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100 Things - Ride the Metro Rail

We are diving into 2016 with wonders of the deep. Last week, at the Aquarium of Niagara, we explored underwater life. Now, we’re heading underground.

It’s amazing, the number of people who have never experienced Buffalo’s Metro Rail. If you’re one of them, now’s the time to get on board. Above ground, the train is free. Below ground, it runs no matter what the weather. It can come in handy in the winter. And even if it doesn’t, it’s fun.

The adventure begins with the ticket machines. They can be moody, and it can be tough to coax them to accept your $2 fare, all the while worrying that you will hear the train clattering past below. An accented recorded female voice accompanies this struggle. “Adult ... adult ... adult,” it kept saying, as I pushed buttons. “Adult. One. Way. Trip.”

“Adult ... adult ...” I couldn’t help mimicking it as, ticket finally in hand, I descended into the depths.

To get a real thrill, check out the deep Delavan/Canisius College or the University Station. Both make you feel as if you’re heading into the earth’s core. The University Station sports neon – a stunning sight when you’re at the bottom looking up. Metro Rail stations are all different, with various colors, artwork and even poetry.

Trains run every 12-15 minutes at peak time, and it’s my lot in life always to have to wait that entire time span. Annoyance evaporates, though, when the train arrives. You get that big city feel – the blast of air in your face, the musty smell of underground, the whoosh of the brakes, the rush.

Sit back, and enjoy the train’s momentum. It’s mostly smooth, but sometimes, gathering speed, the train sways. On certain stretches it really flies. And I always try to sit in the front car – just so I can best enjoy the moment when the train shoots out of the tunnel and into the daylight.

Life on the rails follows a daily rhythm. The morning commute has its own energy. Midafternoon, when schools let out, things can get raucous.

The evening ride home has a special sweetness. After the long day, most folks are mellow, and courteous with each other. You don’t see many electronic devices at this hour. Riders read books and The Buffalo News. They nap. They chat.

“The people I’ve met over the years,” marveled Marcie Wilson, a Metro Rail regular commuter waiting at the Delavan station. “The stories I’ve heard.”

Wilson has a hectic schedule and was on her way from her job to pick up her granddaughter. She finds the small talk soothing. She appreciates how Buffalonians look out for each other and mentioned how once, when she was scrambling to find a tissue when her granddaughter sneezed, an elderly woman came graciously to the rescue.

She also likes the classical music in the stations.

“It’s relaxing,” she said. She added: “The kids need a change of music from all that rap.”

The system’s not perfect. One petite East Side woman who works second shift confided that stations are deserted late at night, and she often wishes for more police presence. At a couple of stations, the escalators were out of order.

Also, face it, you do run into the occasional nut. At the University station, while Pachelbel’s peaceful Canon was playing, one fellow was amusing himself running repeatedly up the down escalator. “Stop before you get hurt!” someone yelled.

A nearby commuter sighed. “He’s been doing that for 10 minutes.”

But hey, that’s life in the big city. And on this leg of our 100 Things tour, life in the big city is what we celebrate.