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!'
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "'OCTA CEO: Employee development essential in challenging times" here.
There is an epidemic of safety accidents, absenteeism and high turnover among transit’s front line employees and it’s bleeding the transportation industry billions of dollars. But the inoculation may be closer than you think. Employee engagement is the best immunization for what’s ailing the industry.
Video surveillance technology is a vital component to transit and rail operations as agencies recognize the value such solutions offer. A comprehensive system does more than deliver high quality video and audio recordings. Supporting data and software tools increase the efficiency of agencies’ video management operations, substantiate liability claims and investigations, and promote safety for both passengers and operators alike.
In case you missed it, Pope Francis visited America — and was followed by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims during his stops in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. It’s fitting, given Pope Francis’ penchant for public transportation, that transit played a key role in taking the masses to papal visit activities.
A transit authority’s website, contact center tools and social media are all critical touch points for customers as they engage with transit agencies. At this stage in the relationship, the focus should be on informing and educating prospective customers so they have the incentive to provide their demographic information (e.g. email address, cell phone number, social media contact, etc.).
Typically, when riding the rails in the Philadelphia region, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority customers can purchase daily, weekly or monthly passes — even onboard tickets — for their journeys. But the weekend of Sept. 26 to 27 will be far from a typical weekend in Philadelphia — Pope Francis will be in town, along with an estimated 1.5 to two million people attending public events along the city’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.