If you ever had the opportunity to be in Manhattan and attempt to navigate across 34th Street, especially during this time of year, you know it would take a miracle to accomplish in a reasonable amount of time. Normally, it is a very congested area, but during this time of year, it becomes a parking lot. With shoppers and tourists in and around Herald Square, Macy's and Pennsylvania Station on the west side, along with the Empire State Building and the shops of Fifth Ave. on the east side, walking is usually the fastest way to get around. Bus schedules are impossible to adhere to. Bus operators do the best they can, and supervision is challenged to provide an acceptable headway — the time interval between two successive buses moving in the same direction on the same route.
Today, with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other events that (depending on your age) our parents never had to deal with, pressure is on early to begin shopping for so-called 'best deals.' It appears with the 24-hour availability of news being pumped through our cable TV; we become part of the experience even before the actual shopping begins. Watching the frenzy and fighting that sometimes occurs between shoppers seems to contradict the feelings that I remember having as December rolled around. Shopping seemed to be less stressful for those loved ones responsible for gift-giving. No Black Friday or Cyber Monday for them, and November was not the start of shopping but a dedicated time to prepare and fully enjoy a distraction-free Thanksgiving.
Department stores like Sears, EJ Korvettes, and local toy stores seemed to satisfy all or most of the gifts that were going to be part of that special morning. A Lionel train set or Mickey Mantle baseball card were easily attainable, and those few who held on to them now claim it was a wise investment. Really? Were they thinking that when they received them? Today, it's more like 'I'm glad Mom never threw these out in the trash.' The family car, buses and/or subways were the mode of transportation. Shopping was done in an orderly way, and there always seemed to be an abundant supply of popular items. Finding a suitable Christmas tree was always exciting, although decorating it could be a chore. A little Egg Nog never hurt either. The smell of pine needles remained long after the tree was taken down and joined the pile of trees discarded by neighbors. Living in a 20-family apartment building in the South Bronx made for quite a pile!
Confirming the fact that Christmas was no ordinary day, businesses were closed. Some opened for just a few hours in the morning to allow for last-minute food items, etc... It felt like a day different from any other. I don't have that same feeling today, as most Holidays have become just another shopping day. I remember the fellowship with family, entertaining or visiting relatives, and of course, immersing oneself in the newly acquired toys that you were told were transported down a chimney that apartment buildings did not have. You never questioned it.
Well, during this Season, whether you are a bus operator threading the needle across New York's 34th Street or any other street across the country, or the shopper using mass transit rather than the Internet to accomplish your shopping, wish someone a time they will never forget. If you are one of those who can relate to some of the things I said, take a moment and think of loved ones who may no longer be with you but created that special time in your life that will hopefully hold a special place in your heart. If I may, 'Hey Mom and Dad thanks for the memories of Christmas!'
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Read our METRO blog, "'OCTA CEO: Employee development essential in challenging times" here.
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.