The Definitive Guide to Proper Subway Etiquette in NYC

What this article really comes down to is: don't be a jerk, broken down into its many iterations. What this article essentially boils into is: respect urban solitude. 

The subway is generally not a place to make new friends or pick up dates. Like, don't ask anyone out on a date on the subway unless you have a really, really good in. Like you're wearing the same shoes or reading the same book.

Otherwise, don't talk to us.

We're sorry to be so adverse about this situation, but it's true. It's just the way the jungle of the subway operates. 

As valiant as holding the doors open for your friends is, it's holding up everyone else's commute. Everyone on the train would hate you much less if you just waited for the next train. 

Read on to learn about these and other guidelines by which you should abide if you don't want everyone on the subway to hate you.

1. Wait for everyone to get off the subway before you get on

spoilednyc HODOR! πŸš‡πŸ™ˆπŸš‡ #hodor #holdthedoors #nycsubway #newyorkers #newyorkersbelike #gameofthrones #GOT #lmfao #dead

Shouldn't this one be obvious? It's like trying to get into a parking spot before the car that was there before has left ... there will be room for you to get in once you let everyone get off.

Plus, there are announcements about every ten minutes pleading everyone to let the customers off the train before getting on. 


Just, stand off to the side and wait for everyone to get off the train before you try to force your way on. You'll be enraging many people if they have to shove past you to get on the train. Plus, there will be much more room for you to get on the train if you just wait.

2. Eat only odorless food

eddiegoing I absolutely LOVE chicken with onions and garlic sauce! It's one of my favorites! It's too bad she won't share with anyone. #GoingWithEddie #Subway #NYC #SubwayEtiquette #Etiquette #SubwayAssholes #NYCMTA #MTA #NYCSubway #SubwayShaming #Commute #Commuter #CourtesyCounts #NewYorkCitySubway #Mindfulness #Consideration #MannersMatter

Here's a good guide for whether you should eat a thing on the subway. 

If you can smell it from a foot away, like if it's tuna fish or onions, vinegar, basically anything that gives off an odor, you should not eat it on the subway.

If it gives off no odor, like if it's a granola bar, it's okay to eat on the subway. Eating a granola bar on the subway will affect no one's day but your own. Therefore, you won't be making anyone show up at their morning meeting reeking of fish because of someone on the subway.

3. Use the trashcans

jhawkins33 Such a bummer! Why can't NYC keep the tracks clean?? #subwaytrash @nycmayorsoffice @iloveny #uglyNYC #lLexSTop #QTrain

There are trashcans everywhere, scattered throughout every subway station. So when people toss their wrappers onto the tracks, throw their soda cups about, and hack a disgusting lugee into the tracks, we're at a loss to understand.

First of all, can we all take a little bit of pride in our city? We have a feeling the subway would be much less of a dismal place to be if we all stopped treating every subway station like a public trashcan.


Secondly, this matters for logistical purposes. According to 2nd Ave. Sagas, delays and track fires on the NYC subway have increased by 73% since 2003.

We all want to get where we're going faster, right? That would be accomplished more swiftly if everyone could stop littering. Like, really, just hold onto your trash until you get to a trashcan. It isn't that difficult of a concept, is it?

4. Don't bother anyone

yellowboybeautiful Either he's really tired or he's trying to peek at her take home test answers #subwayetiquette #mtaproblems #insomnia #sleepyhead #subway #subwayentertainment #mta #peoplewatching #4train

This includes everything from unsolicited eye contact to sexual assault. As we said, don't be a jerk. Also, don't try to talk to anyone. We live in an absurdly crowded city in which we're all forced to be in each other's space all day long. 

So, we don't want to have a smalltalk conversation with a stranger. We just want to get home from work.

Also, if at any point during your time in NYC, you feel yourself seized by the urge to get on a subway train and start preaching about anyone going to hell, or not practicing the right religion, we beg you not to. Just, please don't.


5. Don't lean on the poles

eddiegoing He doesn't care that the train is packed. He doesn't care that it's rush hour. He doesn't CARE! #GoingWithEddie #Subway #NYC #SubwayEtiquette #Etiquette #SubwayAssholes #NYCMTA #MTA #NYCSubway #SubwayShaming #Commute #Commuter #CourtesyCounts #NewYorkCitySubway

The poles are not for one person's relaxation. They're for everyone's safety. If you're going to take up an entire pole by leaning on it, you're going to prevent plenty of well-meaning people from having a place to stand.

Plenty of us aren't tall enough to hold the high bars above the seats with ease. Plus, when the train is crowded, holding the pole you're using as an upright bed is essentially to many people's safety.


So, we're really relying on those poles. Just, don't lean on them. Otherwise, everyone will hate you. We don't say that lightly either, like, they're really going to hate you. They might even post Instagram pictures of you.

6. Put your bag on your lap

eddiegoing And then there's this girl β€” Photo by Jenny W. #GoingWithEddie #Subway #NYC #SubwayEtiquette #Etiquette #SubwayAssholes #NYCMTA #MTA #NYCSubway #SubwayShaming #Commute #Commuter #CourtesyCounts #NewYorkCitySubway #Mindfulness #Consideration #MannersMatter

For godssake, the subway is crowded enough without bags taking up seats. We shouldn't have to ask you to please move your bag. We shouldn't have to come at you with a stern "excuse me."

Just, put your bag on your lap. Put it under your seat. Put it on the floor. We don't care. Just please, please, please, don't put it on a seat. We're begging you. When we're tired and just trying to get home, those seats are worth more than gold. 

Your bag didn't buy a ticket, so your bag can't have one.

7. Only take up one seat

yellowbird73 Seen during #rushhour in #nyc on the A train. #gothamist #subwayetiquette #seathog

If your body is just bigger than a seat, that's not your fault. We're not talking to you.

Okay, yeah, manspreading is a controversial topic and it's true that men definitely have more between their legs to spread out than women, but still. Can we keep it within reason? 


There's no need for someone to be so spread out that they're occupying two seats when they could easily only take up one.

Also, there's no reason your feet should be up on another seat. You're preventing everyone from sitting down. So, just wait until you get home to kick back, okay?

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