Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rush Hour

In Philly, catching the El or Subway in the morning and evening is an integral part of City Life. Most people are talking to their riding buddies, trying to catch that last wink in the morning or thinking about dinner and their kids and stuff in the evenings. Or they're standing in the aisles, trying not to be knocked around too much by the sway of the trains as they move down the tracks.

Of course, there's also the Trolley lines to bring the West and Southwest Philadelphians to and fro, and the Regional High Speed lines to get around in style up in North Philly, Germantown, Mount Airy, Kensington, Byberry and Trenton, but the R trains are a different culture, more sedate and quiet. The trolley lines are just like the El and Subway: local, comforting after work even though you're pressed against each other like tuna in a can as you speed closer to home.

At one time, I lived in South Philly and commuted to school at Shallcross. We only went home on the weekends, but I was 9 years old and able to be dropped off at the 66 (trackless) trolley terminus, ride it, the El (Okay, Market-Frankford Elevated train) into Center City, then catch the 17 bus home. By myself, with absolutely no thought about who might want to do me harm. Of course, the system was known as PTC then, and yes, the drivers and other personnel looked out for us as though we were their kids. It wasn't all rosy, but what ever is?

My favorite commute of all time was when I lived in East Mount Airy and took the R7 East to work at Two Penn Center. I'd walk to the Stenton train station, sometimes on the tracks because it was the shortest way to get to the station. When the train got there, I'd find a nice seat by a window and watch as we paced the traffic on I-76, crawled past the Zoo and brought us into the Suburban Rail Station. Even in the bitter cold and snow, all I had to do was get to the station, then relax as my ride brought me under my building; a wonderful way to start the day, especially with the Columbian coffee from Au Bon Pain, a long ago luxury.

Commuting from the Northeast was a similar treat, except that I had to drive to Woodhaven station, find decent parking and then wait in the cold for the train after the one I'd plan to get because of this little thing or that going on. But it was always hilarious to be standing and waiting with everyone, most of whom are asleep on our feet, and have the Metroliner whizzz by! The wind would push us back a bit and I'd look down the platform to see how many had just been jolted out of their standing nap - if I hadn't been jolted myself, that is!

El Paso, Texas, on the other hand, has Sun Metro, a dinky little system that nearly 30 years old. Though the city has nearly the same area (except for the mountain in the middle), it's more saturated with cars and trucks. I wouldn't want to depend on it for a rush hour commute!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:49 PM

I fondly remember Philly's public transportation. Now, I'm fascinated by Chicago's elevated and subway systems. I ride a bus every once and a while too! Thanks for the flash back Juan! Rozz

8:49 PM  

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