Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Why Don't They Think of Ways to Make Our Rides More Pleasant?

An open letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York City and surrounds) regarding some of their proposed new rules:

To the MTA:

I strongly object to the proposed ban on photography in the New York City subway system. This will NOT enhance passenger security or safety. It will do nothing to keep a determined person from using such devices as cell phones, Palm Pilots, and the like from taking pictures. Instead, it will insidiously extend a culture of fear into our transit system. It will prevent passengers and visitors from taking with them a little of the romance of New York City. I have been taking spur-of-the-moment pictures in the subway system for the ten years that I have lived here, and they have been important in showing my friends elsewhere in the US and the world what makes NYC such a great city. Diverting police resources to enforcing a no-photography rule will only keep them from work that truly keeps us safe, and will make the atmosphere more hostile for everyone down below. Please do not play into the culture of fear that the Bush administration wants to impose on us.

I must also object to your criminalization of frustrated passengers who have to deal with your extremely imperfect Metrocard technology. While I have never jumped a turnstile, I would sympathize greatly with those who do so due to a malfunctioning card. I sometimes wonder what real-world testing you actually did with Metrocards before setting them loose on us. I am not opposed to a card-based technology in principle — indeed, I got along famously with the SF Bay Area BART system's cards. But your cards have caused me to miss trains more than once, and because of the often unreliable nature of your train service, one missed train can eventually mean delays of up to 20 minutes, when missed transfers are factored in, during the day. Late at night, the waits can be even more disastrously long. So my suggestion is to get your own technological house in order before criminalizing your paying passengers.

Finally, do not prohibit people from transferring between train cars. I know of many cases when people transfer because a car that they entered is hostile in some way: there is no air conditioning in the summer, there is an especially foul smell, there are people acting in a threatening manner. In addition, people in New York work to squeeze whatever efficiency they can out of the subway system, getting themselves to a car that will leave them closer to a transfer point (see above point) or to their exit. Why not instead come up with ways to make those inter-car transfers safer?

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Bascom Guffin
Brooklyn, NY


At 12:36 AM, Paul Guffin said...

And, don't forget poor Charlie who "never return[ed]" from a ride on the Boston MTA and whose "fate is still unlearned". If photography had been allowed there, we might today know what really happened to him.

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