Book Review: Subway Style by the New York Transit Museum

Just before Christmas Susan & I met up with our friend Craig at Rodney’s Bookstore in Cambridge. The plan was that we’d split up and each buy a book for each other person in our trio that we thought the other person should read and then give them to one another across the street at The Field pub. I don’t know how well I did in my picks. I gave Craig a book about the Bulger brothers to help him write his folk ballad about Whitey Bulger. For Susan, I picked out a book about people living on the Falkland Islands among penguins to help her overcome her fear of penguins.

If my giving wasn’t so great, my receiving was bountiful. Susan being the perfect wife gave me the perfect book, Subway Style: 100 Years of Architecture & Design in the New York City Subway. This coffee table book is full of pictures from a century of New York City’s greatest public work. While there is a bit of historical text, the book mainly focuses on the design associated with the subways. There are chapters on stations, ceramics, metalwork and lighting, furnishings, fare collection, signage, maps, advertising, and the design of the subway cars themselves. Mostly this book is great for the many large photographs that take one on a trip through history underneath New York.

This book has been my bedtime reading for the past month. Now I may have to just start all over again from the first page. Or maybe the chaper on maps.

This is as good a place as any to promote one of my favorite web pages which contains a large collection of articles, history and images of the New York City rapid transit. Lest Bostonians feel unappreciated there is the similar New England Transportation Site although it doesn’t seem to have been updated lately.


Things I learned today

Update on March 13thFor some reason will not let me add a comment on this post, so here is what I would have put in my comment:

ResourceShelf offers further commentary on librarians making the U.S. News & World Report Best Careers for 2007.

Charlie Card is Here

My plastic Charlie Card arrived in the mail today. This is the bold new venture of the MBTA, a reusable debit card of sorts that can open turnstiles and pay for buses with just a tap. This should be great news to people concerned about security (“thieves will steal my card with all that money on it”), conspiracy theorists (“the governments gonna use this chip in the card to track me”), and curmudgeonly types (“wait and see how this one’s going to flop”).

Personally, I’m not as negative as many commuters are regarding the T, and except for some occasional grumbles I appreciate having an effective public transit network. That being said somedays I feel the MBTA is a center of entropy. The 18-month process of installing the new turnstiles abd card readers has several examples of the MBTA creating chaos despite their best intentions.

  • The new turnstiles were first installed at Airport station where vistors to our town could buy passes that didn’t work anywhere else on the system.
  • Replacing reusable tokens with one-time use tickets and the inevitable piles of litter that ensued.
  • Tickets have to be dipped down into the fareboxes on buses, slowing down the boarding process.
  • Naming the new ticket after a satrical political protest song in the first place doesn’t bode well for confidence in the system.

Let’s hope the new plastic cards are the end of these types of problems for the T and not the source of a whole bunch of new ones.

To keep track of things I’ve added Charlie on the MBTA to the blogroll.

For a peek back to Charlie’s MTA, take a look at this sweet scan of an old system map I discovered through Universal Hub.