Glimpse a newly restored icon
Masstransiscope has brightened many a New Yorker’s commute since 1980, when artist Bill Brand installed it in a vacant stop at the base of the Manhattan Bridge’s Brooklyn side. The zoetrope features 228 hand-painted panels that can be seen through vertical slits along the track. A 2008 restoration helped preserve Brand’s artwork, but it was damaged in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, when vandals took advantage of the stalled subways to spray-paint and tear down some of the panels. Thankfully, Brand completed another restoration earlier this year—jump on a Manhattan-bound B or Q train at DeKalb Ave to have a look.
Spot the big brown beavers
The Astor Pl station is named for John Jacob Astor, a German immigrant who built his fortune in the beaver-pelt trade, eventually becoming the United States’ first millionaire. To honor him, architects Heins & LaFarge—who designed the structural and decorative details of many of the oldest subway stations—commissioned ceramic plaques, each featuring a large beaver biting a tree. The markers, made by Boston’s Grueby Faience Company, can be found at the southern end of each platform.
Subway entrances in odd places
Several access points for the transit system’s 468 stations aren’t in plain sight—many are tucked away in weird locales. The only entrance to the Bushwick Ave–Aberdeen St L stop is within a car dealership; you can spot it only if you’re standing directly in front of the doors. The Clark St 2/3 stop is housed in the same building as the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn Heights—elevators inside a lobby with shops take you to the tracks. And though there’s no longer an accessible stop at the Trinity Building on Broadway, an Art Deco subway entrance sign remains; fittingly, a Subway sandwich shop is now located in its place.
Graffiti goes way underground
Williamsburg’s South 4th Street station isn’t just abandoned—it was never used at all. Work on the stop began in 1929 as part of the proposed “Second System” expansion, but the one-two punch of the Great Depression and World War II killed progress for good. But street artists have accessed the site: In 2010, the Underbelly Project illegally occupied the space (allegedly—the group never revealed its exact location), showcasing the work of more than 100 artists. (Photos of the space were later collected into a book, We Own the Night, which was published by Rizzoli.)
1. Chamber pot, clay smoking-pipe stem, bone toothbrush From the 2011 excavation of the Fulton Street Transit Center extension; 2. Coins, washers and buttons people used as tokens to avoid paying the fare Found in various places throughout the system, including turnstiles; 3. Possum 42nd St–Bryant Park station; 4. Raccoon On the 5 train, somewhere in the Bronx; 5. Backpack filled with puppies for sale Location unknown; 6. Pigeons riding inside a subway car On the A train near the Rockaways; 7. Remnants of meals from the 18th century, including animal bones, cherry and peach pits, and coffee beans From the 2004 excavation of the South Ferry station on the 1 line; 8. Couch on a subway platform W 4th St station; 9. Rat riding the escalator On the uptown B/D/F/M platform at 34th St–Herald Sq; 10. Dead shark
How crime birthed the Guardian Angels
In the 1970s and ’80s, trains were the playground of NYC’s criminals: In 1981, an estimated 15,295 felonies occurred underground. (Not long before that, the 4 and 5 lines were given a new moniker: the Mugger’s Express.) But one New Yorker took matters into his own hands: In February 1979, beret-sporting Brooklynite Curtis Sliwa led a group of crime stoppers who began patrolling the trains. Originally called the Magnificent 13, the vigilante group came to be known as the Guardian Angels.
The (futile) battle against graffiti
In September 1981, the MTA introduced a pilot program of one dozen all-white 7 trains, dubbed the Great White Fleet, after a single white car remained spray-paint-free for two months while parked in Corona, Queens. (Never mind that it was protected by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.) Mayor Ed Koch hoped that the immaculate exteriors would cause would-be vandals to think twice about defacing the cars. Think again: The trains had been transformed into moving street art within a couple of years.
A teenager brakes for the A train
On May 8, 1993, 16-year-old Keron Thomas pulled a Catch Me If You Can move by impersonating a motorman on the A train. He boarded in an MTA worker’s shirt at the 207th St–Inwood station, and no one caught on to the ruse until three hours in, when the teen tripped the train’s emergency brake. But before then, Thomas delivered hundreds of riders, making every stop on the route.
The worst subway wreck in NYC history
On November 1, 1918, 93 people were killed and approximately 200 were injured aboard a Brooklyn Rapid Transit train when Edward Luciano—a fill-in for the regular driver, who was on strike—lost control as he was entering Brooklyn’s Malbone Street tunnel (now used by the Franklin Ave S). The sharp curve necessitated a 6mph speed limit, but witnesses claimed Luciano was moving at least five times that quickly, causing the first car to derail and the second to crash into a concrete partition. As a result, the striking motormen—who had walked off the job that morning—put an end to the dispute.
Stay away from the third rail
Straphangers have long been warned about the hazardous third rail, and for good reason. People who’ve accidentally fallen onto the electrified piece of track are often badly injured or killed. On July 8, 2013, 30-year-old Matthew Zeno stopped to urinate on the G train tracks near the Broadway stop—and, sadly, was electrocuted. The young man was pronounced dead shortly after; a friend who attempted to help him also got zapped, but survived.
Rats gone wild
Despite a number of measures to control underground rat infestations, including poison and traps, some scientists posit that the number of rodents who call the MTA’s tunnels and platforms home could number well into the millions. (Transit officials take care to note that there’s no reliable estimate.) Earlier this year, the MTA implemented another possible solution: the use of ContraPest, a sterilization agent for female rats that will be placed in bait boxes in station trash rooms and (hopefully) look just as tasty as a half-eaten dollar slice.
Save your mobile strength
If you just have to play Candy Crush during your morning commute, use this trick to help conserve your phone battery: Set it to airplane mode, which keeps the device from constantly seeking a nonexistent wireless signal. Of course, if you’re an AT&T or T-Mobile customer, you can easily hook into Wi-Fi or make phone calls at 36 stations in Manhattan. This fall, Sprint and Verizon will also offer both services, and the MTA hopes to cover all 277 underground stations within the next four years.
Warm up by sitting down
Winter is coming, and one place to take refuge from the season’s freezing temps is on a subway car—especially if you can grab a seat. The heating units that warm up the carriages are located underneath the benches of many cars, so you can thaw your chilly feet on cold days.
Avoid the MetroCard line
Sign up for an EasyPay MetroCard account online to skip vending machines entirely. Choose between a monthly unlimited or a pay-per-ride card, and the card will auto-fill with either a dollar or a ride amount. You can also track swipes to see which option is more cost-effective.
Look for the zebra stripes
If you need to board in the middle of a subway train, keep an eye out for the black-and-white-striped bar that hangs above platforms. This is the conductor’s indication board: Operators typically ride in the middle car, and point to this sign to show the whole train has arrived in the station.
Know where to stand
One way to figure out where subway doors may open involves gum. Look at the platform floor—if you see a mural of black splotches, it indicates where people have been spitting their gum out when the doors open. (Though if a platform was recently cleaned, you’re SOL.)
Face-off: Woody Allen versus Sly Stallone
In his 1971 film Bananas, a young Woody Allen and a younger Sylvester Stallone duke it out aboard a moving train. Stallone plays a local tough antagonizing passengers in a subway car, including an older woman whose crutches are used as weapons (comically, of course). Allen, in true New Yorker fashion, does his best to ignore the ruckus, but eventually confronts Stallone and his hooligan friend, pushing them out the car door right before it shuts. Unfortunately for Woody, the door opens again, and his character learns that no good deed goes unpunished.
Graffiti makes the Ramones look tougher…maybe?
The Ramones are perhaps the most famous band to come out of the golden era of CBGB, but you could argue that they weren’t exactly the toughest. That might explain the story behind the cover of the band’s 1983 album, Subterranean Jungle. The group was shot by photographer George DuBose at the 57th St station, but in postproduction, graffiti was airbrushed onto the car, presumably to make the punk icons seem grittier. The band was none too happy about the added street art, but it stayed, because record executives always know what’s best for rock & roll.
A creepy urban myth is brought to life
Long before (or after, depending on your interpretation of time and space) the Morlocks terrorized the Eloi, cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers fed on New York’s surface population. Well, sort of: The 1984 flick C.H.U.D. was inspired by the urban legend of mutant creatures occupying subway tunnels and wreaking havoc upon those aboveground. The movie was shot here in 1983, and used the anchorages on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge as a setting. While not a critical darling upon its release, C.H.U.D. has lived on as a cult hit, earning a reference in an episode of The Simpsons (“The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson”).
Filming the subway for the first time
Long before Michael Jackson performed “Bad” on the Hoyt–Schermerhorn platform, Edwin S. Porter, a filmmaker for the Thomas A. Edison Company, made “City Hall to Harlem in 15 Seconds via the Subway Route.” The comedic short, filmed in 1904, was the first motion picture ever shot in the transit system. But that wasn’t Edison’s maiden dalliance with capturing NYC transit: In 1899, the inveterate inventor shot a short film aboard a train on the Brooklyn Bridge, showing the aboveground transport traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan.
Seinfeld gets subway annoyances right
In “The Subway,” an episode from the show’s third season, the Seinfeld crew takes to the underground rails, running into just about every crappy transit experience imaginable: Kramer is saved from a mugger by an undercover cop; Elaine gets stuck underneath a dude’s armpit on a stalled train; and Jerry falls asleep on the way to Coney Island, waking to find himself seated across from a naked guy (in true NYC fashion, everyone else in the car stands at one end to avoid the weird nude person). Much about the city and the subway has changed in the past two decades, but some things—like unforeseen delays and run-ins with odd characters—probably never will.
Love it or loathe it, the NYC subway is an essential part of city living—but we bet you’ll be an unabashed rail fan after you learn the secrets of the city’s underground rails. We dug deep into the history of New York’s transit system to find the coolest trivia, weirdest facts and untold stories about the underground rails. Plus, find the latest NYC subway news, and see how our subway stacks up against others worldwide. (Spoiler—NYC is the best, duh.)
Check out 21 interesting facts about the NYC subway system:
More NYC subway secrets and trivia
Infograph: The NYC subway versus subways around the world
The NYC subway is the largest, the longest, and hey—it’s cheaper than London’s. See how the NYC subway compares to others around the globe. New Yorkers like to boast that the NYC subway system is the best in the world (even as we complain about how crummy it is in the very next breath), but how accurate is that claim? As it turns out, the NYC subway truly is the world’s best—it’s the longest, it has the most lines, and as far as cost…well, hey, it’s no London tube, at least. See how the NYC subway stacks up with this handy infograph. RECOMMENDED: All public transportation in NYC NYC Subway 2013 You might also like Secret New York: Secret places, bars, menus and parties in NYC Many of New York City’s secret places aren’t quite so secret anymore: Once-hidden New York attractions like the old City Hall subway station and the whispering gallery at Grand Central Terminal are guidebook-approved at this point. But Time Out New York has set out to uncover some of New York’s truly secret places and little-known facts, including secret exhibits at New York museums, secret menu items and hidden parks. We’ve even enlisted help from New York blogs like Scouting NY, Second Avenue Sagas and Vanishing New York, which provided their favorite hidden facts about NYC. From hidden subway stations and underground parties to the secrets of New York attractions, Time Out New York has uncovered the coolest untapped places in NYC. Edited by Amy Plitt You might also like New York attrac
See the G train come straight at your face with this NYC subway GIF
Watch as an F and a G train travel in and out of the Smith–9th St subway stop with this animated GIF from our cover shoot. You've already seen the cover image for Time Out New York's NYC subway issue, which shows an F train traveling through the Smith–9th St station in Brooklyn. Now, go behind-the-scenes with this animated GIF, which shows the photographer's perspective as the F and G trains came in and out of the station. RECOMMENDED: All public transportation in NYC NYC Subway 2013 NYC subway photos: See off-limits and abandoned stops See another side of the NYC subway in these photos of off-limits stops by photographers Shane Perez and Steve Duncan. NYC Subway 2013 It’s easy to forget that the NYC subway includes more than a century’s worth of old tracks, abandoned platforms and deserted tunnels, the majority of which most New Yorkers will never see—unless you’re an urban explorer with a camera and a case of subterranean wanderlust. Photographer Shane Perez (shaneperez.com) and self-proclaimed “guerrilla historian” Steve Duncan (undercity.org) have gone spelunking in the NYC subway for the better part of the last decade. From an old wine cellar in a vault beneath the Brooklyn Bridge to a flooded dead-end tunnel that still holds dust from the World Trade Center, here are a few glimpses of the vast world below. RECOMMENDED: All public transportation in NYC Most popular in Travel Weekend getaways from NYC: Quick, easy and affordable escapes Escape the city at th
News on NYC subway projects, including the Second Avenue subway
Get the latest news and information on NYC subway developments, such as the Second Avenue subway and the brand-new Fulton Center. NYC Subway 2013 In the next few years, several long-delayed NYC subway projects will finally be realized. Get the scoop on some of these developments, including the Second Avenue subway—which is finally making real progress—the 7 line extension, and the Fulton Center, which will connect several NYC subway lines in the Financial District. RECOMMENDED: All public transportation in NYC The project: 7 line extension The details: A new stop at 34th Street and Eleventh Avenue will be added to the Manhattan-Queens connector, in part to link the 26-acre Hudson Yards development with the rest of midtown. Scheduled completion: June 2014 The project: Repairs to the Greenpoint and Montague tunnels The details: Expect service interruptions along these lines for the forseeable future: Electrical systems and signal equipment for both were damaged during Hurricane Sandy. Scheduled completion: G train: TBD in 2014; R train: October 2014 The project: Second Avenue subway The details: The long-delayed line is coming along: The shells of stations at 96th, 86th and 72nd Streets have been created, and boring is completed on the tunnel connecting 63rd and 96th Streets. Scheduled completion: Phase one (63rd St to 96th St) is set to open December 2016. The project: Fulton Center The details: This $1.4 billion complex will eventually connect 11 subway lines, and will
Street fashion with Dyanna Dawson, coauthor of Street Fashion Photography
Dyanna Dawson, blogger and coauthor of Street Fashion Photography, takes us on a search for stylish straphangers. Dyanna Dawson, Street Fashion Style blogger and coauthor of Street Fashion Photography: Taking Stylish Pictures on the Concrete Runway, is no stranger to trailing stylish New Yorkers for the perfect shot. We had her guest-edit Time Out New York’s street-fashion column, scouting the Union Square and Broadway–Lafayette Street subway platforms for fashionable straphangers. We encountered commuters in tailored suiting from Theory and Calvin Klein, timeless vintage threads from Fox & Fawn, and basics from chains such as Uniqlo and Zara. Most popular in Shopping & Style Best Halloween stores in NYC for costumes, makeup and decorations Whether you want to transform yourself into a hideous zombie, or a leopard-print sex kitten is more your style, these Halloween stores should do the trick. Many of NYC's haunted houses have already opened, and excitement is building for one of Gotham’s favorite holidays. Unless you’re one of those enviably creative people who can make a papier-mâché alien bursting out of a T-shirt, you’ll probably be shopping for something scary, sexy or silly to wear on October 31. We’ve rounded up the best Halloween stores in NYC for costumes, decorations, makeup and more, including Halloween superstores, vintage stores and thrift shops, and other specialist emporiums you might not have thought of for cost-effective, unique outfits. Pop-up Sp
Best subway stores in New York City: Where to shop in train stations
Shop without interrupting your daily commute at these underground stores inside NYC subway stations. The vast majority of New Yorkers ride the subway every day, but your commute doesn’t have to be strictly business. These underground stores inside subway stations allow you to shop for beauty products, stationery, accessories and clothing without deviating from your normal trajectory. Look for NYC-themed threads at Grast in Port Authority, grooming products at eShave in Rockefeller Plaza and giftable goods at Cursive inside Grand Central Terminal. Most popular in Shopping & Style Best Halloween stores in NYC for costumes, makeup and decorations Whether you want to transform yourself into a hideous zombie, or a leopard-print sex kitten is more your style, these Halloween stores should do the trick. Many of NYC's haunted houses have already opened, and excitement is building for one of Gotham’s favorite holidays. Unless you’re one of those enviably creative people who can make a papier-mâché alien bursting out of a T-shirt, you’ll probably be shopping for something scary, sexy or silly to wear on October 31. We’ve rounded up the best Halloween stores in NYC for costumes, decorations, makeup and more, including Halloween superstores, vintage stores and thrift shops, and other specialist emporiums you might not have thought of for cost-effective, unique outfits. Pop-up Spirit stores around the city are also good for picking up last-minute gear. As the night approaches
Latest NYC subway coverage
Photo of the day: A candid portrait of a subway conductor
A duck was spotted on a subway platform yesterday
See record covers photographed in the NYC subway
What's up with the subway kittens?
Subways in summer: Is it hotter or cooler belowground?
Worst subway lines: TONY on NYC’s most awful trains
To mark the sweatiest month for commuters, our editors and writers sound off on their least favorite subway lines. Let’s be perfectly clear: It’s amazing that the NYC subway system even works—let alone (sometimes) runs smoothly. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that all New Yorkers (ourselves included) have that one line they despise—or passionately defend. Which one do you loathe? Vote for it in our poll. 1, 2, 3 “Board these in lower Manhattan on a weekend, and enter a magical world in which—with barely any intelligible signage—a local train will suddenly turn express, or a downtown one will flip uptown and carry you helplessly back to whence you came. I call them the mean reds.”—Adam Feldman, associate Theater editor “The only time I’ve ever encountered fresh vomit was on the 2. At about 9am. (Was this person sick? Still drunk from the night before?)”—Amy Plitt, senior editor 4, 5, 6 “The 6 seems to carry half of Manhattan at rush hour. You haven’t experienced commuter rage until you’ve watched three overcrowded trains leave behind a bunch of Wi-Fi-less travelers.”—Cristina Velocci, senior associate Shopping & Style editor A, C, E “Penn Station’s A platform could not be hotter. The worst is when the train finally comes and reroutes over the F line, skipping all the downtown Eighth Avenue stops.”—Elizabeth Denton, assistant Shopping & Style editor“I saw a photo of someone dropping a deuce on the A train, and I’ve been trying to wipe away the memory ever since.”—A
In defense of the G train: Why hating the Brooklyn-Queens connector is wrong
NYC subway slide shows
Street survey: Best subway stories
We hit Union Square to ask travelers about their weirdest, funniest and most frightening subway experiences. Most popular in Things to Do October 2013 events calendar for New York City Plan your month with our events calendar of the very best activities, including the annual Village Halloween Parade. NYC events calendar 2013 May 2013 events calendar June 2013 events calendar July 2013 events calendar August 2013 events calendar September 2013 events calendar October 2013 events calendar November 2013 events calendar December 2013 events calendar Let’s be honest: There are lots of cool things to do in October—we love Open House New York and the CMJ Music Marathon—but we’re just getting ready for Halloween festivities at the end of the month. Use our events calendar to find the best Halloween events in NYC, along with our favorite theater and music events. RECOMMENDED: New York City events calendar for 2013 Featured events in October 2013 The New Yorker Festival Over the course of a weekend, staff writers and editors from the magazine interview dozens of movie stars, authors, musicians and more. Tickets go on sale Sept 13 and usually disappear in a blink; do your utmost to secure a pass—your brain will thank you for it. Various locations, times and prices; visit newyorker.com/festival for details. Columbus Day Parade He may be one of the most popular failures in history, but 35,000 marchers and nearly 1 million spectators are expected along Fifth Avenue to
See progress on a Second Avenue subway station
A guide to the ten types of subway pole grips
No Pants Subway Ride 2013 by Improv Everywhere
Top five: New York City's coolest subway stations
Learn the secrets of and histories behind five of New York City's coolest subway stations—and find out how to see one hidden but beautiful old stop. There are more than 400 New York City subway stations, some of which date back to the transit system's earliest days. While many of these hubs seem thoroughly unremarkable, or even a pain to navigate—Penn Station, we're looking at you—there are plenty of stops that have fascinating stories. Read on for our picks for New York City's five coolest subway stations, as well as how you can view one abandoned stop. You might also likeSubway secretsTop ten: MTA subway artTen must-sees at the New York Transit MuseumBest subways for street-art spottingSee more in Things to Do
Vintage Peacock Party on the Vintage NYC Subway Trains 2012
Photos: No Pants Subway Ride 2012
Photos: We Hardly Knew V
NYC subway videos
The subway-kitten saga continues: August and Arthur on The Colbert Report
Watch: Improv Everywhere turns a subway car into a talk-show studio
See one year on the NYC subway condensed to three minutes
Watch comedian Rob Paravonian's tribute to the G train (video)
Related NYC subway coverage
Top ten: MTA subway art (2012)
The MTA Arts for Transit program has been commissioning public art for more than 25 years, recruiting big names (Roy Lichtenstein, Nancy Spero) as well as emerging artists. Currently, there are artworks in more than 225 subway stations around the city, with another 70 pieces in progress. Here are ten of our favorites to look out for. If you want more, download the free Arts for Transit app for your iOS or Android phone, which has a searchable directory of artworks along with directions, photos and podcasts. See great art with a swipe of your MetroCard. Related:Ten must-sees at the New York Transit MuseumBest subways for street-art spotting
Public transportation in NYC (2012)
Changes to schedules can occur at short notice, especially at weekends—pay attention to the posters on subway station walls and announcements you may hear in trains and on subway platforms. Be warned: Since 9/11 backpacks, bags and other large containers may be subject to random searches. Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) 718-330-1234 or 511 within the city, mta.info The MTA runs the subway and bus lines and services to points outside Manhattan. News of service interruptions and MTA maps are on its website. Fares and tickets Although you can pay with coins (no dollar bills) on the buses, you’ll need a MetroCard to enter the subway system. You can buy them from booths or vending machines in the stations; from the Official NYC Information Center; from the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn or Grand Central Terminal; and from many hotels. The standard fare across the subway and bus network on a MetroCard is $2.25, though a single-ride ticket purchased at a vending machine costs $2.50. Free transfers between the subway and buses are available only with a MetroCard (for bus-to-bus transfers on cash fares, see below). Up to four people can use a pay-per-ride MetroCard, sold in denominations from $4.50 to $80. If you put $10 or more on the card, you’ll receive a seven per cent bonus. However, if you’re planning to use the subway or buses often, an Unlimited Ride MetroCard is great value. These cards are offered in two denominations, available at station vending machines