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Paris Metro Sign

I have been living in the Big Apple for over 15 years, and like many New Yorkers, we have a sense of American/ New York exceptionalism as it relates to our advancements, particularly our subway system. Many New Yorkers and Americans generally have this attitude because they might not have traveled outside these great United States and observe for themselves how malfunctioned some of our systems are, particularly our aged subways.


But for the little traveling that I have done, with the hopes to do much more, I can say that New York has a long way to go, as it relates to its aging subways. I have ridden on the subways in Buenos Aires (BA), Paris and London, and we have a lot of catching up to do if we must compete with the rest of the developed world.


Station in Paris

One of the biggest issues that New Yorkers are usually upset about is the infrequency in the arrival times of our trains. Compared to those three other cities, New Yorkers wait forever for a train. The average wait time of a train in New York is around 10-15 minutes, particularly on the line I take. Therefore with that expectation,  I was given a huge shock when I traveled to BA, Argentina and found out that the subte ran every five minutes. In my mind, I lived in one of the best cities in the world, and here I was in the world’s 15th largest city and found that their subte system is so much better than the world’s second biggest city’s. How can this be?


To my surprised my experience in London and Paris was the same. The trains also came under five minutes, but closest to the three-minute mark. I distinctly remember my friend in London saying,We do not have to run to catch the train because the next one is right behind.” That statement literally played in my mind for some time, because as a New Yorker, we rush to get the train since we know that if we miss one we with be uncertain when the following train will arrive. We also know that it may take another fifteen minutes until the following noisy iron strolls into the station. There was also another instance when we walked into an underground station in time to catch a train that was about to close its doors, but my friend allowed the doors to close because he was certain that a train was right behind. He was right, a few seconds later the next train rolled into the station.


Inside London’s Underground Train

Each station, in London, Paris and BA, is equipped with displays that show the times of the arriving trains. This is a luxury that mainly passengers in New York’s favorite borough, Manhattan, has. On the other hand, residents in the outer boroughs, like Brooklyn, has been waiting for these screens to be installed in stations.The ones that have already been installed, residents are waiting for them to work properly and show the information that they were installed to show.


Also, it could never go unmentioned that all three systems have seats that were so much more comfortable than the ones we have in New York. The Tube in London was the most comfortable. Additionally, the stations in all three metro systems are very clean, though Paris had some garbage here and there, but this is a major difference from the dirty mess in the New York subways. However, I do not think that comfort is a priority for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) because the long wait times and the filthy conditions of the subway stations prove this.


However, each system was no different in the vibrant entertainment that occurs in their underground worlds. Either in a station or on a train, in each of these systems, I found some form of entertainment: drum, dance, or vocal performance. New York wins the title of having the best and most vibrant entertainment, without a second thought since there’s a plethora of great performers in the New York City subway system. But this is the only award the I can give to the NYC subway system.


I hope to see more subway systems in other major cities, but I hope that more New Yorkers and Americans travel more so they can demand more from agencies like the MTA since other nations are already experiencing luxuries, like platform screen doors that keep people from the tracks, that we should have long been experiencing.  I am sure if New Yorkers were aware of how bad our subway system is, compared to others around the world and not the nation, they would be giving the MTA more lip to provide better service. However, because many have nothing to compare it to since many do not travel abroad, they take what is handed to them, and the MTA takes its time to catch up with the world without haste.


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