"Honestly, I might be an exhibitionist," said Chris Scott, a 25-year-old medical-office worker from Brooklyn, who rode the subway in blue polka-dotted boxers in Saturday's seventh annual No Pants Subway Ride, organized by public-comedy group Improv Everywhere. "I just wanted to see how people would react if different people kept getting on the same subway car in their underwear, stop after stop, and acting as if everything was normal," said Improv member and No Pants founder Charlie Todd. So how do they react? While some riders encountered "fuck-yous" and disapproving glares, for the most part, partici-pants told New York that people just laughed. Which is the point. "Really, all we're going for is a laugh and a smile, and perhaps a moment of questioning your sanity," said Todd. Scott, who loved the feeling of stale subway-car air against his bare legs so much that after it was over, he rode the L train back home sans trousers, said that while some of the reactions he got were "priceless," the response was less surprising than he'd thought. "The whole thing was kind of normal," he said. "For some reason people look at me funny anyways." —Julie GersteinRelated: No Pants 2k8 NYC Reports [Improv Everywhere]
Last night we cornered Anderson Cooper yet again at a gala at the Museum of Natural History. He was there for the CNN Heroes Awards ceremony. He told us that our lusty coverage of his mondo biceps was one of the only things he read about himself on the Internet this year ("I try not to read anything about myself," he explained, and we didn't ask why). Then we got to chatting about the subway. "I ride the subway every day actually," he told us, explaining that it's the fastest way to get around. "You get to interact with people from all different walks of life in a very short amount of time. So before they actually get annoying, you're off the train." Wow, that's an excellent point, we realized. So what do people ask celebrity (and heir) Anderson Cooper when they see him? "Why are you on the subway?" he said. Wow. Anderson is such a man of the people. Except, wait a minute. We just spotted a post on his blog from yesterday. "So today has been one of those days. I ran out of my apartment after our morning call today and suddenly realized I'd forgotten both my keys and wallet," he blogged from his BlackBerry. "I'm now in a taxi (I borrowed some cash) and am heading to the Museum of Natural History." You have no money and you're late, but you're taking a taxi? That doesn't sound like someone who believes in the power of the subway. —Amy OdellReady for an inspiring night [CNN]
Earlier:Iraq Trips Hamper Anderson's Gym ScheduleRelated:Anderson loves the subway, but why do you love New York?
We've been hearing for a few months now about these alleged Rider Report Cards the MTA is asking straphangers to complete, grading the cleanliness and performance and whatever else of their favorite subway lines. We finally got a glimpse of one today, when a member of Team Daily Intel was handed one at his usual J/M stop on the way into work. What do we learn from an actual handout? So many things! That station and train announcements are supposed to be both easy to hear and informative. (Who knew?) That there's supposed to be a lack of both graffiti and scratchitti in stations and cars. (And that there's apparently such a thing as "scratchitti.") That they're planning to do this survey on each line each year. Like that they've already completed grading the 7, but only the 7. And, finally, that New York City Transit president Howard H. Roberts Jr. has the most easily forgeable signature of any major city official. Just something to keep in mind.
August is a month of small frustrations: It always rains when you don't have an umbrella, the F train never comes except just before you get to the platform, and the inside of your jeans becomes a tropical swamp. High on the list of things that make us mad this time of year are the inconsiderate subway behaviors of our fellow New Yorkers. All we want to do is sit in the air-conditioning and relax, okay? Today Second Avenue Sagas takes on one notorious subway offender — the leg spreader. You know him (it's almost never a her), the dude who takes up too many seats because his thighs are too expansive to squeeze together? Well, American subway-etiquette expert (and author of the book There's No 'I' in Carriage) Martin Merton has the solution – cover the offend gentleman's groin with superglue and corn, and then release wild chickens to attack him. Don't buy it? There's a helpful video explaining how well it works. Check out his other videos here, just because nothing says "summer" like wishing subtle tortures on thy neighbor. (The videos were made in Australia — see if you can catch the late Steve Irwin's terrifying daughter Bindi in her acting debut!)
It Just Ain't that Big! [Second Avenue Sagas]
• More than a week after the Deutsch Bank blaze killed two firefighters, three FDNY honchos have been reassigned for failing to regularly inspect the building or come up with a plan to fight a fire there. [NYT]
In another grand leap forward for mobile New Yorkers, someone other than the MTA is once again making public transit easier. Google is poised to launch Google Transit for the city, which will make it possible to search for directions from one place to another, using the quickest subway or bus route. (You know, sort of like HopStop.com but with the power and popularity of Google)The system is already in place for several other U.S. cities, including Tampa, Dallas, Portland, and Seattle. When they implemented it in Duluth, public bus use shot up 12 percent. This is genius, though the MTA's routine unannounced delays and murky service changes are likely to throw a lot of wrenches in the gears. After all, can a computer algorithm possibly pre-calculate "goddamn-sick-person-on-the-train ahead-of-us"–related delays?
Google May Start NY Transit Maps to Boost Ads [Bloomberg]
Google to Map the Subway [Subway Blogger]
Earlier:Facebook to Reduce Rage, Increase Hookups on Subway
• One actual result of Troopergate (Brunogate? Spitzergate?): The State Ethics Commission passed a new rule preventing officials from using state aircraft unless the primary purpose of their trip is state business and requiring reimbursement for those parts that are not. [NYT]
• In the wake of the Great Subway Flood, city-council members are demanding that the MTA spend some $300 million to provide cell service on subway platforms — so that the transit agency can send riders jumbled, unintelligible text messages in the event of delays. [Metro NY]
It's raining out ("lightly," according to Weather.com; heavily, according to a look out our window), one to two inches of rainfall is expected, with "locally heavier rainfall possible," and there's a flash-food watch in effect for the city. And yes, at least according to the MTA's Website, nearly all the subway trains are running — the only exception being some delays and diversions on the 2, 3, and 5 lines in Harlem, owing to a police investigation, not because of the weather. So, hey, congratulations, MTA, for doing what you're supposed to do. Well done.
Service Alert [MTA]
It was a rough day for the MTA. And at a press conference this afternoon Eliot Spitzer revealed just how bad. The subway system is designed to drain up to an inch and a half of rainfall, he said; this storm inundated it with three inches in a frenzied hour. That made for what Spitzer said "is supposed to be a highly unusual event" — except for one thing: It's the third time this year that's happened. The puddling problem wasn't this morning's only calamity — MTA executive director Lee Sander later cited a downed tree near Stillwell Avenue and smoke in tunnels — but it was the most severe. At the governor's insistence, the MTA will take 30 days, or thereabouts, to research how it might bolster the drains. When it's announced, expect a round of wrangling among MTA leaders, state legislators, unions, and the rest. And perhaps buy yourself a kayak. —Alec Appelbaum
To recap: Every subway line was at some point today affected by the rain, and at midday the majority of lines were still in bad shape, according to Sewell Chan at the Times' City Room blog. Buses were packed, commuters were pissed, and, in a delightful little detail, the MTA's press office was hugely understaffed because all but one of its employees were stuck trying to get to work. There were major delays at all three airports. Four thousand Con Ed customers lost power. A woman was killed in what the Times is calling a "storm-related car accident" on Staten Island. And, perhaps most fascinating, there may have been a tornado in Bay Ridge. No fun. (But amazing photos.)
Flooding Cripples Subway System [City Room/NYT]
As you may have noticed, it is raining today. Rather heavily, even. And so, naturally, as Daily Intel's Bushwick-residing photo editor sends a text message to report, the B, D, F, V, 4, 5, and 6 trains aren't running. The MTA Website also reports major problems on the 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, L, N, R, J, Q trains and on the 42nd Street Shuttle. (We think that leaves the 7 and the G as the only trains operating properly.) Don't you just love our aging infrastructure?
Service Alert [MTA]
So has today shaken your confidence in our Democratic-Republican-Independent mayor's personal integrity? As the Times reported, Mike Bloomberg, who famously claims to take the subway to work, first uses "a pair of king-size Chevrolet Suburbans" to get to the 59th and Lex stop and boards the train from there. "This means Mr. Bloomberg spends a quarter of his ostensibly subterranean commute in an S.U.V.," Michael Grynbaum writes. Sometimes the Chevys are even found idling in front of his Upper East Side townhouse! Can't you just taste the environmental hypocrisy? (Actually, you can't: The mayor's Suburbans run on ethanol, a fact the reporter grudgingly mentions in the story's twentieth paragraph.)
So how did the Times obtain this damning data? In a monthlong sting operation, as it turns out.
So there's this cockamamy idea that the MTA could raise money by selling Disney the rights the advertise however the company sees fit in the Times Square station. "I would rather try to sell 42nd Street's subway system underground to Disney for $60 million a year and have them paint it any way that they want to paint it," board member Norman Seabrook suggested. We noticed this in the morning, and because we're sort of opposed to the proliferation of advertising into every corner of life, and because we think there's something untoward about selling public facilities to corporate sponsors, and just because we're crotchety and don't like change, we were against it. But then we saw the cute little logo Gothamist came up with for the combination — it's a Mouseketeers hat! On the MTA logo! Ha! — and we should say we're now sort of smitten.
Mickey Mouse for MTA? [Gothamist]
The MTA plans to add more service on the 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and L trains as soon as next year, the agency announced at a packed board meeting this morning. The Broadway and Lexington Avenue lines will get more evening service, the 7 more weekend service, and the L more trains at all times, plus two high-speed bus routes. The usual warnings of budget shortfalls and potential fare hikes were issued, and MTA executive director Lee Sander said the agency will have to crunch some numbers before it can determine exactly how many trains will be added.