Friday, November 3, 2023

There's a National Subway Day, You Say?

Novoslobodskaya Station, Russian Metro
by Alex 'Florstein' Fedorov, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I was talking with a friend a couple of months ago and we started comparing notes on which subway systems we had each traveled on.  Somehow my mind went from that to thinking that could be a fun subject to blog about, then to wondering whether there was any sort of official "national subway day."  I Googled it and found that yes, indeed, someone had declared a National Subway Day on November 3, 2015.  That also seems to have been the only day it was celebrated, but I took it as an excuse to blog on the topic anyway.

I'm not sure that subways are my favorite form of transportation, but I don't mind using them, and I've been on several.  In no particular order:

Moscow, Russia Metro, 1982:  At the time I was there, it was still the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic, one constituent member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  And the Metro (pronounced mye-tro) was beautiful.  Each station was a work of art, and we were told that was the intention.  I don't recall that it ran late.  One incident that happened to me when using the system was when a friend and I were leaving the station and standing on the escalator as it gently took us back to fresh air.  For some reason I had my friend's passport in my hand and was looking at it in detail, when one of the people ahead of us, who appeared to have been drinking heavily, suddenly stumbled backward and fell onto me.  Not only did I catch him and not fall myself, I didn't even drop the passport.  But my friend and I took a few steps backward, just in case it should happen again (it didn't).

Paris, France Métro, 1983:  I don't remember as much detail about the Métro in Paris, probably because whlie I was there I was dead broke and walked almost everywhere rather than pay for transportation.  But I did ride it a couple of times.  I don't recall that it was awful or great, just kind of there.

London, England Underground, 1996:  The Tube, as it is commonly called, has a reputation all its own.  People ride it just to say they've done so.  I rode it to get from one point to another, but I did notice the signs saying, "Mind the Gap," which are well known.  When I was going from the Prime Meridian to the Tower of London, I should have taken the Tube, but I didn't realize how far I was going to have to walk.  By the time I got to the Tower, it was closing for the day, and all I did was walk around it.  So that was one time I really blew it by not taking the subway.

New York City Subway, 1997 and 2005:  Another transportation system famous in its own way, the New York City Subway has the most stations and is one of the busiest and longest in the world.  In 2005 I wanted to visit a cousin who lived in the heart of Manhattan, and she convinced me not to even think of driving but to take the subway instead.  So I did.  It was a nice trip there and back.  I also took it once with my sister when I was visiting her in New Jersey, because she found out I had never been on it.  So we rode into The City and walked around for a while.  We somehow fortuitously ended up on 57th Avenue and I was able to show her around The Compleat Strategist, an adventure games store that carried products from the company I was working for at the time (this was in 1997).  She is still the only family member who actually got excited to see my name in print, jumping up and down in the store.

Washington, D.C. Metro, 2000 and 2011:  The outstanding feature of the Metro in DC is how huge the tunnels are.  They are absolutely cavernous.  I was told that the reason for their ridiculous size is that they're supposed to be emergency shelters for people if something really horrible happens outside.  But that doesn't make sense, unless the people are supposed to stand on each others' shoulders, because most of the space is up.  So I suspect the real reason is something else entirely.  But it's a nice system, and I definitely enjoyed riding it.

Montreal, Quebec Metro, about 1999:  I traveled to Montreal once for work, and while there I learned about the underground transportation systems.  Not only is there a subway, but there are underground walkways between buildings so that people can move around in the dead of winter.  I thought that was pretty smart of them.  I don't remember anything in particular about the Metro, so it couldn't have been bad.

Boston, Massachusetts Subway, 1991, 1992, 1993:  The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) looks and feels ancient, or at least it did when I was using it.  I used to go to Boston at least once a year and took the subway a lot.  The cars always felt rickety, and when they careened around curves you worried whether you were going to go airborne.  The cars seem to just barely fit in the tunnels.  I heard rumors (never substantiated) that some people who were working had been crushed.  Not a friendly system.  I have one friend who knew the system inside out, backward and forward, to the extent that he could figure out in his head that if we went two stops past where we wanted and then came back one stop, we could walk far fewer stairs to get to the street.  He was amazing.

San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit:  The subway system with which I am most familiar is BART (I love acronyms!).  Not only did I live in the Bay Area for 28 years, but I worked as a train operator at BART.  I have to admit, I loved riding BART around, especially in San Francisco, because I hated driving in San Francisco.  BART is a great system.  I even wrote two blog posts about using BART to get to genealogically important research sites (in San Francisco and in the East Bay)!

So that comes to eight systems.  Hmm, I thought it was more than that.  I guess I need to get out there and ride a few more! 


  1. Lots of subways! I've ridden all the systems you've ridden except for the Moscow Metro. Living in NYC without a car, my family rode the subway and bus systems all the time.

    1. I was always told that most New Yorkers didn't have cars because it wasn't practical and that they didn't need them because the subway and buses could take them practically anywhere in The City. If you ever get the opportunity, you should ride the Moscow Metro just to admire the beauty of the stations.

  2. I have ridden BART (of course), LA subway, NYC, Boston, DC Metro, London Underground, and Berlin U-Bahn. My daughter lives in NYC and has no car and when we visit, we get a week pass and ride it everywhere we can.

    1. Like you said, of course you've ridden BART! I thought about the L.A. subway, but I've never been on it. U-Bahn, how cool!

  3. Subways are great! Some better (and cleaner) than others, for sure. The Metro in D.C. is especially efficient, clean and safe.

    1. Indeed, the DC Metro is a very good, clean system. I remember it was efficient. I just never could understand all that amount of vertical space.


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