NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A writer from London was making waves in New York Wednesday, after she penned a column slamming the New York City subway system as a “dystopia.”
“I am in New York, ostensibly on a sabbatical, during which I intended to rattle off a 400-page thriller and maybe have a romcom-style meet-cute in Central Park,” freelance writer Bim Adewunmi wrote in a column that appeared in The Guardian on Tuesday. “Instead, I have found myself spiralling into hysteria, driven slowly mad by the New York subway.”
Adewunmi wrote that the subway at first glance resembles the London Underground, with trains, tickets, announcements and crowds.
“But then, slowly, the entire system reveals itself to you,” she wrote. “It is the work of a sadist, cooked up in a fever dream and delivered with a flourish and an unhinged grin.”
Adewunmi complained specifically about the city’s color, letter and number coding for various subway lines, which she called “dense and needlessly complex.”
She noted that in London, the Central line is coded as red, the Piccadilly line blue, and the Hammersmith and City line pink. But in New York, Adewunmi pointed out, the No. 4, 5 and 6 lines are all coded as green, the A, C and E lines are all blue, and the B, D, F and M lines “all rejoice in exactly the same shade of violent orange.”
Adewunmi also pointed out that many of the New York subway stations do not have displays announcing the number of minutes until the next train arrives. The No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 lines and the L line have such displays, but the other lines do not.
She also complained about the small sizes of the maps inside subway trains, confusion about where express and local trains might stop, the variances in fonts and colors in subway signage, and the “filthy” stations with “peeling paintwork and pockets of such urine-stench that my eyes water, like a rheumy dog’s.”
“This is not the New York of my dreams,” Adewunmi wrote. “This is The Hunger Games, only I am not a teenage girl forced to kill other children in a purpose-built arena; I am an adult woman trying to return to my Airbnb flat in Brooklyn.”
In a post Wednesday morning, Gothamist was quick to counter that the New York City subway offers some advantage to other systems – the London Underground included.
Gothamist noted that the New York City subway runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while the Underground has overnight closures. The publication also noted that the New York City subway offers a flat rate for travel rather than zoned fares.
Gothamist also published a statement by Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Adam Lisberg, who also emphasized the number of stations and the 24-seven schedule of the subway system, and suggested that some of Adewunmi’s complaints were about trivial matters.
“(T)his is the first time I can remember reading someone complain about the shade of orange on the B-D-F-M trains and the blue on the A-C-E, or complain that she can’t tell the difference between a 4 train and a 5 train and a 6 train because they’re all the same color,” Lisberg said in his statement to Gothamist.
Lisberg also told Gothamist that the MTA actually uses one single font and graphic design, and pointed out that the New York City subway does not use “tickets,” as Adewunmi phrased it.
“She complains that subway cars are air-conditioned. She complains that we run express trains. She complains there are too many subway lines on the map,” Lisberg told Gothamist. “We’re proud of all those things; she likes to complain.”
Meanwhile on Twitter, Adewunmi was the recipient of several tweets from New Yorkers defending the city’s subway system and slamming the column.
— Second Ave. Sagas (@2AvSagas) September 23, 2014
— Rick Bruner (@rickbruner) September 23, 2014
Adewunmi retweeted many of the comments, and left some remarks of her own.
It’s okay, hurt New Yorkers. You can come to London and write a whiny screed about the Underground too. (It won’t be about the map, tho)
— Bim Adewunmi (@bimadew) September 23, 2014
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