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NJ Travel, Part 2: PATH vs MTA

December 25, 2011

ANYWAYS. At my friend’s house in Jersey City, we were discussing the PATH and why is there this sense of it being vaguely more depressing than the subway. So it’s unclear, right? The PATH is actually quite pleasant and clean looking:




And I should start off with the definite idea that I find the NYC subway incredibly depressing. I try to avoid it whenever possible and as you may or may not know, am actually somewhat successful in this by using my bike. And I have nothing against NJ, or NJ Transit, or NJ commuters. But the fact remains — given the fact that all underground transportation is depressing, the PATH is somehow _more_ depressing than the NY subway.




I thought it might be about the branding, but honestly, neither the PATH nor the MTA is winning any beauty awards.




Why then is the NYC subway a necessary evil and the PATH depressing?

1. The map. Forget the branding and the design. The NYC subway map IS the branding. The NYC subway doesn’t need to brand itself any further: the scope, the power and the extent of its system makes the case for it.  Whereas the PATH map screams above all : pathetic.

Actually, this map makes it seem more exciting than elsewhere and give the PATH more scope. The map that the PATH stations have is INCREDIBLY simplistic, just seems like a baby tram. This is more what I’m talking about: 


2. The People

It’s really not my intention to bag on the PATH, so I don’t want to harp on this or start making fun of people or B&T folks or something. And this may just be a continuation of the map thing. But there’s a feeling on the NYC subway that people might be going to exciting things. Where’s there just this overwhelming sense of _returning_ on the PATH. Returning from seeing friends, or shopping, or going out. Doesn’t matter in which direction you’re going either. Feels like there’s a sense of somewhat weary returning.

3. The Cleanliness

So this for me is somehow the most interesting. Actually, the cleanliness of the PATH speaks for how few people use it. The grime of the NY subway, definitely there, but within reason–makes it feel in use. My big thing nowadays is being obsessed with systems that are used by lots of people, systems that have to accommodate lots of needs and lots of use, so hence my interest. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe of the PATH were grimy, it would actually make it all the more depressing. But there’s something I’ve noticed to these smaller transport systems, a bright cleanliness, that makes them seem silly and toy like. Which they are, actually, so I don’t know. But the thing with public transportation is, it’s SUPPOSED to be dirty. That is in it’s nature.

Maybe I need more small town public transportation examples that are grimy so I can test my cleanliness hypothesis. All the small town public transportation systems I know are definitely clean though, so I welcome examples.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 6, 2013 11:03 pm

    I love both systems, but actually prefer the PATH because of its cleanliness and the easier path to finding a seat. Also, there are far fewer “problem passengers” on the PATH than many lines in NYC and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is because the vast majority of neighborhoods on the PATH routes are now gentrified (Newark and Journal Square are the very last stubborn holdouts) whereas there are entire lines on MTA that have most of their stops in “yet to re-emerge” neighborhoods in the crumbling center of Brooklyn.

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