“Train People” vs. “Car People”

I’m a bit behind on my reading, but wanted to mention a feature on commuting from Westchester in the January issue of InTown, the monthly mag put out by Indian Point Fined For Violations Daily…I mean the Journal News.

“Clogged roads, cramped trains. Even so, Westchester commuters are determined to be happy about their daily trip to the office,” reads the beginning of “Getting There,” by Robert Zeliger.

Of course, after Nick Paumgarten’s epic commuting piece in the New Yorker, no one should dare try to tackle the topic again, but Zeliger gives it a whirl, albeit a fairly perfunctory one. He compares the car commute versus the train commute. He finds that both parties really seem to like what they’re doing.

“I’ve spent the better part of a month talking to the city-bound,” he writes, “and almost no one expressed frustration.”

Zeliger then breaks down the respective psyches of “train people” and “car people.” About the latter, he mentions the commuters who “give you dirty looks if you’re in their seat” (O.Seat.D., in train parlance), and the barmy gal who sits in the lotus position, eyes closed and palms on thighs, across from Zeliger as he tries the schlep from Scarborough.

He points out that 85% of Manhattan-bound commuters from Westchester take the train. Regrettably, he fails to mention the 5:59 rule when parroting Metro-North’s 97.6% “on time” percentage, and adds that MNR is actually the “most on-time rail line system in the entire nation.” (Worldwide, it ranks somewhere between Tokyo’s and China’s.)

Among car people, there’s the New Rochelle guy who drives 35 minutes to his office on Wall Street (he leaves at 6:15 a.m.), then spends 70 minutes to two hours plodding home. He’s among the 33,000 cars to drive from Westchester to Manhattan each day, reports Zeliger.

Finally, Zeliger offers a sidebar on what commuting in the area might look like in the future. Three ideas under consideration: a train line over the Hudson connecting Rockland and Westchester, speed lanes on 287 and Metro-North chugging into Penn Station–so Westchesterers can enjoy the fine-dining at the Mickey D’s that used to be the men’s room, and couture shopping at KMart.

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