Adventures in Mass Transit

My family and I recently made a trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. One train ride, 87 subway stops (give or take), one shuttle bus ride, an hour-long wait on a five-mile-long line in Battery Park and one swaying ferry ride later – we arrived. It was about 3 p.m. We had taken a 10:04 a.m. train.

I admit, I am not what you would call the hugest fan of public transportation to begin with. But, if things are running on time – and in the proper direction (I’ll get to that part in a minute) – it’s definitely a far more efficient way to travel. If.

The train ride itself was fine. We took an express from Babylon to Penn Station – no problems, no delays; all was going smoothly. Once there, all we had to do was take the 1 train from Penn to the South Ferry stop. Little did we know, thanks to a complete lack of announcements (intelligible or otherwise) that:

#1. The 1 train was not running on the proper track; rather it kept whizzing by us every 10 to 15 minutes or so – about three platforms over. What were we supposed to do, pole vault over?

#2. Nothing was running as far down as the South Ferry stop, due to unannounced construction detours. Instead, you could only ride as far as Chambers Street, where you would then need to transfer to a shuttle bus which would carry you the rest of the way. Now, how would anyone possibly know that?  

#3. And this was the best yet…apparently, due to the construction, anyone lucky enough to find a 1 or a 2 train (we eventually jumped on a passing 2, figuring it would take us in the general direction) was shocked to find that it only traveled as far as one stop, before – get this – reversing course at the next station and heading back uptown instead. Can you believe that?  

Thankfully, we were paying enough attention to jump off at Penn and start all over again. Unfortunately, others were not so observant. I wonder how many unsuspecting passengers wound up in Harlem within the hour?

After all these maddening delays and unnecessary starts and stops, we finally arrived at Battery Park to find that five-mile-long line mentioned earlier. Apparently, Columbus Day weekend was prime time for getting in touch with history. Fortunately, it moved a lot faster than expected. But really, after the morning/afternoon we’d already had, could you blame us for being none too optimistic?

Ellis Island was, once we finally set foot there, a lovely place to visit; a true piece of history I was able to appreciate much more than I had during my first visit there - about 15 years ago. Of course, we had barely managed to breeze through all of the exhibits when a security guard came to inform us that – surprise, surprise – the museum would be closing momentarily, and we had better run and catch the last ferry off the Island. Getting stranded on Ellis Island…that would have been a fitting end to the day.

All in all, it was a grueling journey. So, the lesson learned? Make sure you know where you’re going; investigate alternate routes, just in case; and – most importantly – take a peek out the Subway windows every now and then to make sure the street numbers are running in the proper order. Trust me on this last one.

Suddenly, the LIE doesn’t look so bad.


{Published: October 25th, 2006}

Jamie Lynn RyanComment