Last week, I walked from the Lower East Side up through Soho with a friend. Eventually, since she needed to catch a train at Grand Central, we took the 6 line up there.
She headed for her train and I headed to the market for fruit. Which was way too expensive so I bought Lilac Chocolates more or less instead.
My route home was via the IRT from Times Square. Two ways to get there: I could leave the station and walk on the street to Seventh Avenue, or I could take the shuttle, the convenient, yet grimly third world, rust bucket.
The shuttle has been so distressed for so many years, I’ve occasionally avoided it entirely by taking the BMT from Times Square up to 59th Street and switching to the East Side IRT. But last week I wasn’t yet at Times Square and I wasn’t going to the Upper East Side, so I headed for the shuttle.
One sweeps one’s Metrocard and descends the stairs leading to…
What is this? Where am I? Not the shuttle, this can’t be the shuttle. Not this sleek, gleaming platform, with pretty tile mosaics on the pristine walls — did I really see them? Instead of the dilapidated three tracks, there were only two. Both gleamed. A train waited on one of those tracks.
The shuttle, now designated not with a black and white S within a circle but with an S surrounded by a halo of green fairy lights, is awesome. (Here’s the link to the MTA’s shuttle project. The pictures are labeled renderings of the final results. I can report right now this is exactly what the shuttle looks like now, in real life. Except it’s even livelier, more exciting to the eye.)
The platform edging up to the trains is near-neon yellow textured rubber tiles. The platform itself is tiled in the same gray stone I used in my bathroom.
The cars themselves are brand new. No longer standard subway cars, there are seats only in the corners so we stand during the short trip, holding onto floor to ceiling bars, but they must have done considerable track work, too, because the ride is so smooth, we didn’t really need to hold on to anything.
And then comes the wild west of the Times Square Station…But no. Same elegant gray tiles on the platform, no tricky spaces between the cars and the platform, thus no hopping over.
As I walked out of this station toward the subway, my eyes were caught by the ceiling. Once damaged, peeling plaster, it is now exposed steel beams which look like Mark di Suvero sculptures.
Quietly, without blowing trumpets, the MTA built back better. Much, much better.
I am so pleased.