Friday, March 10, 2006


Off-Track Tales

What's going on here?

And here?

Well, first some background: A few weeks back, the New York Post -- yes, that paper -- ran a story about a subway rider who was ticketed for having her shopping bag on the seat next to her in a two-thirds empty train car:

Sitting on the "mostly empty" Brooklyn-bound train Friday evening, [Samantha] Hoover, 33, said she tried to read a magazine, but her thoughts wandered between her day at work and the steak dinner she and her fiancé were going to prepare when she got home.

"Next thing I know, a police officer walks up and wants to know if I've ever been arrested," said Hoover. "He asked for my identification and said, 'You can't put your bag there.' "

Hoover's life as an outlaw was made possible by new MTA subway rules — prohibiting activities such as roller-skating or walking between cars, not to mention putting bags on seats.

Taking up more than one seat had always been an offense punishable with a fine. But until now, it was enforced only against people sprawled across several seats.

Officer Mohammad Ishrat told Hoover to leave the train with him at the Jay Street/Borough Hall stop so he could check whether there were any warrants for
her arrest, she said.
This incident caused some to question the Bloomberg administration about whether there was an official ticket-quota edict that had been sent through the city -- given the hiring of 117 new traffic agents.

Samantha Hoover, not surprisingly, got her ticket dismissed -- yet had to be inconvenienced even further by having to take a day off from work to go to court.

Okay, now let's flash forward to last night (Thursday evening, March 9/Friday morning, March 10): Shortly before midnight, the Q train (heading to Brooklyn) pulls into the Union Square station. The platform is somewhat crowded.

One of the middle cars is also rather crowded -- but there appear to be some empty seats further down. However, there are also people standing by the doors, not bothering to make use of the seats. As one heads back, it's easy to see why. Note the top picture.

The car itself is filled with an interesting cross-section of folks -- some students, a lot of working class folks, probably heading home from the evening shift, and, a few couples coming from dates. It's hard to see, but the lady in the picture was elderly and reading. It's mostly, but not completely black and Hispanic.

And, here you have it: The new-fangled MTA rules that can ticket someone with a grocery bag for taking up one extra seat somehow don't catch one "homeless" person who manages to take up four seats. Actually, it was six seats: An African American gentleman who had the misfortune of sitting on the seat bench facing the other way was forced to move when the street person's head and arm stretched over the back.

And, just a few seats away -- another such individual has managed to take up three seats apparently sleeping off the sauce.

Should there be some compassion shown for these individuals? Yes.

But, how about some compassion for hard-working people who paid for their ride home after a long day on the job and can't sit down? Wasn't that what the whole "quality of life" thing was supposed to be about?

Is there a solution? I don't know.

But, it seems to me that if these sort of incidents continue -- where the cops can be around to ticket the average person with a ridiculous summons but not one around to help clear the trains of street people taking up six or seven more seats than they are entitled to -- well, that's a good way to create an irritated citizenry.

One more tale of the city.

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