Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Next Stop Is...

I tend not to find myself on the 7 Train during the off season. Usually, if I end up on there between October and March, it means I had some business somewhere around Midtown and I needed to get from the West side of Manhattan to the East side quickly and the 7 train is my best option (The Grand Central Shuttle is sometimes an option to this end as well, but other times, it's not).

The extension of the 7 train probably isn't much of a secret by this point, unless you're not a regular subway rider or you choose not to pay attention to the foibles of the MTA. The line is being extended from its current terminus at Times Square to a new terminal at 34th Street and 11th Avenue (for whatever reason, a proposed stop at 41st Street and 10th Avenue was not included which is kind of stupid given the area's residential boom). Currently, this is scheduled to open in 2014, although whenever the MTA says something, it's good to take it with a grain of salt. But should you find yourself at the Times Square station on the 7, you can see down into the newly-constructed tunnel which is interesting if you're into that sort of stuff (and as a Subway nerd, I include myself). All that being said, the extension affects me and probably a good number of Mets fans very little, but it's interesting to mention it because it probably ties in to the latest development I've noticed on the 7 Train.

For much of my formative years, the 7 train consisted primarily of the R36 "Redbirds," which weren't originally red but ended up that way over the course of time. These were kind of classic old-school subway cars without much in the way of modern feeling or amenities. The Redbirds were retired sometime around 2003 and the 7 fleet turned over to the much shinier R62A cars, which you've been riding to Citi Field ever since the place opened, so you know what they look like.

But if you've been on many of the other subway lines in the city, you've probably been on the "Talking" Subway cars, the new trains that have digital readouts and recorded station announcements. These cars are now slowly taking over on the 7 train. Last week, I found myself on a crosstown trip and there it was, a brand new R188 sitting there, telling me that "This is a Queens bound 7 Local Train," and "The next stop is...5th Avenue." The way these things tend to go, you see one, then you see some more and before you know it, they've taken over. What does this mean? Ultimately, not much. But with a new section of line and a new train communication system being installed on it, the arrival of the new subway cars seemed imminent. Strange as it may seem, there may be something comforting about the first time I hear "This is...Mets-Willets Point. This is a Flushing Bound 7 Express train..." when I'm on my way to a game.

Of course, tourists and newbies may still not realize that this is where they're supposed to get off.

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