As noted by anyone who’s attempted to use public transportation in New York these past months, the subway situation is problematic, to say the least.
Especially frustrating, challenging, and persistent are the train delays. According to the New York Times, the delays are due to overcrowding and are worse at rush hour, and in Midtown (no surprises there).
But New Yorkers are nothing if not persistent, and creative, which means there are ways to work around the subway delays. Until a concrete solution to overcrowding is implemented, there are several ways commuters can take the matter into their own hands — and smartphones, as it were.
First, try the basics. Use a trip planner.
Despite its faults, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is trying to help. There is a trip planner available on its website as well as a (clunky, alas, and bug-filled) mobile trip planner.
It’s fairly simple to use, and once a commuter enters starting and ending point multiple routes are presented as options.
While every New Yorker who’s a regular rider thinks they know all the options and routes, in today’s packed-cars and station-under-repair world it’s good to check with the Authority.
Stay on top of delays.
Fortunately, there’s an app for that. There are, in fact, multiple apps, but Transit is well-reviewed and seems to have a particular drive to help New York subway riders.
The team at Transit recently began to translate the M.T.A.’s “The Weekender” (a list of all the trains and stations undergoing weekend service changes) into data that their app can use, so weekend trips can be as hassle-free as possible.
At the very least, travelers should check with Google Maps or similar. While the real-time information isn’t always as up-to-the-minute as desirable, some information is better than no information.
There’s also the old-school but still effective local news option. In an era of 24/7 coverage, serious problems or delays will be broadcast as soon as a reporter can make the announcement and get a quote from an official or an irritated rider.
Get seriously creative.
Given that the delays are worse during standard rush hour times, it might be time to renegotiate job and work parameters. For instance, does the possibility of telecommuting several days a week exist? It also might be possible to change schedules, maybe working a 4/10 (ten hours a day, four days a week), or even changing “standard” work hours from, say, 9 to 5 to 7 to 3, or 10 to 6?
Ride sharing is another option. As problematic as Uber has been at the top, the ability to coordinate with neighbors, or colleagues on your route, and schedule a shared vehicle can be cost effective and relatively convenient. Savvy Manhattanites are also turning to Via, a relatively cheap subway alternative that zips along the avenues for as little as $5 a ride.
For a longer-term ride sharing options, check out companies like Skedaddle. While it promotes itself as a service that gets groups of people to parties, concerts, beaches and tourist destinations, creating a “regular route” is do-able. According to the website, anyone can create a public route, from the Upper West Side to Wall Street, for instance. As long as there are at least 10 reservations for that route, it’s a go. Because Skedaddle users can view public routes, the need to coordinate a group is eliminated.
Finally, if the frustration and anger all become too much, there’s always the option of joining the group Buddhist Insights which suggests that a meditative “street retreat” is possible anywhere—even a crowded subway platform.