Surviving People Traffic in New York’s Subways

October 3rd, 2010 by Bianca Seidman
Times Square Subway

Rushing crowds at Times Square station by Bianca Seidman-Shvarts

With all the changes and consolidation going on in New York’s transit system, subways are more crowded than ever. Gone are the days of arriving at the next stop in a New York minute. In fact, with the level of overcrowding, just navigating through the masses in a subway car or station takes skill, practice and bit of courage.

Every step in subway boarding has its own diplomacy:  waiting for people to disembark, waiting to be pushed onto the subway car with huge amounts of people and knowing when to sit down (when it’s a long ride), stand up (when it’s a rush) and be near the door (as much as possible and 10 seconds before the stop).

But those aren’t the end of the people traffic challenges. Navigating the crowds in the station can be equally trying. Here’s a few tips for subway and station survival:

  1. Try to avoid the big hub stations—these stations have the most people heading in the biggest variety of directions and they are in a hair-on-fire hurry. If possible, don’t get out at Times Square, Columbus Circle, Union Square, Grand Central, Herald Square or Canal Street. Consider the local stops, which might even be closer to the destination.
  2. Learn to spot openings—a few quick steps down the platform can save minutes entering the subway car when people are lined up in front. The last car might seem far, but it can save lots of loading and unloading time.
  3. Time it just right—know how long the trip takes and build in an extra 10 minutes for people-dodging, late trains and doors closing a second too soon.
  4. Pace the crowd-crossing—a walk-trot-dodge pattern is essential to getting through a fast-moving station crowd without getting run over. Spot slight dips in the people traffic flow and walk faster, but keep an eye out for the next wave, which is just seconds behind. Trying to run the whole length against traffic will be sure to result in a collision, it’s better to dodge and weave like Frogger.
  5. Balance etiquette with efficiency—if someone is busy texting, it’s fine to move past them, but don’t push Granny into the gap if she’s overwhelmed by the crowd.

For visitors and new New Yorkers,  there’s general Subway info and etiquette at

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