Love it or hate it, the subway is the absolute lifeblood of the city. Millions of New Yorkers ride it every day, whether they’re going to work, exploring the city or having a night on the town. You can’t escape the MTA — it’s just too convenient to ignore.
And don’t even think about getting a car. No one has a car in Brooklyn, there’s just too much traffic. Why spend hours stuck on the highway trying to get from neighborhood to neighborhood, or risk getting caught in the start-and-stop of the short streets in north Brooklyn?
I’m a born-and-raised Brooklynite, with the accent to prove it. Trust me when I say that your best solution lies in the dull green subway stops scattered throughout the city, every few blocks or so. But there’s more than meets the eye with the subway. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up in the furthest reaches of New York City with no idea of where you are. So check out this guide on what to do and what to avoid when you take the train.
Always Have Your Metrocard Ready
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Wrong. I’ve seen so many people miss a train at the station because they assumed they’d have time to load up their metrocard. If you can afford to, it’s always easy and convenient to put a few rides on each card when you can. Minutes count when you’re taking the train — make sure you’re ready to go beforehand.
If you’re just starting out, the new OMNY contactless payment system connected to your credit card can save you time if you’re in a rush. Just watch out, because some stations, especially if you’re in South Brooklyn, may not have these enabled yet.
Let People Off Before Getting On
This tip also seems a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to check out and just try to push yourself onto the train. Especially after a long day at work. But by getting on as quickly as possible, you’re creating a bottleneck and can even delay the train leaving the station.
Take it easy. Earlier I said minutes count, but you’ve already made it to the train. A little bit of common courtesy can help you out to make the subway experience that much more pleasant for you and your fellow riders.
Respect the “Buffer Zone”
If you’ve been on the subway before, you’ve certainly seen the “buffer zone” before. When two people sit down, they usually leave one seat, or seat length, between them. It’s polite, and one of the unwritten rules of the subway.
It’s a little like, for the guys, when you’re in a bathroom with three urinals. Let’s say you’re doing your business, and someone walks up to the urinal next to yours even though the other one is unoccupied. There’s not necessarily anything explicitly wrong with it, it just makes you feel a bit off. Keep this in mind when you’re looking for a seat on the subway — sometimes it might be better to stand.
No Eye Contact
This is the most underrated thing I could tell you. There’s nothing more unnerving than looking up from your book to see someone making eye contact with you. It’s even worse if they smile. It’s not a slight against anyone, it’s just weird, a little rude and certainly against one of the unwritten rules of the New York subway.
I think that New Yorkers are the friendliest unfriendly people — I guarantee that they won’t smile or say hi if you’re walking down the street. But the moment the situation takes a turn for the worst they’ll be there for you. I’ve seen strangers drop everything (figuratively and literally) to care for a sick passenger, holding their hand as they waited for paramedics. The kindness comes out when it needs to, and you’ll never be alone.
Don’t Get Mad at Performers
I’ve had enough long subway rides where I just want to check out, close my eyes, and hope I get home quick. Sometimes you just can’t do that, unfortunately. And that reason is usually a Mariachi band, or a singer, or a bunch of backflipping dancers. I’ve seen it all at this point, and I understand how it can seem a bit… loud at times.
But remember that they’re human too! That Mariachi band, or dancer, or anyone else has bills too, and this is the best way they can use their talent for good. The city is full of life, vibrant and noisy — and so are the subways. Besides, you can occasionally find new and interesting bands deep in the depths of public transportation.