Kids and NYC transportation

Filed under: Places To Go, Health & Safety: Babies, Development/Milestones: Babies, Gadgets


As you may know I live in New York City, home to the irreverent NYC subway system. I don't refer to it as the best public transportation system only because I've heard tell that those in other countries are far better than ours--or are, at the very least, cleaner. The subway experience is an interesting one.

Daily I see people on their merry ways, including a large number of children, of every age. Some of them are accompanied by their parents, some are with their school buddies, and some are all by their lonesome. As for the latter set, I often find myself wondering how their parents could just let them take the subway alone like that.

Now that I have a kiddo of my own, the prospect of the subway as his eventual main mode of transportation is very real to me. Right now, of course, he and I travel in together wherever we go, whether he's in a stroller or in the beloved baby bjorn. We've even taken the subway together a few times, him pressed securely to me in the bjorn, where, frankly, I wish I could keep him forever when I see these kids wandering the aisles.

The truth is, of course, that the subway system is probably the safest mode of transportation available to children, and one they must use out of necessity. Most folks in NYC don't have cars--and don't need them. Those that do much face some of the truly most evil traffic in the world, along with drivers from the land of H. E. double-hockey-sticks. I'd personally rather clean gum out of toilets than consider driving my kid to school and to all his activities when we could just hop on the subway and read a book together.

Together. Hmm. Well, I don't know about that. I mean, I can't be with him ALL the time, right? And he's going to want to leave the apartment at some point. I can't imagine picturing one of his friends recklessly driving him to band practice. I also can't imagine him taking the bus, which is slower than walking. He may just end up on the subway after all.

Perhaps a truce is in order. Perhaps I can acquiesce to the subway thing if he promises to never get a license. It's not such an absurd thing to consider. I know many New Yorkers (born and raised, not transplanted) who never bothered to get a license because they couldn't be bothered to drive. Some have resisted a license simply because they didn't want to waste a good portion of their lives looking for a parking spot.

For me, coming from a small town, having a license was a passport to freedom. Never mind I wasn't allowed to cross the bridge from Louisville to Indiana. And never mind I didn't really have anywhere to go besides my friends' houses and school (ok, and occasionally the strip mall). I had that passport, the ability to go somewhere should somewhere to go actually surface.

I would never really deny my child that same freedom, although he'll be getting it in spades with the subway well before driving age. And the subway goes pretty much everywhere. And, in NYC, there are actually places to go. I am going to pretend he'll take the subway to the Met and the opera and the New York Public Library. Heh. Luckily I have some time to brace myself with the reality that someday my son will probably take the subway to those less than desirable places I frequented myself when I was younger.

Putting my kid on the subway would also open up a whole new slot of time for me to get my things accomplished rather than having to spend every minute shuttling my son wherever he needs to go. While the thought of that now makes me think of how much time we'll get to spend together, the reality is that by the time he is old enough to keep a calendar I am pretty sure I'm going to have one of my own!

The subway, however great it is, can still be a scary place. All the weird things that have happened to me in the past ten plus years have occurred on the subway. These are things I won't describe to you here lest they make you determine never to visit NYC or its subway system. But those things were, uh, gross. And we'll just leave it at that. I'd rather my son not be exposed to such things if I can help it. The truth is, however, that I probably can't help it--you'll find that sort of behavior anywhere.

Luckily, the subway's "pluses" outweigh its "minuses." At $2 a pop it's still cheaper than driving, and much more environmentally sound than guzzling gas and idling in the notorious traffic.

I imagine my little one will still eventually want to drive, and someone will have to teach him to navigate the mean streets of the city. If he can drive in New York he'll be able to drive anywhere, no problem. For now, though, until he comes begging, I guess I'll let him take the subway. But not to watch the Yankees.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.