Thursday, December 5, 2013

Today's Featured Instagram: @MTAHarlemLine

Great photos of the Metro North Harlem Line.  
The MTA Railroad Map.  
Metro-North Railroad has encountered a difficult year in safety; one accident on the New Haven Line in Fairfield this May, and another this week on the Hudson Line Sunday.

Commuter trains are still statistically safer than highways, and also more fuel efficient:  a rail car uses 2812 BTU per passenger mile, whereas a passenger vehicle will use 3538 BTU's (source: US Dept of Energy).  Recently, I discovered the public Instagram account of Emily, who rides the Harlem Line, and takes great pictures along the way. (The Harlem Line is east of the Hudson Line [map], which recently experienced the accident). I asked some questions about her experience using Metro North, and here's what she said.

From @MTAHarlemLine on Instagram:
Despite mostly writing about New York, I'm originally from Connecticut. I grew up in Southbury, and some of my family on my father's side is from New Haven. Besides having visited every Metro-North station, I've been to New Haven many times... and in terms of pizza rivalry, I'm Team Pepe's. ;)

I've been doing a black and white series called Commuter Life... after Sunday it just doesn't feel right to go out and take metro north photos and pretend like everything is awesome. You don't want to focus on it, but you don't want to ignore it either. Black and white seemed appropriate... a little somber, a little mourning. And I'd prefer to try and focus on the people that ride the trains, as opposed to the trains themselves. Four people lost their lives, and they could have been any one of us. That person on the platform that we see every day as we both commute. It's a way of life we share.
I've been regularly riding Metro-North to and from work since 2008. When I was a kid, getting to ride Metro-North to the city was always a treat, though.

About Photography / Education
I don't always carry my real camera, but I at least have my phone's camera if I need. On the weekends it isn't abnormal to be out all day riding and photographing trains and such.  My degree is actually in Communication Design, from the University of Connecticut. Traditional photography was, of course, a requirement, including processing our own film. I was never a fan of that.

Thoughts About Train Safety

Those "Win for Life" Lotto commercials always joke about insane ways to protect yourself to keep collecting your winnings, but if you think about it, it is sort of true. Every single time you step out your door there's a chance you may not return. You could probably pick any person off the street and ask them if either they've been in a car accident, or if they've known someone who has been a car accident. I would guess you'd have a nearly 100% yes answer. The same day of the Metro-North crash there was a 70 car pileup in Massachusetts. I'm not saying that to play down the crash, but more to look at the big picture. These were the first passenger fatalities in Metro-North's 30 year existence.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little trepidation Monday morning while boarding the same exact type of train involved in the crash, but I've never been exceptionally worried about my safety while riding a train.

Memorable MTA Experiences
Number one would probably be the people that you encounter. There are plenty of obnoxious, bizarre people, but there are also a lot of really lovely people, whether they be fellow commuters or people working for Metro-North. The train also gives me a lot of time to myself... whether I catch up on a little sleep in the morning (I'm frequently guilty of this), read, or most often, work on my site.

I'm not sure if it is true on the New Haven Line, but on the Harlem Line it seems that the further away you are from Grand Central, the more the culture changes. The Hartsdale and Scarsdale people want to get on the train and get off as soon as possible. The riders further out are more open to chatting... and even "partying." sometimes around holidays or birthdays we bring food to share. I made a bunch of individual cheesecakes one night to bring on the train to share once. I know there are a few people that like to bring a string of lights and plug them in on the train for Halloween and Christmas. These are all memorable things that make commuting enjoyable.  [end]

Emily is a graphic designer and train enthusiast who works in New York City.  Her photography in this article can be seen online.  If you like pictures of trains, she's got the Instagram channel for you.

Also, here's a look at that nearly 90 degree turn, where the Hudson Line makes its way into the Bronx.

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