Matt Flegenheimer describes the complicated calculus performed daily by riders of the N, R or Q trains, traveling uptown through Midtown Manhattan, which is caused by an MTA dispatching quirk.
"Every morning, during peak commuting periods, two trains often arrive at about the same time. Sometimes the express leaves first. Sometimes it is the local. Sometimes at least two local trains will depart before a single express does. Sometimes they move together. And virtually every time there is a decision to be made, riders scamper across the platform, groping for a competitive travel advantage even as they are unsure why they have made their choice."
"It's a gamble that you take," Michelle Price, 34, an investment adviser, said of the dash. "Sometimes you win; sometimes you don't."
"But there is often a deeper indignity conveyed in the expression of the blundering traveler - a rare unguarded moment, when many others are spent with faces buried in iPod playlists or other reading material. Heads shake. Eyes roll. Teeth clench. Sometimes, someone chuckles in resignation. They have gambled, and the city has won."