Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Post-Sandy Erie Lackawanna

Hoboken Train Station may be functioning but its grandeur has yet to recover. Dislocation features lots of posts with this train station; I’ve been transiting through this transit hub for much of my adult life. I hadn’t been back since Sandy.  The Hoboken PATH is finally back on line. I was taking the Christmas express to the suburban land of my birth, as I do every year. A FEMA trailer is the ticket station. Everything was closed, the mini-food court, whose renovation was, only completed a couple of weeks pre-Sandy, as well as the newsstands and coffee stands. The waiting room lobby, with its clock and stain glass and lion water fountain, behind doors locked since the catastrophic weather event. I wonder if the furnishings were destroyed, not just the long classic benches but the model train display – you press a button and an HO scale train spins around a fake Jersey town. You put in quarters as a donation; it’s for a charity run by the NJ Transit conductors. Need to heed the call of nature? Port-o-potties  outside. Commuting through here must be depressing as hell. It is like a 3rd world country now. Actually, it is exactly like reality. A climate changing caused storm that was the double the intensity what was prepared for hit a decaying infrastructure. Two months have passed but as a conductor reminded me when I asked if there is any place where you can a beverage for the train ride, we had six feet of water in the stations. Sandy has ravaged not just the Jersey Shore, but one of the few working vestiges of America’s glorious Railroad past.  The Erie Lackawanna is now more memorial than a relevant presence in the day-to-day. We transit through storm-damaged, purely operational space with no where to pause, no reason to linger and reflect. Our ability to endure may be the overriding feeling one gets, but the hope and optimism related to travel that Train Stations inspire, especially around Christmas, is no where to be felt. One cannot escape thinking about the severity of the storm, the inadequacies of our preparations and response, the lack of investment in our infrastructure, and the vast amount of pollution our society has produced, irrevocably altering global weather patterns.  The Hoboken Train Station, instead of symbolizing the potential of our civilization, now is just another sign of the ways that civilization has enabled its own demise.

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