View Full Version : Subways

02-02-2009, 09:24 AM
(Just posted this in the wrong forum earlier, so if you moderators catch this, I apologize)

Part of my novel revolves around subway systems, but since I don't live in NYC, I've never ridden on one or even seen one. Could anybody who is familiar with subway systems explain a little more for me? You know, general layout, length, appearance, etc.? Thanks!

02-02-2009, 05:50 PM
You can find subwy maps by searching on Google. You must have seen TV or movie scenes of subway platforms and cars. It's noisy when they pull in, the doors open you get in, find a seat, or stand, and keep watch for the signs for your station.
As an infrequent user of subways, the hardest part of that mode of travel was direction disorientation. You're underground and lose all sense of direction. When you emerge from the station, you don't know where North is, and you may (like I did) walk several blocks in the wrong direction, trying to find your hotel.

02-02-2009, 06:05 PM
I'm in NYC. I guess it depends a lot on where your characters want to go if the Subway is confusing or not.

The trains in NYC are labeled with numbers or letters. There are the 1, 2 and 3 trains, or the B, C, Q, R, etc. Each has their specific stops. For instance, the 1 train is "local" and shoots up and down Broadway avenue and stops every 8 or 9 blocks (on 86th, 79th, 72nd, 59th, 50th, 42nd (Times Square)) and so on. You can find all this information on the map. The 2 and 3 trains, however, are "express" and skip a lot of stops ... 72nd straight to 42nd, for example.

But that's probably not crucial info to know for your story, unless you want them to sound like New Yorkers so they'd be saying things like "take the local" or "get on the express."

Unlike in DC where you pay per distance, one ride on the system is $2.00. You buy rides one a time, or load up a card which saves you a bit of money (every 7 rides gets you something like an extra $1.05 on your card). It's something like $100 for an unlimited monthly card. You purchase all of these in the station by machine.

The Subways, unless I'm missing an odd one or two, do not cross Manhattan. Instead, they run north and south. If you want to get across the city, you can stop somewhere and transfer or take a bus across town. There's no Subway to automatically jump on to take you across.

They're generally not as "clean" as the DC metro, but they run a heck of a lot more frequently. The most I've waited for a train is probably something like 6 or 7 minutes (and that's when I just missed the earlier one) as opposed to waiting upwards of 12 minutes for one in DC.

General rush hours--5pm-7pm and early morning commutes, and the Subways can be pretty packed.

02-02-2009, 06:26 PM
Thanks katie and RJK! That's helpful. I'll have to look for a subway map. :)

Maybe I should explain. My novel is a sci-fi, and these subway systems have been abandoned for almost 100 years - they were completely flooded and no one uses them anymore. So mostly I just needed a good layout or map of a subway system and try to figure out how 100 years of water erosion would affect them.

02-02-2009, 06:30 PM
I was Queen of the DC Metro for years. I didn't learn to drive until I was twenty-four.

I always thought the stations, especially down on the platform of the underground ones, were beautiful/ugly. Kind of grubby futuristic; very BladeRunner. Some of the escalators are fantastic (http://flickr.com/photos/27454127@N00/352153079) - unless they're out of order. Then you'll want your mountain hiking boots (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/14/Woodley_Park-Zoo-Adams_Morgan_Station.jpg). Those two links are from my favorites. (I used to live near the first one and the zoo is at the second.)

It's nice to be able to board the train at the outer stations. Better chance of getting a seat that way.

Here's some more pics and links that might help you -



http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/Dc_metro_car_interior.jpg&imgrefurl=http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dc_metro_car_interior.jpg&usg=__oDU-2i9QSr9BMSjQ7u4yLnFTMIY=&h=1704&w=2272&sz=1253&hl=en&start=1&um=1&tbnid=L1jvjkBngOsBWM:&tbnh=112&tbnw=150&prev=/images%3Fq%3Ddc%2Bmetro%2Btrain%2Bcar%26um%3D1%26h l%3Den%26rlz%3D1B3GGGL_enUS291US291%26sa%3DN


02-02-2009, 06:31 PM
Ah - I see that my info might not be all that helpful. Lol!

02-02-2009, 07:14 PM
It's actually very helpful, Perks! (Seeing as I had no idea what the inside of a subway looked like :)) Thank you very much.

02-02-2009, 07:25 PM
It depends on what country you are in. I was used to the boring metros of DC, with their uniform stations, slow speeds, frequent stops, safety features, and relatively shallow depth.

Then I went to St Petersburg, Russia.

The first thing was the superfast escalator, taking you down 100' or more. Such an escalator would be illegal here, as it was actually a challenge to get on and off.

The stations were beautiful. Each one looked different, which made it much easier to tell where you were. The trains arrived quickly and, unlike Washington, were always on time. There was a reason for this. In Washington, the trains would board, and a thing would beep and tell everyone to stand clear of the doors. If it detected something in the doors, it would beep again and repeat itself, and the train would sit there, often for several minutes, until someone belatedly realized that they were the obstruction. In Russia, there are no such niceties. Riders are curtly informed "the doors are closing, watch out," then the doors slam shut and the train promptly departs at a breakneck speed. And yes, people have been known to get caught in the doors and be dragged to their deaths. It was my favorite way to get around the city.

I've also visited the subways in New York. While I found them more fast and efficient than Washington's, they were even more dismal in character. The cars were filthy, the stations were largely as bare of civic pride as the subway tunnels themselves.

And then there's Paris. The Paris metro is very well planned and very convenient. The stations aren't opulent, but often have a kind of classy, industrial look. Most of them are fairly utilitarian, but a definate cut above New York's. I honestly don't recall how they dealt with the whole closing the door thing.

I've also taken one ride on Boston's subway. I'm afraid that the only impression that it left me with was the fact that it used metal tokens instead of paper tickets, like every other subway I've ever taken.

I've also visited Baltimore, but did not use its subway. Apparently, no one does. I was surprised to learn that it had one.

02-02-2009, 07:39 PM
So in that case, here's a bit of basics:

New York City is laid out like one big grid. The avenues run North and South and the blocks run West to East. Avenues have names ... like Broadway, Park Avenue, Lexington, Madison, Columbus, etc. Some of these avenues also are numbered--5th, 6th, 7th, etc. but a quick look at a map should straighten it out. The blocks are numbered ... like 34, 35, 36, 37, etc. The more south you are, this changes, because then the blocks start having names, too. And the more north you are it's the same. But centralized New York, all the popular areas, work like this. Again, a good map will sort this all out--it's less complicated than it seems.

So basically the trains run north and south along the avenues. But, since none of the streets are rigid straight lines, then of course some cross paths and what not (Central Park gets in the way--nothing runs underneath the park). The underground stations are all different sizes, too. Times Square (at 42nd and Broadway) is very large. It might actually be in your better interest to see if you can find maps of the underground stations because the major ones you'd probably want to feature in the story have multiple entry and exit points. Penn Station (34 and 7th) is also a big one.

So yeah, that's pretty much what I can think of to say.. It might be interesting if in your sci-fi world they still refer to cross-streets as directions (no one says 440 Park Avenue... they say they're going to 30th and Park Ave South, otherwise no one really knows what you mean) or if there is a new system for naming them, especially if the subways are gone.

02-02-2009, 07:50 PM
You might want to look at http://www.abandonedsubwaytunnels.com/subwaysite/subway_home.html.

There are a lot of abandoned subway tunnels, including some in New York, and a lot of pictures out there. Although some of them are flood prone, most are not. Usually the rails will be removed as they're valuable, as well as the wiring.

Also subways vary in their depth, as well as going to street level and above street level. For example, Boston's red line goes out of a tunnel and crosses over the Charles River on a bridge before going back underground.

There are books out there on subways, many of which are very good. You might also want to read THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE, which involves the hijacking of a NYC subway car.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

02-02-2009, 07:52 PM
The abandoned subway in Cincinnati is continuously maintained. This is partially because a water main runs through one of the tunnels, and the other reason is because the subway supports the road above it, Central Parkway.

I would imagine that a century of water erosion inside the concrete tubes would make them brittle. If the water were drained (is it drained in your book?) then they structure would be dangerous, possibly ready to collapse on itself. But maybe not, if good construction techniques were utilized when it was built.

Your question this morning inspired me to blog about the subway, if you care to follow the link below.

02-02-2009, 07:55 PM
Yes, the water eventually drained, but they were filled for about a year.