i’ve been living in manhattan for four years now, and i’ve become accustomed to how things work around here. the way people shout across the street at each other, people power-walking through the crowded streets like a highway, the five sirens you hear inevitably everyday without fail no matter where you are, and the sense of immediacy you feel when you see hundreds of people carrying about their business as if they were each tasked with saving the world; but if there was one thing i could change about it, the condition of subways would be near the top of my list.
new york banks a lot from its urban grit; it does hold a certain charm and gives one a feeling of deep history, but subway stations smelling like garbage and death in the summer is something i feel does not need to be a new york experience. it’s times like this i wish the metro would be more like korea and japan.
granted, korea and japan’s subway systems are a little newer, their upkeep is always top-notch. they don’t skimp on trying to make everything near spotless, and all the lights actually work. for manhattan stations however, aside from the tourist stations like grand central or penn station, are in lackluster condition. their eastern counterparts also utilize a lot of their stations, providing small shops and sometimes entire shopping malls underground. things like this give people a reason to care about how clean the area is to make it look attractive. here, there’s really nothing other than a magazine rack or two.
the subway cars in new york have been in the process of being replaced, providing cleaner and brighter interiors. it’s not happening fast enough. depending on the line i’ll either have a refreshing ride with AC and brightly lit cars or i’ll walk into a yellowing, humid car with complementary trash and mystery stains, with half of the lights stuttering until they turn off completely halfway to the next stop.
i will say that efforts are being made in making subways look more sanitary. not all subway stations are that bad. but it only takes one to make you wonder why they’re so relaxed about their slowly deteriorating stations. i’m sure many of these stations are cleaner than they look; it’s just that the stains and dirt don’t come off anymore due to how long they’ve been in use.
but with the new york MTA’s sluggish pace, and the sheer amount of work and time it would take to revamp everything to fit with today’s standards, it’ll largely be the same experience for a long while.