Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I see you walking up 14th Street

I used to commute into New York on NJ Transit by transferring at Hoboken and taking a second train into Penn Station, then the A/C/E subway two stops to 14th Street (though I'd actually get out at 15th Street and walk from 8th to 9th Avenue to get to work). Then I started taking the train one stop past Secaucus, to the terminal in Hoboken and getting on the PATH subway under the Hudson. I'd ride that three stops to 14th Street at 6th Avenue, then walk the three long blocks -- on either 14th or 15th Street, depending on my mood or whether I was stopping for food on the way into the office. The route via Hoboken saves me $1.25 on the NJ Transit ticket and, at first, 25 cents on the subway on account of the difference in MTA and PATH fares. Now that I use a Smartlink card for the discount, the PATH is something like $1.30 per ride, rather than $1.75.

Anyway, a co-worker mentioned last night that when he takes that same PATH line, he likes to get out two stops earlier, at Christopher Street, because the walk up Hudson Street to Chelsea Market at 15th and 9th is a nicer stroll (and it clearly is). But he also felt that the Hudson route was actually shorter than the one from 14th Street.

And that's what made me look up. "I never thought of that," I said, "but you may be right." A quick check with Google Maps' nifty "walking" option showed that the 14th Street stop is the closest of the three (adding 9th Street as well) -- but by only a tenth of a mile. My daily stroll from 14th and 6th to 15th and 9th is six-tenths of a mile, while both the Christopher and 9th Street stops are just seven-tenths away.

That's outstanding. Not only does it give me a more pleasant option for my regular walk, but it opens up new avenues to explore, plus the potential for new dinner options. And, of course, it will provide new photo opportunities for my resolution when I've exhausted everything on my current route, which I may stick with until I've taken all the shots I want to take (like today's). The walk through the Village up Hudson Street or Greenwich Avenue is like a drive in the country compared to the 14th Street strip mall. Even 15th Street, with its rows of stoops and apartment buildings, has a more urban feel than you find in the Village.

The reason it never occured to me that the 14th Street stop might not actually be the hands-down closest is because everything below that long east-west boundary is a jumble to me. It's old Manhattan, where the grid is blown up. (Actually, more accurately, it's where the grid never had a chance to be laid out as Manhattan was settled northward over the decades, converting the farms into city, with the open space allowed for a more ordered system of roads.) Whenever I come out of the subway below 14th, I have to take a moment to orient myself -- if I can. In some spots, it's hopeless, and I take a guess. More often than not, I guess wrong and backtrack. Always an adventure.

Now the adventure will be exploring more closely a new regular route I already know.

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