200 Hours a Year on the Subway: What To Do?

Ulysses Hernandez, a student at The New York Institute of Technology, rides the train from his home in Bushwick to school.

Photo by: Alex Eidman

Ulysses Hernandez, a student at The New York Institute of Technology, rides the train from his home in Bushwick to school.

The J train runs from the Financial District in Manhattan through Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant all the way to Jamaica, Queens. The commuter experience is just as varied as the neighborhoods it services.

On a recent weekday, smartphones and tablets were popular choices of ways to spend time on rides, especially since most of the J line runs above ground, which allows for Wi-Fi access. However, some passengers pointed out they still prefer simpler pleasures.

“I definitely read books more than I look at my phone,” said Brandi Kutuchief, a guidance counselor who has a lengthy morning commute from Bushwick to East New York.”It’s really the only time I get a chance to do that.”

Meanwhile, a morning A Train was packed and quiet. Passengers wore ear buds, played video games or read. Riding the city’s longest subway line provides commuters with ample personal time.

“Maybe we all choose distractions so we don’t have to think about terrorism and what’s in someone’s backpack and how to escape a fire,” said Mark Hayman, a commuter traveling from 207th Street to Columbus Circle. Hayman said he likes to read travelogues from the 1920s and `30s.

“It’s easy to focus on the reading, unless I leave too late,” he said.”Early, there aren’t any panhandlers or dancing shows. If I leave too late, I might run into the mariachi trio at 145th. Then I can’t focus.”

Alison Sheehan frequently misses her stop because she is so engrossed in her reading. She rides the A train from Midtown to Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood several times a day for her work as an educational consultant.

“This line lulls me into my reading because it doesn’t stop between 59th and 125th,” said Sheehan.”If you’ve got a seat, the train rocks you softly and you sink into your book. Next thing you know you’ve got to catch a train going the other way because you missed your stop.”

She read an article about styles of leadership Wednesday morning while eating barley out of Tupperware.

G. Jenkins relies on heavy tomes for his hour and a half each way on the train. He lives in Baywood, Long Island but works in the Battery as a graphic designer.

“I try to avoid all the gadgets,” he said.”It’s perfect to get reading done.”

Jenkins drives on the Southern State Parkway to Lefferts Boulevard, where he boards the A train. He transfers at Broadway-Nassau to a downtown No. 4 or 5 train to Bowling Green.

“Getting on at the first stop, I always have a seat,” he said.”I whip out my book and I’m good to go.”

He had a collection of essays and lectures from the late Columbia professor and Middle East theorist, Edward Said, in his backpack Wednesday morning.

“Next might be Moby Dick,” he said.”I’m not sure yet.”

While multiple commuters mentioned deficiencies of the J train, such as slow weekend service and a lack of screens on the platform that update wait times, one rider said between the J and the L train, the choice is clear.

“The people on the L train are loud and obnoxious,” said Jane Kimmelman, a student at The New School who was heading home to Bushwick.”It’s dangerously crowded and it always closes down with no warning. The J Train is better than that.”

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