25 Things About The NYC Subway System (We'd Prefer Not To Know)

Real New Yorkers use the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) subway to get around. Sure, during rush hour, subway cars are literally packed with people who are all touching each other. Sure, when a train comes everyone fights to get on. But the subway is the best option; for example, New York City traffic is among the worst in the world, so if you're in an Uber or yellow cab, you will be stuck in traffic. That's one of the main reasons why we head underground to get to our destination. Other reasons are that subways never close and they travel to each borough, including Staten Island.

But there's a lot we prefer to not know while riding the subway. When conductors choose their language carefully when they speak to us over the radio, they are often hiding something horrible that happened and which we'd rather not know so we don't get panicked. We don't want to know why all manners are suspended when passengers try to stuff themselves into a packed car and it becomes survival of the fittest. We don't want to know that, like the EZ Pass, the MetroCard can track our every move in a totally invasive way. Can you believe that?

Those are just a few examples. But if you want to know more before you head to the subway, we've gathered 25 things about the New York City Subway system that we'd prefer not to know.

25 There is often someone holding up the train

via The Daily Beast

Don't be this guy. The person who holds the door open of the subway so that a friend or other passengers can get on the train. We'd prefer not to know anything about this guy because the truth is, he's holding up the train.

While it may seem random when a subway shows up, that's actually not true.

The subway station is just like Amtrak, it abides by a scheduled time. If you hold up the train, the train goes off schedule, according to AM New York.

24 The Subway Needs To Be Dipped Into Purell

via nytimes.com

What we don't want to know about the subway system is when it's cleaned, or if at all. At first glance the subway train looks clean, so we sit on the seats. But that's not what we should do. Just because you don't see the germs doesn't mean they are there.

And then there are the poles. How many people touch them every day? A conductor told NBC News that he'd never touch the poles, while another said to carry hand sanitizer so you can sanitize a seat. And as another conductor admitted, "We transport millions of people, it's hard to keep it that clean".

23 Mind The Yellow Line

via ny.curbed.com

There's a yellow line on the subway platform which you shouldn't go over while waiting for the train. But we New Yorkers are always in a rush and people often stand over it to look if a train is coming.

But according to NBC a conductor said, "the [public] leans over looking for the train, they could slip, and that's what causes delays".

Another conductor said, "I've seen people fall on the tracks because they hear the announcement and they think the train is on their track and they start straight walking because they are online. We get conditioned, oh the train is here, they start walking and they fall, the train is not there".

22 IT always has at least one smelly person

via Flickr

We'd never want to know about the passengers on a packed car where everyone is touching everyone because there's no room. Who are these people? Of course you're behind a homeless man who's touching your clothes and who smells.

According to the Wall Street Journal, if you want to avoid stinky people, or if you don't like traveling in a cramped car, just don't get on the subway when you see it's crowded.

Sure you'll have to wait for the next train, but it's worth it if you don't want to contact any germs.

21 Our MetroCards Can Track Us

via soulnami.com

We'd prefer not to know that using the subway can track us via our MetroCards because it feels like an invasion of privacy. Many of us don't know this, in fact. The Metrocard is like a portable hard drive.

According to The New York Daily News, swiping a MetroCard at the turnstile reveals a serial number, value and expiration date.

The MTA then uses that info to record a passenger's station and entry time. While being totally invasive, the card is invaluable to police because it has successfully been used as an acceptable alibi to acquit people accused of committing crimes.

20 the agents are supposed to leave their booths (but they do)

via NY Daily News

In every subway stop there are MetroCard machines where you can buy your tickets. But what happens if the machine is down or you need their help? That's when you rely on the station agent. They are supposed to be in their booths outside the turnstiles but they never are.

If they are there, they are behind that booth that, according to another NY Times post, "has five layers of bulletproof glass and double-locked steel doors".

They have a microphone to use, but you can never hear what they say. We prefer not to know this because it makes us mad when the MTA raises fare prices every two years and still that booth is empty.

19 The Real Meanings Behind Train Conductor Announcements

via Narratively

We'd prefer not to know what the real messages are behind operator and conductor announcements. That's because the truths are far worse and may freak us out.  For instance, a conductor may go over the speaker system and say "We are experiencing delays," but that could mean that a person is stuck between each cab.

"There's a sick passenger" means that someone has had a heart attack or, worse. If there's a suspicious package on the train, “It becomes self-preservation and you don’t want that on a packed rush hour train," as a source told Mental Floss.

So, instead the conductors say, ‘We have a police investigation,' which is basically the truth "but you’re not telling them the whole truth."

18 The subway isn't a place to launch a rapping career

via nypost.com

We'd prefer not to know the most annoying passengers while we ride the subway. One of these, according to Upout, is the rapper or singer who comes on board and disturbs our peace. A subway car is not the way to launch your career.

If you think an exec is going to stop what he's doing and give you a record deal, you may just be delusional.

First, the people who find talent wouldn't be traveling by subway. Second, if we are all looking away from the rapper, or have our eyes down and you're in our face, that doesn't mean we like you.

17 The inflation of the Price Of A MetroCard

via The Travel Women

We'd prefer not to know how much the monthly subway fare has increased. If we do the math, many of us would walk to get around. That's how high prices are. In 1998, a 30-day MetroCard would cost you $63.

In 2008, the price rose to $81 and now the cost of a monthly pass is a whopping $121.

According to The New York Times, the MTA is forced to raise fares every two years to "pay for the rising cost of providing service." What service? Like when you wait for a subway that never seems to come?

16 It's not just homeless people who fall asleep

via Pinterest

We've seen everything on the subway. Those without jobs singing to us so that we can give them a tip. Or those rats. We love that the best. But above all, what we prefer not to know is who's that subway rider who takes up three or four seats to sleep on them.

It's not just homeless people.

The surprising thing is that it's passengers who look well dressed. When they do such a thing they are depriving other passengers of a seat. That's really annoying. We'd like to shout at them, telling them that the subway is not your bedroom.

15 Sometimes they don't know if there is another train on the tracks

via NY Daily News

We've all heard it while waiting for a subway train to reach our stop. It's "Trains are running with delays with signal problems." We don't know what this means. No passenger, in fact, does. We'd rather not know as we'll probably be furious when we learn one of the reasons.

According to amNY, "about 20% of all delays are caused by signal problems. The most common signal problem is a failure to recognize whether there is a subway train actually on the tracks. Sometimes a small metal object will be mistaken for a 400-ton train."

Really? See, we don't want to know that.

14 they only tell you what objects aren't allowed, once you bring them on

am New York

According to the Transit Adjudication Bureau, you can't carry an object that "constitutes a hazard to the operation of the Authority, interferes with passenger traffic, or impedes service." If you do, you may be fined for $75. But the rule is somewhat vague.

We don't want to know these object obstructions because we may be breaking the rule each time we enter a train and the ruling in no way says if it's only during peak periods when the train is full. And then what? And what counts? A large suitcase? A bike?

13 they don't regulate the passengers (or how rough they get)

via Pinterest

You think it's bad when your train is crowded? Well, what's worse is when the subway doesn't come on time because of a delay, according to Business Insider. So the station itself becomes just as crowded as a subway car.

What we'd prefer not to know--and see--is how it's a case of survival of the fittest on who will board a packed train.

It feels like hell, how people are pushing others away to get on the subway, and even fighting to get on. If you're not working, the best time to ride a train is after the peak morning hours and before the peak night rush hour.

12 Traveling On A Crosstown Bus Is Like Traveling To Another Borough

via WFUV

Why is it that when we use the subway system we also have to get on a MTA bus to complete our trip? Going up or downtown by train in Manhattan is easy.

But when we have to cross town, that's when we'd prefer not to know because we're sure we'd get the runaround or won't like to hear the answer.

As The Travel Women reiterated, there's no way to go across Central Park from the UES to the UWS, for example, so you have to make a connector using the bus that's very, very slow. It feels like you're traveling to another borough when you use it.

11 There's A Reason Why That Subway Car Is Empty

via imdb.com

Now this is really something about the subway system that we'd prefer not to know. It's when you get into an empty train car. If you do, it's not because traffic is light. As you'll notice, the next cab will be packed, which means there's something wrong with the empty cab. So run for your life and go through the doors that connect each train. As The Travel Women suggested there's a reason.

Most time it's a broken air conditioner or a bad smell.

We'd prefer to keep it that, because if the train is filled with rats, which they sometimes are, we'd probably throw up.

10 Some tourists will pick you up on the subway to be their guide

via The Travel Women

So you're sitting on the train minding your own business. But then some people start talking to you. It turns out they are tourists. They ask if the train is going to Times Square. When we confirm, then we are stuck telling these tourists that the current stop is the not the stop to get off, or that the next stop also isn't.

According to Upout, these are one of the worst people you'll ever encounter on the subway. We are not your tour guide.

And we'd prefer not to know anything about you, like that Becky Anne back home can't believe she's missing the trip because she caught a flu.

9 The Late Letter Is The Only Thing We Want To Know About The Subway System

via 6sqft.com

When your subway is late, you're also late for work. But upon arrival at your job and your boss seems disapproving or thinks you're not telling the truth, the MTA (and also MetroNorth) will provide you a letter for you saying your train in fact was delayed, which might just help you out.

According to Hamlet Hub, you can get the "late letter" by Email or in-person at the MetroNorth Customer Service Office at Grand Central. You can also get the letter by mail, but you'll have to wait over a week to receive it, which is just too late and probably won't help you out. This is a rare instance in which we'd prefer to know, as the letter can get you out of messy situations.

8 Google Maps always gets the times wrong

via CNBC.com

We'd prefer not to know when our subway comes. Or, to put it another way, we don't listen to what the MTA has to say or that Google Maps tells you the subway will pull up to your stop in fifteen minutes. Why don't we care? Because none of these really work. Google lies! Your best bet, according to Curbed New York, is to leave around 15 minutes earlier from your home than usual, and that way if you need to be on time, such as getting to your job, you'll actually be early!

7 Common-Sense Etiquette Rules Out The Door On The Train

via Time Out

Why do people lose their manners on the subway and push and shove their way in? They've probably got luggage too, or even a bike, and that's taking a lot of space that commuters could have filled.

There are really no etiquette rules on the subway (there are just rules, like don't bring with you a drink that doesn't have a lid), which is why, according to Curbed New York, that passengers bring in things too large or do things we'd prefer not to be aware.

They clip their toenails or start cleaning their face with a beauty regime and one person even brought a "whole moped on the car and parked it in front of the [subway] door."

6 There are always buskers at the Times Square subway stop

via NYC ♥ NYC

The last place we want to be is the 42nd Street Times Square subway stop, as it is full of violinists playing, lots of panhandling, lots of homeless people who are sleeping at the stop and are in our way, among many other things. What we'd prefer not to know is how all of these people congregate at this stop.

At Grand Central, you'd never find these people even though it's also a major stop. The only redeeming thing about the 42nd Street station, according to the Thrillist, is that the acclaimed pop artist Roy Lichtenstein made a huge mural there on a high wall. It's stunning.

5 Train Conductors Sometimes Have To Lie

via YouTube

What we don't want to know about the subway system is when a train conductor says there is "train traffic ahead." We prefer to be in the dark because the reality is, the operator has to tell the passengers something and is actually lying because they have no clue whether or not there are delays ahead, according to NBC News.

Apparently, conductors don't get the announcements from other trains.

We don't know how that's possible in our modern age. But to this day, the radio system is "antiquated," as a conductor admitted. "The relay for the radio systems are not kept up, they are not repaired, they are not constantly checked, so there are black-out areas." So even if the operator isn't lying, we'd still not hear it.

4 The conductors get blamed for the delays, but it isn't their fault

via Curbed NY

Don't blame a conductor when there's a problem on a train, like when it stops moving at a station. According to Mental Floss, the problem is "more likely  faulty equipment." And as WNYC, put it, "signal problems account for 36 percent of extended subway delays (eight minutes or more) in New York City." followed by mechanical problems at 31 percent, and rail and track issues at 19 percent."

As a conductor pointed out, “When you get mad you have to understand that we are not the ones who made the schedules; we’re the ones who have to work with the tracks and the signals which are over 100 years old and they break down, We have to work with what we have".

We still prefer not to know this because we are still peeved after the explanation. Why aren't these problems fixed?

3 Panhandlers May Be Pulling A Trick On You

via The New York Times

New Yorkers know not to give money to panhandlers on the subway. In fact, these people always say the same things. Like I just lost my job and have 5 kids to feed. Or I need some money to buy food. What we'd prefer not to know about the subway system is the truths behind what the panhandlers are saying. It makes us uncomfortable.

Maybe they are poor and we should give them money? But according to City Rover Walks, panhandlers are mostly lying about their status and would go to great lengths to appear downtrodden. For example, women carry newborns which are wrapped around their chests. They ask for money to support their baby. But if you look closer, as CRW pointed out, those newborns are mostly dolls wrapped in a blanket.

2 Beware Of Pickpockets

via Traveldudes.org

True New Yorkers know this. They know when they get on a packed train that there's a possibility that thieves and pickpockets can reach into your handbag and steal your wallet. Men have it worse, as they often keep their wallets or smartphones in back pockets. What we don't want to know is how frequent this act happens; it forces us not to be ourselves. We have to dress modestly so we're not a target.

Shoulder bags, tote bags and other bags that have no top closures shouldn't be used. Men must put their wallet in their front pocket instead of behind. And for all of us, if we're sleepy on the train and close our eyes for only like a minute, we are making it easier for pickpockets to steal our valuables, according to Trip Savvy. 

1 Do Not Ever Stare At Other Passengers

via Bustle

Native New Yorkers know this self-imposed subway rule. Never stare at anyone on the train. Always keep your head down or engage in looking at your smartphone or your book. Because what we definitely do not want to know about riding the subway is that the person sitting across from us may be bonkers.

If you gaze back even for a second, you might set off that passenger, as City Rover Walks said.

If you don't feel comfortable sitting across him, move to another train the next time it stops. There are all sorts of people from all walks of life on the subway. You can protect yourself simply by not staring.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, am New York, The New York Times, Bustle. The Travel Women, Upout New York, Curbed New York, The Thrillest, Trip Savvy, City Rover Walks, Mental Floss, NBC News, Hamlet Hub, The New York Daily News, Business Insider

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