image of how to ride the subway nyc

What’s there to know about riding the NYC Subway? Plenty.

Question: Is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way to ride the subway? What are some tips so I look like “I’ve been there?”

— Don’t Want to Look Like a Rube

Dear Don’t:

The subway is the great social leveler of New York, for no matter how high or low one’s station in life, we are equal once we pass through the turnstiles. So the Golden Rule of subway life: Don’t be a jerk.

  1. Stand to the side and let the riders off first.
  2. Don’t block the doorway.
  3. Don’t put your stuff on the seat next to you, and close your damn legs.
  4. Talk about the subway only when you’re helping a nice family visiting from [name of country here]. If you’re getting off where they’re going, wave for them to follow you. If not, let them know when the train gets to their stop.
  5. Know that the swiping of your MetroCard is an art; do it in one smooth motion, neither too fast nor too slow.
  6. Never take a train for one local stop. Walk. It’s cheaper and better for you.
  7. Be generous. Give up your seat for old people, pregnant people, little kids and anyone who looks like they’ve had a crappy day.
  8. Don’t stop or stand on the stairway. And help the harried Mom, Dad or nanny with the stroller.
  9. Refill your MetroCard on Friday evening, not Monday morning.
  10. Don’t “hog the pole” by leaning against it so no one else can grab it.
  11. Do take your backpack off on crowded trains to provide more room (and not slam into other people).
  12. Don’t stare at other riders.
  13. Move to the middle of the car if you’re not getting off soon.
  14. Download a subway map on your cellphone instead of pulling out a wall-size map.
  15. And never, never go into an empty car on an otherwise full train.

David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.

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