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This guy rode the longest possible subway route and here's what he learned

Will Gleason
Written by
Will Gleason

Earlier this summer, the WNYC Data News team published a story attempting to find the longest possible subway ride in New York. Turns out, that impressive journey was over 154.6 miles with 54 transfers. Not about to let a challenge like that go, the host of the FiveThirtyEight podcast, Jody Avirgan, took the day-long trip for himself only leaving the station to use the bathroom. Here are six things he tells us he learned from the undertaking: 

1. "One thing is that you get an intimate and extended encounter with the MTA infrastructure. There was a report that came out yesterday, in fact, from the citizens budget commission saying that it would take over 50 years of continuous work just to bring everything up to speed as it stands right now. Obviously I’m not like, a structural engineer, but if you just look closely at stations you can see infrastructure that is old, and rusty, and so forth. It’s something that was ever present on my trip, for sure."

2. "Even after 13 hours, the thrill of catching your transfer just in time never goes away."

3. "Every once in a while I’d look up and just get this overwhelming sense of diversity. You really don’t see New York’s diversity on display better than on the subway. And of course, change. Broadway Junction was a great example of a  changing New York all going through the same station. Many of the lines that service NYC’s most gentrifying neighborhoods (East Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Bed Stuy) as well as many of NYC’s most 'old-school' neighborhoods (Rockaways, Bensonhurst) go through there. It was a really interesting mix."

4. "Overall, the vibe was good. I caught a lucky day in terms of delays and disruptions. But I can report that no one likes the R train."

5. "Another thing that I really got a sense for was the density of service along certain parts of the system, and the isolation in others. This may not be the deepest insight, but in Manhattan, it’s just densely packed. You have several different lines within a five block radius. When you get further out in the system, you get these reminders that, as great as the MTA is, there are still parts of the city that are only served by one line, if that - and are more isolated. It’s fundamentally an inequality issue in many way."

6. "Three delays because of train traffic ahead of us. Two completely inexplicable delays. 43 attractive women. 41 good-looking guys. Seven adorable old couples. Countless lost tourists. ZERO showtime crews. 19 books. Just ONE Kindle—but that guy was reading Don Quixote. ZERO Pets. Weird. 13 Cute Kids. (One thing I noticed about cute kids, strangers are just totally willing to just start talking to a cute kid on the train.) One screaming kid. 14 manspreaders. (And to confess, I caught myself manspreading a couple times, too. It is comfortable.) And nine instances of people offering seats to someone else, which was very heartening."

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