I must admit that in most U.S. cities, even East Coast cities, cars are undeniably a bad transportation method. Between the headache of parking, the insane insurance prices, and the surface street traffic, most of us have, though somewhat hesitantly, chosen to rely on the MTA for most of our transport. Of course, there are some benefits to this. Instead of keeping six eyes on alert while driving, you can simply get on a bus or subway and zone out until you arrive at your stop. For all of the trash talk that we give the MTA, it’s a lot more reliable than the DC Metro or SEPTA in Philly. Of course, there is something that can make the subway better: you. I’m going to break my normal style of writing and write a column about subway etiquette.
First things first, as soon as you get on the subway platform, walk down the platform. Unless you’re getting on at a large station, everyone is entering the platform from one or two staircases. If people don’t move down the platform, the result will be one or two crowds near the staircases trying to cram into one or two cars, while the other cars will be almost empty. If you know your stations well enough, you’ll know which end of the platform will be closer to the exit at whatever stop you’re getting off at, so you might actually learn something by following this tip.
Second, remember that you’re in a crowded public place. Use earphones, or at least don’t blast your music on full volume. I know you love your music, but everyone else does not. Don’t take up more than one seat, and if you have one bag, put it on your lap. If you have two bags, put one between your legs and the other on your lap. If you have three bags, put one between your legs, one on your lap, and one on top of the one on your lap. If you think you need four bags, cram everything into three bags and use the extra money for a cab. If you have no bags and still take up more than one seat, get off the train.
Sometimes you get one of the last seats on the train or bus. Lucky you, but be ready to give it up if needed. Disabled people, elderly passengers, and pregnant women need that seat more than you do. Come on, it’s hard enough when your body is fighting you; the least you can do for elderly and disabled people is let them sit down. As far as the pregnant women, think of it as two for the price of one.
If we’re going to be realistic, most of us will end up standing on the train. In this case, your actions should depend on how long you’ll be on the train. If you’re getting off in only a few stops, stand near the door so you don’t have to fight your way through the crowd to get out. Don’t do this if you’re going to be on the train for several stops. In that case, walk to the middle of the car so you’re not blocking everyone’s path when they’re trying to get on or off the train. When you get closer to your stop, you can walk back near the door.
We live in a stinky city. It’s not as bad as the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s, but it’s still pretty stinky at times. Despite how we’ve all accepted this, we don’t want to contribute to the stink, so keep your hygiene reasonable. Take a shower in the morning. Brush your teeth. Remember to put on deodorant. Go to the bathroom before you get on the train if you can, just to be safe. Don’t wear dirty clothes on the train. Please, try to not get sick on the train. MTA will hold the train at the station, and that delays everyone, including the trains behind you.
A few final notes: don’t get too annoyed or scared by people walking through cars asking for money, or selling candy for their basketball team, or performing. Yes, it’s technically illegal, but it’s not that big of a deal in the big picture. Many of these people are honestly struggling, although obviously a non-negligible amount of them are lying.
If you have something big, like a couch or a mattress, get a U-Haul or a moving company. You might think I’m joking, but I’m not. I’ve seen so many people think a MetroCard can replace a U-Haul, it’s kind of ridiculous. Bikes are allowed on trains, but be smart about this. Don’t bring your bike on the train during rush hour. To be honest, unless the weather is absolutely horrible, you should be riding your bike. I love using my bike to get around the city when I can, even though it’s borderline suicidal.
I am not calling out anyone in particular in this article. This is just some advice on how to make the subway a better place for all of us. Of course, this is not a fully comprehensive list. The more you know the city and the subway, the more you will know about how to not be someone’s pet peeve on their commute. And hopefully, they will pay back the favor.