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Mr. Linsky
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Joined: 16 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:57 pm    Post subject: 'A NEW EXIT AT THE LAST SUBWAY STOP' Reply with quote


By WILLIAM NEUMAN 12/12/08 The New York Times

It’s not the cry of the dodo bird, but it’s about to vanish forever, and it goes something like this: “Passengers, you must be in the first five cars in order to exit at South Ferry.”

The new South Ferry station has many admirable features, but its full-length platforms may get the most applause from riders.

At the Last Subway Stop, a New Exit Strategy It is the cry of the No. 1 subway train conductor. Hundreds of times a day for decades — sometimes garbled, sometimes virtually inaudible, sometimes ringingly clear — it has serenaded downtown-bound straphangers as they approached the line’s terminus at the tip of Manhattan: the anachronistic, 103-year-old South Ferry station, where the truncated and sharply curved platform has room for only half the cars on the train.

But one day next month, the last cry will die upon a conductor’s lips as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority opens a new South Ferry station directly beneath the old one, a $530 million project largely paid for with money supplied by the federal government for the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan following the Sept. 11 terror attack.

The new station will be spiffy and a bit sterile (a tour for reporters on Thursday evoked comparisons to a new hospital wing). It has thousands of white tiles, two sets of tracks, two elevators, seven escalators and 96 security cameras. But best of all, it has full-length platforms.

That will eliminate the confusion that accompanies the rush to the front of the train, and it will cut travel time for riders, because trains will no longer have to slow down to negotiate the old station’s hairpin turn. It will also mean no more unplanned trips back uptown for stragglers or inattentive riders.

All the same, when the new station opens next month (officials have yet to set a date), another piece of old New York will go extinct.

South Ferry is a relic. It opened in the second year of subway service, 1905, as tracks were extended south from City Hall, the previous southern terminus. At that time, local trains ran with four cars and express trains had seven cars, according to Robert A. Olmsted, a subway historian. But in the 1940s and 1950s, most stations were enlarged so that they could accommodate 10-car trains.

That never happened at South Ferry, which was built as a loop so that trains could turn around and head back uptown. The loop presents problems of its own. Because the turn is so sharp, the center of each car is far from the platform edge, necessitating retractable platform extensions. And the tight turning radius causes the wheels to squeal, creating quite a din.

Today, as No. 1 trains head south into Lower Manhattan, conductors start to make announcements telling passengers that if they want to get off the train at South Ferry, which is the last stop, they must be in one of the first five cars. Some conductors are even kind enough to tell passengers that those are the cars in front of the conductor’s position.

The announcements become more adamant as trains reach Rector Street, the last station before South Ferry. That often occasions a mad dash as surprised passengers pour out of the rear cars and rush forward.

But many passengers who do not hear or understand the announcements wind up stuck in the rear cars, watching in exasperation as the train stops and the doors do not open. Their confusion and frustration mount as the train pulls around the loop and heads back uptown. Many are tourists or immigrants who do not speak English, but some are regular riders absorbed in a book or simply not familiar with the station.

“That is horrible!” said David Devera, 40, who was stuck in one of the rear cars on Thursday morning as he watched the station slide by from behind on the other side of the closed car door. Mr. Devera and a friend, Mike Schevitz, 42, unemployed former Bear Stearns workers, were in Lower Manhattan for a job fair. They are from New Jersey. On this particular train, the public address system was faulty and the conductor’s announcements had come across as little more than a whisper.

“I didn’t hear anything,” Mr. Schevitz said as the train swung around and headed north. “Did you hear anything?” The two men got out at Rector Street and walked back downtown.

Joe Gilmore has been a conductor on the No. 1 train for 18 years. Asked how many times he has told riders to move to the front of the train, he thought for a bit.

“Three trips a day, five days a week, minus vacation,” he said. “I don’t know. A lot.”

He said he makes the announcement repeatedly at Chambers Street and Rector Street and sometimes goes into the sixth or seventh car to tell passengers to move up. “You get tired of saying it,” he said.

Mr. Linsky - Green Bus Lines, Inc., Jamaica, NY

New York Times photo by Fred R. Conrad
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