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The Mass Transit Systems

Posted by Sean Rowland on November 1, 2015

DC Metro (image from Wikimedia Commons)

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Having now been to many stadiums located in large city centers, I have often opted for mass transit. As long as I can find a convenient Park & Ride, going the route of train/subway/bus typically is cheaper and less stressful. Well, most times the stress is reduced as that is not always the case if the system is confusing. I am by no means an experienced rider, so my thoughts may differ from those that ride on a daily basis. However, I represent the typical visitor to a city and have found some systems to be great, while others…not so much. Below are some thoughts in order from favorite to least favorite:

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1. DC Metro

My first experience with the DC Metro was around 15 years ago, when as a senior, my High School Government Class took a trip to see the inauguration of George W. Bush as President. Varsity Metro Riders was the running joke I think. Anyway, a visit back to DC this summer with a heavy use of the Metro made me realize how excellent the system is. Navigation is easy and the stations are generally clean. Little touches really help out visitors, like having vertical signs showing each stop on the line and direction you are heading in. The florescent lights on the floor that illuminate when trains are coming is excellent too.

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2. NYC Subway

This one may be a little bit more challenging to navigate with all the different letter and number lines, however the sheer expanse and ability to go almost anywhere in the City makes the network great. Add in the other train authorities like NJ Transit, Metro-North and the LIRR that all funnel into either Penn Station or Grand Central (which has subway connections) and you can see why a car is not needed at all in NYC. The whole Metrocard is a little antiquated, but it works. There is almost a bit of a grimy charm to the underground stations and that is seen when they get replicated in other spots (SNL’s music stage, the Brooklyn Nets floor).

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3. Chicago’s “L”

The “L” is short for “Elevated”, which unlike many of the East Coast subway options, Chicago’s is mostly above ground. To be honest, I don’t actually remember much about using this system a few times back in 2011. I guess that’s a good thing. The process seemed simple and I never got confused figuring out how to board and buy a pass. I also really enjoyed seeing parts of the city through the window instead of being underground.

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4. Boston’s “T”

It has been more than a decade since I have ridden the “T”, Boston’s “T”ransportation Authority. Undoubtedly, I’ll be back up to the area at some point for various stadium visits. I need to re-visit to add any more thoughts on this one.

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5. SEPTA in Philadelphia

Blah…what a crap experience I had here for the Eagles game a few weeks ago. I believe I am at least somewhat intelligent and I could not figure out how to use the transfer ticket from NJ’s PATCO. The ticket counter person was incredibly rude and unhelpful. The other time I took the subway from Center City to South Philly for a Flyers game several years ago, I remember thinking how rundown it felt. Add in a confusing fare structure and the uncertainty of an express train and you’ve got a really poor, unfriendly service.

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Other Notes
While out west, I had the option to use TriMet in Portland, OR and the Light Rail in Denver, but choose to drive instead as it wasn’t too difficult or expensive to do so in those cities. From what I read before each trip, both systems are excellent and well worth using as a visitor.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore were two other places that had a light rail option. Though each system is small, I may try it on one of my next visits. In particular, plans are being made for a Pittsburgh Penguins game and I’ll probably use their “T”, which is free downtown!

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