A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Tag: new york city

Pynchon in the Rain

by evanmcmurry

I’ve no dog in the “Thomas Pynchon: Kaleidoscopic Genius or Neon Fraud?” fight, but this riff on Gotham in the rain is one hell of a passage no matter where you stand:

“What might only be a simple point on the workday cycle . . . becomes a million pedestrian dramas, each one charged with mystery, more intense than high-barometer daylight can ever allow. Everything changes. There’s that clean, rained-on smell. The traffic noise gets liquefied. Reflections from the street into the windows of city buses fill the bus interiors with unreadable 3-D images, as surface unaccountably transforms to volume. Average pushy Manhattan schmucks crowding the sidewalks also pick up some depth, some purpose — they smile, they slow down, even with a cellular phone stuck in their ear they are more apt to be singing to somebody than yakking. Some are observed taking houseplants for walks in the rain. Even the lightest umbrella-to-umbrella contact can be erotic.” (via)

Happy Birthday, Baby! It’s a T-shirt of a Bus Map!*

by drewnilsen

Buses provide significantly more range, at a much more efficient cost, than rail. However, a seemingly trivial impediment to their adoption — particularly by those who aren’t dependent on public transit — is the indecipherability of bus maps (L.A. example in PDF)

Even here in DC, which only has five Metro subway lines (effectively three, as two lines significantly overlap within the city), people bemoan how difficult it is to get to popular, up-and-coming areas like H Street Northeast/Atlas District  — despite the fact that a bus (the ever-entertaining X2) goes directly from downtown to the burgeoning bar district.

I didn’t ride the bus for years in Austin because I didn’t know where the routes went (smart phones and Google Maps transit directions have somewhat ameliorated this problem). I’m not the only one, and it’s not only Austin.  If you’re new to a city, not knowing where your stop is can become a significant source of consternation and a major obstacle to adoption.

A few simple, affordable changes to how bus routes are presented on maps could go a long way towards making buses more accessible and understandable to the public.First, as much as I love to obsess about the minutiae of accurate maps, the detail of the real world is not helpful for cognitive digestion.

Stylized, graphically-simplified public transit maps — like London’s Tube  and DC’s Metro — make up what they lose in geographic accurancy with a more easily-memorized picture.More significantly, bus maps have suffered from a picture that treats all routes equally. This would be akin to a road map that depicted an unpaved alley the same way as an interstate highway.

There’s a movement afoot to remaster the way bus routes are misrepresented. A Cincinnati activist, Nathan Wessel, has done a fine job in reformatting the city’s bus maps to portray routes in a user-friendly way by frequency [closer map view], going so far as to explain frequent routes (“Hop on!”), secondary routes (“Be prepared to wait a little longer”) and tertiary routes (“Maybe look at a schedule”).

Spider Map graphic from Nathan Wessel, via UrbanCincy.com

Traditionally, all routes — regardless of intervals — have been drawn up identically. So, this change would be a big step forward if implemented by transit authorities. Seattle‘s King County Metro RapidRide is the first I know to do so.

Finally, spiders. Anyone who has ever walked up to a random bus stop — or even tried to decipher a stop online — has faced befuddlement when trying to discern where buses from that (or nearby) stops go.

Although DC’s Metro has attempted to highlight routes emanating from a particular stop, the result is still cluttered.
“Spider Maps” present a better solution — such as Greater Greater Washington’s H Street mockup [closer map view (PDF)]. By reducing the “noise” from other routes — and overlaying neighborhood names without the distraction of other map details — the spider map can convey some clarity for potential riders.

Are convoluted maps the reason that people fear the bus? No. But the accessibility of rail has a lot to do with its simplicity and understandability and, ultimately, the popularity of (expensive) rail over (affordable) buses. At a time when municipal revenues are down and budget cuts are in vogue, cleaning up map presentation is an efficient way to improve service and increase ridership.

*I’ve been asking for these NYC subway map socks for Christmas from my family — composed of Brooklyn natives and transplants alike — for years. To no avail. I want them this year!

Map Of New York City As Seen By Rest Of Country

by evanmcmurry

About one year ago today, in response to the “Map of America As Seen By A New Yorker,” I drew “A Map Of New York As Seen By America.” I’ve since moved to New York, but wouldn’t change all that much:

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Oh My Jesus, High-Speed Rail From NY To DC (Maybe)

by evanmcmurry

Puuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaasssseeee:

A small privately owned Washington company is lobbying to develop a high-speed rail system that would take passengers from the District to Baltimore in 15 minutes and to New York in an hour.

The Northeast Maglev, a downtown D.C. firm with 30 employees, is working with Central Japan Railway Co. — which operates the Shinkansen bullet train in Japan — to develop a maglev network that would connect Washington and New York, with stops in Baltimore, Wilmington and Philadelphia, including BWI Airport, Philadelphia International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport. Eventually, the company wants to extend the line to Boston.

It is a private company, and that sector likes to ink deals that fleece taxpayers, and puts profits ahead of safety even in the face of natural disasters. Still, Amtrak—which is pushing a competing proposal that looks like it will take as long to complete as a bus from NY to DC on a Friday afternoon—ain’t exactly the US government’s shining star here. I’m more than willing to hear what private industry has to say if it can get the job done.

Of course:

It is not the first time there’s been an interest in building a maglev system in the Northeast, but previous attempts were halted by lack of support from lawmakers and funding shortfalls.

The GOP currently hates trains for reasons unspecified, except when they’re in Ayn Rand novels. Hey, call the thing the John Galt Express. Just fucking build it already. (via WaPo)

This Post Was Written In New York

by evanmcmurry

Granta reading in New York featured four writers from New York, one so local the bookstore where the reading took place was her local bookstore, and three of the four stories read were set in New York. In other words, it confirmed every stereotype about the New York publishing being a tiny, closed loop. #despair (p.s. Wine was ample.)