avenue in Manhattan from 2004 to 2010, the year 2015 seemed so far away.

That was the date the Second Avenue Subway construction was supposed to be completed, having started in 2007 and being bumped from the original estimate of 2012 (but only if NYC had been awarded the Olympics).

Because I knew the route incorporated some existing tunnel from the 1970s (and that the project had been proposed first nearly a century ago), I used to think that the vibrating and shaking in my apartment was the ghost subway running under Second Avenue.

I never was convinced it wasn't.

So, fast-forward a few years. The projected completion date came and went, and although the new subway line was making progress, it wasn't done yet—and it wouldn't be until 2016 gave way to 2017.

I'd been in New York City twice since it had opened—last January and last May—but somehow, after all those years of anticipation, I just didn't make it over there to ride it and check out a station. After all, I'd been living in California for seven years. I didn't need to take a subway on the Upper East Side of Manhattan anymore.

But being a fan of public transit in general—and specifically the history of the NYC Subway—I finally found a reason to hop on the Q train, experience the screeching turn uptown from Lexington and 63rd Street, and emerge at 72nd Street.

I must admit, I expected more. I'm glad to see some mosaics inside the station...

...especially socially conscious ones...

...but the whole thing felt pretty plain and antiseptic to me.

But maybe that's just because the new stations—unlike the old ones—are clean. I'm not used to seeing so much white.

But despite the billions of dollars that has been spent on this new spur and these new stations, I would still consider New York City Transit inferior to the DC Metro, BART, and even Metro Los Angeles. And its design and functionality is far less than the London Tube and the Kiev Metro (Ки́ївський метрополіте́н—stay tuned for more on that).

It's a necessary evil in New York, though, unless you've got enough money to take a taxi or car service everywhere. And when the roads are too snowy or slick from some weather event, sometimes you've got to move your commute underground.

Those stations and tunnels protect you from some of the elements, though they subject you to a whole 'nother ecosystem down there, rife with other perils.

The first time I rode an MTA subway train, I thought it was scary. Then, I spent over a dozen years laughing at my former naiveté. And now, whenever I return to New York, its subterranean grid scares me once again.

Related Posts:
Underneath the City (Hall)
Photo Essay: MTA Vintage Subway Train Ride for the Holidays
Nostalgia Train Ride
Underground History
Photo Essay: The Inner Workings of LA's Public Transit
Riding the Red Line to Haunted Hollywood

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