Posted by: jevcat | March 8, 2012

Transported on Staten Island

I was born in New York City and I love it.  It is one of the world’s great cities, and one of the best for both walking and public transportation.  Those are among the reasons I have never left.


For those of us in what are referred to as the “Outer Boroughs” (for non-New Yorkers, this basically means anything that isn’t Manhattan – although among those who live in Manhattan, sometimes anything north of 14th Street gets classed that way, as well), the “official” wait time between buses may be an hour – or there may be times when they do not run at all.  (The unofficial wait time in Manhattan can be nearly as long, but that is another tale.)

I am told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (aka the MTA – which may be a different MTA than the 60s folk “MTA Song”  was written about, but those of us in New York have always accepted it as our own, anyway) has a school for training bus drivers.  I would be curious to know what the courses are, but I believe I can figure out at least some.  One would be “Digital Driving” – at least that’s what my Beloved, the mathematician/physicist/engineer calls it.  Just as computers work on a binary system , so, it seems, do bus drivers here.  The theory appears to be that there are two possibilities when behind the driver’s seat of a bus:  petal to the metal or stomp on the break.  Perhaps they even give an award to the student who manages to topple over the most standees on a given run or a “Newton’s First Law of Motion Award” for the most spectacular illustration that a body in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external force – such as a seat, a door, or a fellow passenger with a better grip on the grab bar.

For Staten Island bus drivers, there may be a special optional course on selective application of the anti-smoking laws and use of a bus as weapon of mass destruction.  It is apparent that all or most S.I. bus drivers smoke, and when the weather is too hot, cold, or wet, I believe it is possible that entire busloads of passengers getting on at a terminal point may have been asphyxiated by the miasma left over from the driver’s break.

Staten Island, where I live, is, de facto if not de jure, the outermost of the Outer Boroughs.  We don’t even have subway trains, although we do have what is officially known as the Staten Island Railway, an elevated (slightly) line that runs the length of the island from the ferry to Tottenville at the southernmost tip, where New Jersey can be glimpsed across the water shortly before you enter the last station, and whose trains are virtually indistinguishable from the subway trains used elsewhere in the city, except for the S.I.R. logo.  It is so small that until the fiscal crunch of recent years, they had given up collecting fairs except at the first and last stations, and it is locally known – not always affectionately – as “The Tottenville Trolley.”

One of the pleasanter aspects of our smallness and insularity for those who ride the southbound S.I.R. is that, if the ferry is a bit late, the dispatcher will usually hold the train so the folks getting off the boat don’t miss it.  Occasionally, though, needed track work will interfere with this happy situation, leading to the posting of a notice that I still, after 26 years here, find hilarious, and that must strike auslanders as completely insane.  I don’t, alas, have a photo of an example, but they read as follows:

Due to track work, from [date] to [date],

 all trains will leave the St. George terminal on time.

We regret any inconvenience this may cause.


  1. I was Born Staten Island 1949. Port Richmond. But have been in Miami since I was 5 years old.

    • You’ve mentioned that before. I live a few miles closer to the ferry than Port Richmond.

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