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When good public transport systems go bad - By Rebecca Wicks

As Dubai�s rail-based addition to the public transport network (currently consisting of cabs and camels) hovers on the horizon, I can�t help but wonder how much it�s going to change my life. I long for that Metro system so badly. I paw at the windows of my taxi cab when passing those concrete pillars of promise, knowing that soon, in a future not so far away, life as I know it will be swifter, easier and a helluva lot cheaper.

However looking at an old blog entry I wrote whilst working in Manhattan, it appears we forget all too quickly, how the glory of subway systems can fade. Here�s a letter I wrote to the PATH (The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation) when I was 21. Let�s hope I never have to do the same in Dubai, eh...

Dear PATH manager,

In response to your polite and frequent (if pre-recorded and totally impersonal) customer announcement: �Thank you for traveling PATH�, I felt the need to write expressing my concerns. Short of swimming the Hudson, which quite frankly is more a giant sewer than a river, or paying more than I can afford to travel on top of the sludge by ferry - as a Jersey City dweller I have no choice but to travel PATH. It grieves me that you know this and to be honest, your automated cheerful thanks really comes across as hurtful mockery.

I have been meaning to write to you for quite some time and I feel sure you have been waiting for my letter. I�m the lady who comes a little too close to the security cameras at Pavonia/Newport at 3am most weekends, with a big grin and a leaky paper bag. I�ve spoken to you on the telephone several times too, although you�ve never really stopped to listen to my voice � preferring to cut me off with your estimated time of arrival, which consequently is always 10 minutes, even if I wind up waiting another 20 whilst you spy on me with your CCTV equipment.

I have been late for work several times, due to faults in your system, which ruins my day and sees me muttering obscenities under my breath for 15 minutes somewhere between Christopher and 9th. This is not who I am, Mr PATH man. You are changing me. It feels as though you take a frighteningly la-di-da attitude with your passengers in such traumatic circumstances - sometimes not even explaining the reason for the train�s motionless status. Complimentary drinks and snacks are rarely offered on such occasions and no entertainment is provided, except the odd glassy eyed pedophile or retard.

I�d like also, to raise the issue of your drivers, who are either inexperienced 3 year olds practicing for their first toy train sets, or just plain evil. They take a strange sort of pleasure in quick-starting the train as soon as everybody feels comfortable letting go of the handrails. If I wanted to play human dominoes I would have run away with the circus, not chosen to begin a successful career in the heart of New York City. The PATH is my only route to work and I�d appreciate it if I could turn up without a fat-man�s donut jam smeared around my chest, from his flight across the train carriage.

Talking of fat men, I also think it�s about time you introduced a weight limit per passenger on the PATH. Even better, may I suggest a new �slim-line� seating area for those of us weighing less than 250lb�s. This could be kept in force by reducing the gap in the doors when they open, to allow only people of a certain width and agility to pass through. This would make for a much better looking cliental for PATH, ultimately making it a more attractive, pleasant journey for all.

I am aware that many would view my requests and opinions as snobbish or outlandish, but I hope you�ll agree that whilst PATH tries very hard to please, there is always room for improvement. I would hate for PATH to continue in this torrid tunnel towards self-destruction, as it really does a splendid job of getting one from A to B. However, I do know more than one person who would gladly walk across a bridge each morning, if you know what I mean. This is not intended as a threat, but I trust you will bear this in mind when screwing up this letter, or attempting to wipe your nethers with it.

Yours Truly,

A concerned PATH enthusiast.

Posted: 10 August 2008

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