New York: Great City of Epic…disappointment.
Well this one’s a fun one. Do you want a list of TOD’s? NYC only has five; they’re called Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island (sorta). The whole damn city is one large urban blob of urbanity. The New York City Subway was top rate; twenty six, twenty four hour high frequency lines. The subway stations consisted of nothing but a staircase and an elevator at the street level providing no obstructions to the surrounding neighborhood.
The central station, however, leaved much to be desired. Penn Station was miserable. The platforms where small and cramped, the layout of the station was over complicated; the station itself was small and shoved under Madison Square Garden arena. The station is decorated with many pictures of the old and majestic Penn Station that was brutally torn down many years ago, as somewhat of a memorial and to taunt the passengers of today with the passenger experience of yesterday. The one plus to Penn station was that it was well signed and easy to find the subway and commuter platforms. A major downfall is that there is almost no bus element. Popular china-town style buses such as Megabus Park on the street outside, others use the port authority bus terminal a couple blocks away. The Amtrak area of Penn Station was, however, relatively easy to navigate. The concourse was located above the platforms and there where escalators down to the trains that where well signed. A large departure board hung in the middle of the space, easy to see and read from everywhere in the Amtrak area. United even had a baggage check area for passengers eventually transferring to air travel at the Newark Airport.
Grand Central Station however was easy to navigate and, well, incredible. I took a tour of the station during my time in the big apple and was surprised by the bits of history that are hidden in plain sight throughout the station. The most surprising bit of history that I learned was that Grand Central itself was built with transit oriented development in mind. Before the modern Grand Central was built the area around it was more or less a collection of railroad yards and vacant industrial land. The hope when building grand central was that it would one day spark development around the station, which it did, we now call this area Midtown Manhattan. In retrospect it seems quite obvious that they would build the terminal with development in mind, however I guess I assumed New York was always a mass of urbanity, all cities start somewhere.
The Layout and design of Grand Central is elegant genius. There are no stairways from the street entrance to the main concourse, despite the fact that you descend a story. This is because the architects used ramps which move more people in a quicker manner than stairs and provide a grand entrance into the station. The main concourse, with its massive vaulted ceiling with the beautiful zodiac mural, was originally built for intercity travel, while the lower level concourse was built for suburban trains. While New York was a disappointment as far as Penn Station is concerned, Grand Central is a phenomenal station; it is a shame that Amtrak does not use it anymore.
Overall I give New York a B-, most of it taken off for a lack of easy inter-modal connectivity.
Some Grand Central Shots..