Subway Sandwich/Commuter Hell

Most of us have shared the experience of being a subway sandwich, and no I am not talking about the kind that you eat for lunch!…I am referring to the hassle of the twice daily commute back and forth to work world on the subway, the underground, the tube whatever you call it…It doesn’t really matter what big city you live in, New York, London, Tokyo or like me, in San Francisco, it is always the same, a twice daily foray into the underground depths of the transit system, it’s own particular little slice of hell…

It is bad enough waking up to the raucous, clanging, buzzing sound of the alarm clock, then the inevitable sleepwalking through the frantic showering and shaving or putting on the make up routine to get ready for another day in the jungle, the getting the kids off to school or day care if you are a family person, it all comes down finally to just you and the subway…or the train, or even the bus…

With the extraordinary high costs of gasoline and the exorbitant gouging fees of parking downtown, there is no getting around it, the great majority of people MUST take the subway to work and back home every day….So you make your way to your stop, maybe above ground like me in San Francisco where I live, and if I am lucky I can find a seat inbound, but the bus gets packed incredibly full unbelievably fast…On the way home, I have to descend to the underground level and never get a seat….This was my routine for almost 45 years….





Or you might get a ride to the train station to the BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit, and make your way under the deep dark waters of San Francisco Bay to get to your job in the city every morning….The Bart ridership is a little more upscale, since most of it’s passengers live in the suburbs, but it is just as crowded and there is just as much pushing, shoving and jostling around like on the regular Muni SF subways and buses…It is like a rugby scrum, or a dive for a fumble recovery sometimes just getting on or off any of these means of transportation!

munibart3in stationmunibart4boarding


The Bart Transit system is also partly above ground, but soon descends into the underground in true subway mode….But it is considered a vital cog in the overall San Francisco Bay Area Muni, or Municipal Transit System…Founded in 1912, the San Francisco Municipal Railway (“Muni”) is one of the oldest transit systems in the world. It is the largest transit system in the Bay Area and seventh largest in the nation, serving more than 200 million customers a year. The Muni has what they call light rail vehicles, which ride along the city streets for a while before dipping underground and becoming true subways, with their dark, dreary cavernous tunnel like stops…

Muni is an integral part of public transit in the city of San Francisco, operating 365 days a year and connecting with regional transportation services, such as Bart, Caltrain, Sam Trans, Golden Gate Transit, and AC Transit… Its network consists of 54 bus lines, 17 trolley bus lines lines, 7 light rail lines that operate above ground and in the city’s lone subway tube (called Muni Metro)…. Bart has it’s own system of tracks and tunnels besides those shared with Muni…

Many weekday riders are commuters, as the daytime weekday population in San Francisco exceeds its normal residential population. Muni shares four metro stations with BART. Travelers can connect to San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport via BART.

In New York city, for public transportation you have two main options. They work on the same system with the same tickets so you can combine the two for the same price.

The subway – This is almost always the fastest way to get anywhere, except late at night when taxis can, and do, fly through the city streets.
Bus system – These aren’t used often by visitors to the city, but in certain cases they can really come in handy. Particularly for going up and down the avenues, or for people who can’t deal with lots of stairs, these can be a helpful option.

Penn Station in New York is one of the oldest and busiest in the country….34th Street – Penn Station on the Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line is continually ranked as one of the busiest stations in the subway system. In 2013, it was the fifth-busiest subway station, with 27,730,331 riders as recorded by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority By comparison, its sister station on the Eighth Avenue Line is ranked sixth-busiest, with 26,758,623 passengers.





It does not get much better in other cities either…Throughout Asia, especially China and Japan, there are massive subway jams, and we have all heard or seen pictures of the famous Tokyo “train pushers” subway employees whose only job is to actually PUSH people onto every crowded subway car…The trains inside are so crowded, it is the only way to get people to move, even a little bit, and these subway pushers are an integral part of the city landscape….




In sum, I would just like to say I have worked in San Francisco for over 45 years and took the subway to work for many of those years…They were almost invariably packed to the rafters and I literally had to shove my way inside sometimes…A few time I even LEAPED inside to force an opening…One time I saw a lady actually faint on the subway, pass right out, but the crush of people around her was so great she never hit the floor, and she eventually woke up and made her stop….

So enjoy your commute this morning, remember you get to do it all over again after 8-9 hours of putting up with the stresses and strains of the work place, and then you will finally arrive back at your house, home sweet home, able (hopefully) to relax with your family….Just think, you get to do this 5 times a week, round trip, so that’s a total of 10 commuter trips to look forward to every single week!….

Somehow, deep down, I have to think…There must be a better way to do this! Any ideas?

For more articles by John Whye, click on

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