Everybody knows how dense New York is, and how it towers, but I suspect people don't fully realize how big it also is.
Case in point, I spent Sunday exploring the city, travelling on the PATH, the New York Subway, and the Long Island Railroad until I came to Coney Island just before dinner time and had a Coney Island chilli dog from Nathan's. How New York is that? The sun was setting, so I figured I should return to my hotel room opposite Newark's Penn Station. It should be easy enough; you can get there taking two subway trains.
And that's true. And I did. I left Coney Island/Stillwell station at around 5:04 p.m. and made it to my hotel room at 7:20, and I only needed to transfer once. There were no serious delays. Even though the two subway trains I took were on two separate systems (imagine if Mississauga had its own subway), but the length of the trip was such that it was kind of like going from Pickering to Mississauga. Via Finch. Entirely by subway.
Add on the fact that two of the three commuter rail systems that enter New York operate electrically by third rail, just like the New York subway, and you start to get the sense of how impressive the city really is. Most anything is reachable by subway, but it might take you a while to get there because it's so far away.
The highlight of Sunday was visiting Grand Central Terminal, the other main train station in Manhattan that is so much nicer than Penn Station (though Penn's new addition, the Moynihan Hall, fixes a lot of Penn's problems). The Great Hall is something and no mistake. There are also a lot of places to eat and spend time there, even if there's a big shortage of places to sit. (I saw that at Moynihan Hall as well. Do New Yorkers have an aversion to sitting down?) So many people were taking pictures, and I can see why. It truly is a destination in its own right, not just a place you go when you have places to go.
I did check out the new underground terminal beneath Grand Central that fixes the old problem where the station offered no access to train services on Long Island. After billions spent, the new facility promises to shorten millions of commutes. Between this and Moynihan Hall, I'm jealous. The city is also much cleaner than its lingering reputation. The subways were well-used, even on a Sunday evening. It's got grit, but it seems to work. I would like them to spend some money to increase frequencies on certain lines, however.
The Saturday before Sunday was a travel day as I took the Crescent from Atlanta to Newark and spent some time writing, before retiring to the hotel in Newark to recover. Today was an early day to catch the Maple Leaf to take me home. The on-time performance of Amtrak has been exemplary, thus far (don't want to jinx it!), and the border crossing at Niagara Falls was smooth.
All in all, a successful trip and writing retreat.