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paolo999

A European in the US

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(this isn't all Subway. I tried to find an overarching forum, but failed. So here I am.)

This is a bit of transit diary, and before it gets to NYC, it starts on Amtrak in CA.

So, step 1. Arrive at SFO. I know my best choice is BART. As rapid transit goes, this thing still looks like Star Wars. The car sizes are vast. The seats are practically lounge shaped. Can I pour a cocktail? It blasts through the bay area at an insanely brilliant speed. If there's only one thing nagging at my mind - having spread my baggage across half the car - why is nobody using it? I'm oddly dismayed about my space.
 

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SF does something good. Buses. They seem to work. Really really well. Is it enforced bus lanes? I fly along the routes.

Something is still nagging. Why are they so empty?

My next leg is Amtrak to Modesto. Whilst the speed is modest, the train is passable. Spacious, nice staff. I'm not expecting a Eurostar at 200mph, but we work our way into the central valley, on time.

Then comes the return.

It's a single deck train, busy. OK, suck it up, this is the norm in Europe. We use our trains, so they get busy. Except on this one, in the half car by the cafe, three Amtrak staff spread themselves across 14 seats. One of them had made a laminated sign "Don't Sit Here". Another had their kid with them. Three people, fourteen seats taken.

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At the back end of the Amtrak journey, I'm unsure how to get off the train.

In Europe, train doors open, you get off. In some stations with a short platform, they tell you what car you need to use.

Arriving at Richmond, no announcement, I end up manually opening a door. It takes a while for me to work out the latches, and then the plate to reveal steps. In the UK we don't do steps. All train doors are level with the platform).... and then an Amtrak guy runs up, "THIS IS A FEDERAL OFFENSE".

I ask him how I should know which car has open doors.

"THE SAME CARS WE ALWAYS USE"

Thanks.

My arrival in NYC on the LIRR couldn't be more different...

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I've arrived at JFK, rush hour, after some shuffling sleep from SFO. I'd decided, last minute, that - heading to Williamsburg - I'd try the LIRR to LIC.

The train is a clunker, but I'm not complaining, I made it with seconds to spare, phew!... the conductor comes through. It's this that makes me smile:

"Where you going'?"

"Erm, Long Island City"

"Those your bags right?"

"Err, yes"

"OK, this car won't open there. What we're gonna do, is next stop you go forward. I'll be watching for you, you have no worries, I got you."

and he did. I made my way against the flow, rattling my bags, and the LIRR conductor was there waving me along... he had my back.

That was a nice welcome to NY.

More in a min.

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Trying to buy a Metro card. Kill me now.

Well, there was the Metrocard I had to buy to leave JFK. You buy your way out of the airport. I worked a machine that looked like it was from the 70s. "Checking Account" has no meaning outside of the US. But this is where new arrivals land. It's like asking if you want to use your "Bingo Account" or choose a "Hoe Down Dinkity Flingity".

We DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS IS.

How about Credit Card? Or Debit Card? Or even better.... you can read the goddam card, why do I need to play a game of what card you see, vs what I pretend is... "SAWWWY... YOU GOT IT WONG!!"

But there's another thing.

I've arrived in NY,really I'm home. This is my favourite city in the world.

But tou can't make one metro card into another. The one you've had to buy to leave the airport, can't be made up into a real one, unlimited.

NOT VALID. NOT VALID.

Arrrrgggh.

I buy a new metro card. OK so it's only a dollar or so, but why? Why is an airport metro card not a metro card? They look the same.

Oh NY... I feel your pain, but admittedly this is minor

 

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19 minutes ago, WestFarms36 said:

What in the F*ck did I just read?

Someone who thinks starting a new thread in NYCTF with 5 consecutive posts is like opening a Facebook account with 13,200 friends all interested in the drama on his new Wall™ (if they still call it that).

Edited by CenSin
  • LMAO! 1
  • Upvote 3

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Those posts should have been condensed into one, apologies.

(That doh! Aside, is it useful or interesting to hear from an outsiders experience, or best left?)

Edited by paolo999

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On 11/17/2019 at 10:50 AM, paolo999 said:

SF does something good. Buses. They seem to work. Really really well. Is it enforced bus lanes? I fly along the routes.

Obviously you didn’t ride the buses on Geary Blvd or Van Ness Av. (The M14 before the traffic restrictions on 14th St was faster than these two buses.)

Maybe you were in Oakland?

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On 11/17/2019 at 10:56 AM, paolo999 said:

Arriving at Richmond, no announcement, I end up manually opening a door. It takes a while for me to work out the latches, and then the plate to reveal steps. In the UK we don't do steps. All train doors are level with the platform).... and then an Amtrak guy runs up, "THIS IS A FEDERAL OFFENSE".

Having just rode TfL and Thameslink, you guys do trains better with the buttons on the doors.

But on Amtrak, the doors to exit through will be opened at stop, and conductors will standing by them (and will walk to them as the train prepares to stop).

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On 11/17/2019 at 11:25 AM, paolo999 said:

Why is an airport metro card not a metro card? They look the same.

Because it’s NYC, so the exit MetroCard is sold by Port Authority and if you do it wrong, it won’t let you get unlimited on it when you get to the MetroCard machine run by (MTA)  on the other side of the turnstile before the (MTA) turnstile.

But we’ll have our version of Oyster debuting next year or by 2030, so there’s hope.

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The Amtrak staffer shouting at me about committing a federal offence said that the way you know what doors to use is, is to use  “The doors we ALWAYS use”. I get the feeling that route is only used by locals. Horrible staff, lounging across seats, seeing me overladen and being nasty. I’m in my fifties, why is a 30 year staffer - being paid for this - shouting at me about my luggage and federal law?

My experience on LIRR couldn’t have been more different. Conductors who immediately realised I was a tourist, and were helpful way beyond my London experience. As soon as they spotted my luggage, “ok where you goin? JFK! Ok...” the conductor guided me to the best car, unlocked it for me, gave me advice on how to get me and my bags up to the Airtrain.

In my limited experience, LIRR staff (and New Yorkers in general) rock!

—-

I gave OMNY a test drive. Awesome. Having had frustrations using an overseas payment source (US visitors have reported the same in London) for some things... no such hassle with OMNY. I used my phone, (with a European debit card set up)... instant. The big clear OMNY readers are superb. Our London Oyster readers are a basic pad but no full display. OMNY looks set to be a proper jump. I hope they will get as far as fare capping. (And with Airtrain. And New Jersey Transit, Tourists will be able to walk straight out of any N.Y. airport, tap their phone and card, and carry on.) Even without all that, it’s still a great jump.

I did intentionally go and look at 14th Street (at Union Sq) to see how the busway looked. I’ll admit I didn’t jump on a bus, but they seemed to be flowing well. I will admit, my SF bus journeys were never on Van Ness or Geary (mostly Market)... didn’t use any in Oakland.

I wonder what the average bus speeds are, SF vs NYC? There must be a metric out there, I should google.

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