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January 18, 2008



Back in 1989, when I started my freshman year as a student commuting to St. Peter's Prep (near WFMU and the Exchange Place station), I would have to *walk* up or down a very long and winding staircase to get from the Exchange Place station to the ground level (or vice versa). The escalator wasn't there yet, as far as I remember, though I do recall it being built not long after I started at Prep. It was a long, long walk on those stairs.

The Pavonia/Newport station is very badly designed. The platforms are too narrow, and every time a train lets off passengers, they inevitably form a dangerous bottleneck around each staircase. It's easy to imagine someone getting accidentally knocked onto the tracks. It's just as bad above ground - the station is very busy during rush hours, and there just isn't enough turnstiles to accommodate the flow, so you practically have to fight your way in or out. And, you are completely right about the sedimentary deposits over the walls - they're on the pillars, ceiling and floors as well.

One other great thing about the Journal Square station - the flying creatures (birds? bats?) that fly back and forth near the ceiling and seem to nest up there.


That picture from Pavonia/Newport... that's a station that's actually in use?! From the picture I was expecting you to say it's one that's no longer in use but you can run along the tunnel and explore the urban decay...


Nice post, Mike. That brings back a lot of memories. Here's one.

There was a white junky who used to hang out at the 9th St. station and play the most soulful blues on a beat old National Steel. He'd tune to some open chord and use a butter knife as a slide. One late sweltering august evening as I watched him perform, a train pulled into the station opposite bound and the doors opened. Two drunken kids with popped collars and NJ buzz cuts lurch out, gathering what few brain cells remained between the two, and throw an empty Budweiser bottle at the guy. Doors closing, the train slowly pulling away down the tunnel pneumatic brakes hissing like an angry cat and steel wheels scraping. The old junky leansssss over putting down the knife, picks up the empty, and using _that_ as a slide begins to play.

Now it don't get much more blue than that does it?

Listener Rudy

Brilliant post.


I like Newark Penn Station, although passing through there at 7 am on the way home to sleep from an all-niter is weird. If I'm footsore & in no hurry, I sit on the long escalator at Exchange. The worst feeling is getting off the down elevator at Exchange at night, meeting a crowd headed up, which usually means I just missed the Newark train. The front seat in the front car is great on the "scenic" Newark run, but it's also a popular seat.

I graduated high school with a guy who became a transit cop. Late one night, he asked a solitary PATH rider to put out his cigarette. The rider pulled out a gun & mortally wounded him.


In the geologic time frame of the path system Pavonia Newport was actually *recently* refurbished. I don't know if folks remember before that time when it looked as much like a natural cave as any transit system station anywhere. There must be groundwater or pipes leaking into it. In it's defense the end of the station shown in the photograph is about the worst. Also the 33rd St. PATH station is not actually at Penn. Station. It's a block or so to the east.
The worst smelling PATH station, and to say it smells like "urine" is putting it kindly, used to be Hoboken now it seems the smell circulates throughout.
Does anyone recall the conveyor belt people-mover in Hoboken? Am I remembering this correctly?

Jason Grote

Great post, Mike. I thought I was the only PATH obsessive out there. One thing, though - what's with the statue of the soldier who's been bayoneted in the back at the end of Montgomery Street, heading into the Exchange Place station? Crazy!


Nice piece, Mike! The ads in Hoboken aren't completely geared to Hoboken's wealthier set. You haven't mentioned how Hoboken is the connector for many NJ transit riders to Manhattan, especially Wall Streeters. Midtown less so, now, what with Secaucus and the Midtown Direct, but my sense is the ad buys are still more about the wealthy NJ suburbanites.


This is just super, Mike. Thanks! One of my favorite things about the PATH system is the wonderful winding pathways leading from street to platform, particularly at 9th Street, and the big long straight section of the Pavonia maze (which I have actually bicycled through a couple times).


I've done that thing where you get on at 9th, go north, and then ride the train back south and to Hoboken. That's because the PATH trains are usually air-conditioned, and the 9th Street PATH station is absolutely the last place you want to be on a hot summer night.

My wife and I have been using Teddy as folklore for years - ever since we moved out of NYC, really - so it's nice to see him get recognition. Once we tried to find the address of the Bergen-Lafayette Coalition to Feed The Homeless Shelter so we could , you know, get more info on the charity. Not surprisingly, our search turned up with nothing.


here's an epic debate about the validity of Teddy if anyone is really bored:


Teddy on YouTube!

jack m

great post, mike. i've lived in hoboken for 20+ years and been EXTREMELY lucky (knock wood) riding the path, not more than a handful of major delays, etc. always puzzled by/loved the massive windtunnel that you scale when exiting the christopher st stop...only to find it's a calm, quiet day when you come out at street level.

remember when each path car was dedicated to a particular nj town or county? there was a little plaque inside across the top near the driver's box, with a little history about the town. and props for the hoboken train station...ok, not technically the path station but nicely restored.


This is kind of changing the subject but is anyone familiar with Carl, the fellow from the station near MoMA? While I've seen Teddy on the PATH train longer than I've seen Carl at the 53rd stop near MoMA and Carl does not actually ask for money, I still wonder-Is Carl actually crazy or just extraordinarily misogynistic or both? Carl could do voice overs, quite the smooth baritone that one.
He's there less often since someone tried to murder him a few years back.

Also, got to give it up for the PATH train butt warming, especially on a day like today.


Interesting - you must not have been to the Hoboken PATH station in quite a while since the Johnny Walker ads are long gone. So is the smell of urine you described. A few "smarmy post-grads" maybe although I'm not sure exacly what that means - Hoboken is populated mostly by young professionals who have been priced out of the Manhattan million dollar starter condos, lots of families with little kids, and a few remaining old-timers still enjoying cheap rent thanks to strict rent control laws. Having been born and raised in NYC I've had many more unpleasant experiences on the New York City subways than on the PATH. You are correct about Maxwells, though - it does still rock!

Listener bkd

My favorite bit of PATHiness is the 19th street station. You'll see it if you sit in the front seat on your way up to 23rd and 33rd.

And the power plant is most awesome indeed.

Former 7SD call-screener Maria

The first time this former Brooklynite ever rode the PATH train was to volunteer at WFMU during Jones' record-breaking broadcast. I was given directions that neglected to consider that I might be coming to the station in the middle of the night, and I ended up completely alone at Pavonia/Newport in the middle of the night, getting help over the "phone" from someone who could see me, though I think he was sitting somewhere in Journal Square. I ended up taking a cab the rest of the way rather than wait 20 minutes being completely creeped out. (I soon learned that the map was actually very simple if I'd bothered to consult it, and I eventually got very adept at PATH travel, as I ended up marrying the person that gave me those bad directions.)

Bartleby - I indeed am familar with Carl, who I always referred to as "the headline guy," as I worked in midtown for years. Definitely misogynistic in his rants, though I have seen him give polite, detailed, and correct directions to old women more than once. For a while I rode the F from 2nd Avenue in the village to 5th Ave in midtown, and he would often make the same trip.


I've been riding the PATH into New York for years, and now that I live in downtown Jersey City, pretty much every day. Its no more or less pleasant then riding some of the subways from Brooklyn or Queens, depending on the time of day, the distance, or line you're taking. Exception though IS the Pavonia station. That place looks like the Riddler started designing it before he was replaced. It is an interesting study in what will happen to all the subway stations when we've finally shuffled off our existence on this planet: they will be quickly devoured by fungus.

As for the Harrison stop, apparently, they are building a sports complex in the area which may explain why there is ONE stop, half a mile before the Newark stop in the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome wasteland that is Harrison. Otherwise, I don't get it either.


There is a sports stadium being built in Harrison right now, right next to the Harrison PATH station, but the Harrison stop has existed for years. I think the explanation for the Harrison station might be the factories that dominated Harrison decades ago, which have mostly gone empty in recent years (only to be demolished for things like sports stadiums). I'm thinking that workers from other parts around the tri-state area used the Harrison PATH station to get to work easily.

Krys O.

The new stadium is the Red Bull (Taurine) stadium and here's the skinny on the skinny Harrison station:

I took the PATH for many years to get to work in Manhattan (train from South Orange to Hoboken then the PATH) and still use it from Newark Penn Station to avoid potential Lincoln Tunnel traffic on the commuter bus line from the Essex County area. The unique odors have more to do with the surrounding waterways near Hoboken and Jersey City after decades of dumping, chemical and otherwise.


Of course everyone knows this, but the Pennsylvania RR used to be the main passenger rail line on the East coast link. Witness Baltimore Penn Station, Union Square Penn etc. Newark was (and is) a primary transit hub, so of course, the Penn RR company built a station there. (I've always found it to be one of the most interesting (odd) of the Penn stations architecturally.)

Harrison is a town with a lot of multi-family dwellings a short walk from the station, so it's a poplular stop during the AM commute (yes, all you see from the train is the remnants of some river-side industry). There is also a ton of parking. It is pretty close to NWK Penn, but over the river, so I guess it saves the Harrison residents having to cross. Harrison itself is a pretty little town. Take a walk sometime. you'll see a beautiful park and some streets so steep they are reminiscent of SFO.


Back in the day, the path train was known as the tubes; ie," taking the tubes to new york." As to the Harrison station, true not much to look at, although the street entrance on the NY bound side has some interest, which they'll most likely demolish w/ the renovation for the new stadium.( Money talks & style walks around here. ) As a youth, it served as a way to discover the outside world(NYC) & as a prodigal son returned to the area, a convenient means of transport (volunteering at fmu)

Chris J

It's been a while, but whenever I volunteered at FMU I took a NJ Transit bus to Newark Penn Station and then the PATH to Exchange Place. Used to love running up that long staircase to the surface world. So glad to reach the top, because at that instant I'd always feel I hadn't another step left in me. And then I'd walk, huffing and puffing, the few short blocks to FMU.

Good practice for running up the Empire State Building, which I'll be doing for the second time, on February 5.


Awesome post, Mike!
One of my favorite things about the Exchange Place station is the escalators, but for a reason you didn't mention: the "music"!
The first time I was at the Exchange Place station - on my way to the station - as I ascended the escalators, in addition to seeing the odd neon sculpture, I heard a fantastic sound: a trance-inducing audio experience that sounded vaguely Middle Eastern, and could've been some sort of horn / trumpet / thing or a violin or both, wavering between notes. I wished I'd had a tape recorder. I thought it was part of the art: "Ooh, a sound installation, too!" The next week one of the escalators was closed for repairs and the sound was gone. I was a weekly volunteer at FMU for awhile, and I noticed the sound was there before a repair, and gone after one. It was a non-intentional audio installation (corresponding to the breakdown of machinery), but a great one at that.

John de Guzman

The PATH has announced $3.3 billion for upgrades, which seems a bit inflated to me. (Note the upgrades announced as rates were hiked.) I can't see where this $3.3 billion is going, and it's infuriating. Are we getting ripped off? Check out my blog post:

Let me know where if my assumptions are off!


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