Twenty-four routes, 472 stations, 5 million daily riders, 1.5 billion yearly riders (at $2.90 a pop) ...and it's in the red. Probably the most famous subway system in the world. Not the first, certainly not the best, but the one everybody seems to know. Administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, through its subsidiary, MTA New York City Transit, or MTA NYCTnote . According to That Other Wiki, the subway trails only the metro systems of Tokyo, Moscow and Seoul in annual ridership and carries more passengers than all other rail mass transit systems in the United States combined.
The trope here is that the subways of New York City are hot, grimy, filthy, encrusted with graffiti, and magnets for street crime. While this was once basically true, subway cars haven't fit this bill since 1990note . Some common representations, however, are true:
- Trains don't run on anything that resembles a schedule. Residents don't expect it to, visitors get frustrated, and yet the MTA still tries to claim that their official schedules have worth. There are now countdown clocks in every station that are more or less reliable (though sometimes glitched out or unreadable), as well as the My MTA smartphone app that syncs to the same data. The app has a default option to display the nearest station and estimated walking time to get there, so it's quite a bit easier to plan to catch a train (or show an irate boss that it's delayed) nowadays.
- During rush hours, passengers are crammed together like garbage in a trash compactor, especially on busy portions of the subway. All the numbered routes (except the 42nd Street Shuttle), as well as the E and L lines are operating beyond capacity, while portions of the A, C, F, M, N, Q and R lines usually double-up to prevent overcrowding. The express tracks on Lexington Avenue and Queens Boulevard are noted for operating at full capacity during peak hours. As a result, overcrowded trains have resulted in an increase of assaults (including unwanted groping) because of tense commutes, and with less platform space, more passengers are at risk of falling on to the tracks. One possible solution being considered is platform screen doors to prevent passengers from falling. Another option is eliminating seats to increase standing space on the newer cars. A limited number of the R211 cars that entered service in 2023 are designed to lessen crowding by using open gangways to make it easier to move from car to car (such a layout has already been seen on the Toronto Rocket cars). The last time articulated trains were used on the subway were the D-type Triplex cars, which were used on the privately-owned BMT system.
- Flashers in overcoats. With the advent of camera phones, this has become a Go Directly to Jail card.
- Crime remains a problem, though not so much in recent years as it used to be when people loathed taking the subway for fear of being mugged or worse. In order to fight crime, various approaches have been used over the years such as PR campaigns, more CCTV cameras, heavier fines and adding cops at high-risk areas. Due to a lack of platform screen doors, people have also been shoved onto the tracks, sometimes in front of an oncoming train. The Bernhard Goetz incidentnote symbolized public dismay at the high crime rate in New York. Terrorism became high on the agenda after 9/11, what with a mass shooting in 2022note . While nobody was killed miraculously, it still highlights the subway's vulnerability to terror attacks.
- Track deaths and injuries are rare, but they do happen. A chunk of these are suicides, followed by clueless passengers hopping over the platform to retrieve something they dropped and people being shoved by deranged criminals in front of oncoming trains, sometimes For the Evulz. It's possible to dodge an oncoming train by simply rolling under the gap beneath the platform, but nobody ever thinks to do this (at least not on purpose). Most threats are mundane, as many stations outside of Manhattan are poorly maintained and a continual fount of personal injury suits typically filed by old ladies tripping on broken platforms or stairs. Occasionally, some of these deaths occur by touching the electrified third rail. Another problem posed by track fatalities is that they in turn disrupt service, frustrating riders even more.
- Official warnings on the back of MetroCards and on train cars note 50 train-related deaths in 2015, down from 58 in 2014. While this may seem like a lot (and 50 deaths is a lot by any metric) keep in mind that ridership in 2015 was 1.7 billion.
- Although relatively rare compared to the 1970s and 1980s, trains sometimes break down at inconvenient times, with the older fleets more prone to mechanical failures such as faulty doors or stalled trains. Worse than mechanical breakdowns are scheduled trackwork, which can make traveling on the weekends or late nights difficult. At least, the MTA is smart enough to not mess with rush hours. At times, equipment issues such as faulty track switches or malfunctioning signals can force trains to run at slower speeds and/or take a detour.
- The R46 fleet was once the subway's lemon, being plagued with many issues from the start. The train manufacturer delivered them behind schedule due to a worker strike in 1977. Design flaws such as cracks on the train bogiesnote and the faulty P-wire brake controlnote that sometimes stalled the train while in operation limited the R46 fleet's usage and caused the MTA to sue Pullman Standard for $80 million in damages. The various issues eventually bankrupted Pullman Standard for good. The fleet was later overhauled in the 1990s to improve their reliability.
- The recently acquired R179 fleet has become the new "lemon," having been plagued with the same issues that affected the R46. Because of this, Bombardier was banned from bidding on the R211 contract for new subway cars. Train workers have also complained about faulty train controls and design flaws. To make matters worse, defects that could cause doors to open even when a train is in motion caused the entire fleet to be grounded in January 2020, forcing the MTA to reuse older train fleets for service. The entire fleet was once again grounded in June 2020 when a set of cars accidentally unlinked while in service, causing the consist to be split into two. The R179 fleet was restored to full service in September 2020.
- The cars and platforms are full of bums, hucksters, and napping vagrants. Though panhandling is illegal and riders tend to deliberately ignore it, it's still common for someone to tell a sob story, ending with "if you can help me out at all..."
- Disability-rights groups have frequently criticized the MTA for lack of accessibility. Although buses are designed to be wheelchair-friendly, the older subway stops aren't as they were built before 1990, the year which the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. The MTA is rectifying this by adding elevators in stops that have high foot traffic, are geographically important, or are newly-built.
- As they were originally built without HVAC systems, platforms on the older stops can get muggy during heat waves, sometimes exceeding 100 degrees.
- The PA systems on the older fleets are either too quiet, garbled, or both, making it difficult to hear announcements. Newer cars have electronic maps showing what the next stop is, along with a loud PA system announcing the stops. Unless the computer is broken or there's a detour for whatever reason, in which case the route map is shut off and you have to wait for someone to make the announcement. Or just idly sit/stand where you can see the stop names on the walls.
- The subway is notoriously infested with rats and other vermin. They are sometimes seen on platforms, foraging through trash thrown onto the tracks or in the garbage bins. They pose a health hazard and in some instances, have been known to bite humans. Efforts to eradicate or simply thin the rat population in the system have generally been unsuccessful.
- The MTA still remains in the red despite repeated fare and toll hikes. While fares cover the system's operating expenses, its sheer size means ongoing maintenance and capital costs are enormous. They're supposed to be funded separately, but the state and city governments never seem to give enough. Therefore, the MTA must rely on other sources of revenue to remain afloat, such as hiking taxes to contain the deficit, or issuing bonds to finance expansion projects, though that has contributed to a rising debt burden. The MTA has also been criticized for the Second Avenue Line's rising construction costs, as they have ballooned due to wasteful spending and corruption. The COVID-19 Pandemic not only caused ridership to decline, but it has accelerated the burgeoning debt crisis, causing the MTA to consider drastic service reductions and wage cuts if it doesn't receive federal aid to prop it up.
- When a retired LIRR worker stated he made roughly $500K in total pay (including overtime, benefits and salary), this raised eyebrows on why handwritten time sheets are used when it can be automated. Earlier attempts were kiboshed because managers feared pushback from employees. According to the New York Post, the MTA spent $1.3 billion in overtime in 2018, up more than $100 million from 2017.
- Though vandalism remains an occasional problem, it isn't as much as it was once during the subway's nadir. By the 1990s, a new form of vandalism had taken root: scratchiti. Instead of spray paint, taggers used etching tools and acid to mar windows and stainless steel surfaces. Since then, treatment — including scratch-resistant window shields — has minimized the problem. Even then, vandals remain determined to damage subway equipment, whether by tagging MetroCard vending machines or etching on the subway cars.
- Though not so much anymore, fare evasion remains an occasional problem, contributing to lost revenues. The most basic is jumping over or crawling under the turnstiles, unauthorized entry to subway yards or tunnels (which sometimes runs the risk of being fried to death by touching the third rail or getting hit by a train if on the tracks), or entering through the gate intended for disabled riders when it happens to be open. To crack down on fare dodging, the MTA has implemented several measures, including adding police officers at high-risk areas and installing high entry-exit turnstiles (HEETs) designed to make jumping difficult.
- The replacement of tokens with MetroCards in the 1990s killed off some of the old fare evasion techniques. One method once used was token sucking, as it was done by jamming the token slot in an entrance gate with paper. A passenger would insert a token at the turnstile, be frustrated when it did not open the gate, and have to spend another token to enter at another gate. A token thief would then suck the token from the jammed slot with their mouth, and it was done as long as nobody was around. Some station attendants sprinkled chili powder in the slots to discourage this. Another method was the use of "slugs," counterfeit tokens that had a similar shape and weight so they could be used to trick the turnstiles. These slugs came in many forms such as washers and arcade tokens. The vending machines used by the MTA have measures that can identify and detect slugs that do not resemble real coins.
- Ironically, MetroCards themselves are prone to fraud with scofflaws selling "swipes," where they buy an unlimited 30-day pass and charge riders less than the usual fare, thus undercutting the MTA. Others damage the vending machines so that riders have no choice but to fork out money for a ride. This fare evasion method is now being eliminated as MetroCards are being replaced with a contactless fare payment system called OMNY in 2023. The rising cost of the 30-day unlimited-ride pass and the 18-minute delay between swipes also makes it harder for "swipers" to pull this scam.
- Litter accumulation is a perennial issuenote . In the 1970s and 1980s, vandalized trains and platforms were serious problems. The situation has improved since then, but the 2010 budget crisis, which caused over 100 of the cleaning staff to lose their jobs, threatened to curtail trash removal. Sometimes, objects thrown on the tracks touch the electrified third rail, resulting in a track fire, which in turn disrupts subway service. The litter also poses a health hazard. The MTA even tried to curtail littering by removing trash bins from several stations in 2011, but it didn't work out as intended and was abandoned in 2017.
- Noise is another perennial problem. Many portions still use jointed tracks, making a "clickety-clack" sound when train wheels pass over the small gap. They also make a metallic squeaking noise when going around tight turns, especially on older portions of the subway. Notorious examples of this include the Crescent Street curve along the Jamaica Line (noted to be the tightest one on the B Division and 2nd tightest overall), the City Hall-Cortlandt Street curve on the Broadway Line via Tunnel, the South Ferry loopsnote , the City Hall loop (on the Lexington Avenue Line — the tightest curve in the entire system)note and 14th Street-Union Square on the Lexington Avenue Line. In fact, many have noted that the loud noise is unsafe for human ears and lead to deafness.
- Flooding remains a problem, as even minor ones can disrupt service despite improvements to the pump rooms and grates in recent years. Rainwater can damage signals underground and require the third rail to be shut off. In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused a major damage to New York and many subway tunnels were inundated with floodwater. The subway opened with limited service two days after the storm, and was running at 80% capacity within five days; however, some infrastructure took years to repair as much of the equipment dates back to the 1920s. The storm flooded nine of the system's 14 underwater tunnels, many subway lines, and several train yards, as well as completely damaging a portion of the Rockaway Line, the Montague Street tunnels (which carries the R line between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn), and much of the South Ferry terminal station, requiring long-term closures and repairs.
- Many stations and lines have since been abandoned because of track and platform alterations that left portions of a line unusable or due to low patronage. Also, many of the older els were removed since a nearby subway line essentially copied the el's route. The MTA also shuttered portions of existing stops due to redundancy, leaving them to either rot or use as storage facilities, while some of the provisions for future expansion have largely been ignored due to funding issues or political bickering.
Another reality-impaired subway trope is that there are miles upon miles of abandoned subway tunnels beneath the city, just waiting to be inhabited by something evil. Not so much. That said, there are several abandoned stations (including one that now serves as the New York Transit Museum), as well as the infamously half-complete Second Avenue Subway, which had been on the city's to-do list for decades. It was actually first proposed in 1920. The first part finally opened New Years Day 2017.
One of the complications when discussing the subway is the distinct terminology used for the system. "Lines" in the New York City Subway refers to the physical track and the tunnels or elevated tresses they run over or through, not to the (oft-times transient) service patterns, which are properly called "routes" but most often colloquially called "trains" (as in "Take the A Train"). Although most of the system operates underground (roughly 60% of its stations), a lot of the system in the outer boroughs is run on elevated tracks, on an embankment or an open cut. Many of these elevated sections are remnants of older networks dating back to the 19th century, but mostly demolished in the 1940s and 1950s. Despite this, the whole system is still called "the subway".
In the old days, the lines were built and run by different rail companies. The first was the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) running north-south between Manhattan and the Bronx, with a later extension into Brooklyn (they also took over the pre-existing Manhattan elevateds, none of which still exist). The second was the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corp. (BMT), originally called the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT), connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens, and incorporating the old Brooklyn elevateds. These were joined by the city-operated Independent Subway System (IND) in the early 1930s; one reason the IND was built (as an almost all-underground system note ) was to directly replace several of the old Manhattan and Brooklyn elevateds, which were seen as a blight, causing noise and casting darkness on streets by blocking out the sun, and the whole system was unified under city administration in 1940. The stations have remained basically the same, as have the tunnels and tracks used... but unfortunately, the rival companies gave each other a wide berth, leading to a needlessly-convoluted route between Brooklyn and Queens under the 'unified' system. Also, IRT tunnels are too narrow to accommodate IND/BMT cars, so there are few convenient east-west "crosstown" lines in Manhattannote , and direct rail travel between Brooklyn and Queens is primarily limited to the G train by the river, and through direct travel on the A, J/Z, and M trains further eastward.
The way to tell the lines apart is that ex-IRT routes, now officially known as the A Division, have number designations (except for the 42nd Street Shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central). A Division trains also have smaller cars (51 feet long, 9 feet wide, with three doors on each side) due to sharper curves and shorter platform clearances. The distinction between IND and BMT was seriously blurred after unification by the construction of several track connections, and they are now known officially as the single B Division. The B Division routes use letter designations, as well as larger cars (60 or 75 feet long, 10 feet wide, with four doors on each side).note The consolidation into one division has led to many lines that have substantial portions on both ex-BMT and ex-IND tracks, such as the Dnote , the Rnote , and the Mnote , among others.
This has led to the former IRT lines still being colloquially known as "the IRT" (at least by older New Yorkers), while the IND and BMT designations are little-used outside the fandom. All three do remain as part of the official names of the lines, however. Whatever you do, do not refer to lines by color. The most famous cars that shout "New York Subway", the "Redbirds", once the canvas for graffiti artists, have all been decommissioned and used to build an artificial reef in the Atlantic. Modern cars are slightly more generic looking.
Until 1985, the MTA used single and double letters to denote the various services on the B Division. Local services were designated with double letters while expresses had a single letter. The MTA thought it would make the system amenable for visitors, who may not know or even get confused by historic or community names. The lines were also color-coded as the MTA wanted to ensure no two services with exactly the same color would operate over the same line. It became problematic for several reasons:
- With many color variations, it proved unwieldy and still produced ambiguity. For example, the A and E trains shared the same tracks between 42nd Street-Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Rockaways, with one as an express and the other as a local. But the A was colored dark blue and the E light blue, not always easily distinguishable.
- Different services at common stations shared the same destination, but different routes. For example, the B, N and QJ stopped at DeKalb Avenue and terminated at Coney Island, but no explicit mention was made on the separate lines (West End, Sea Beach, Brighton) used to get there.
- Service labels were ephemeral and confusing at times with lettered routes being shifted, changed, and/or deleted from one line to another, making a description like "the D train" useless. The D has been on four completely different Brooklyn branch lines (Fulton Street, Culver, Brighton, and West End) since 1954. K was introduced for a rush hour-only service on the Jamaica el, but was later used for an Eighth Avenue local which had formerly been the AA.
- The same lettered or numbered lines may have different destinations by time of day despite efforts to minimize this problem.
Many of the new services introduced by the MTA after November 1967 were later eliminated due to low patronage, such as the NX (which was used for a peak-direction "super-express" service along the the Sea Beach Line's express tracks), RJ (which served as a rush-hour variant of the RR 4th Avenue local and used the Nassau Street Line all the way to Jamaica-168th Street, but was cut back to Chambers Street only; the M then took over as the Nassau special after the R's northern terminal was switched to Forest Hills), and the EE (which served as a replacement for the RR, which until 1967 ran to Forest Hills, but was later absorbed into the N due to budget cuts).
In June 1979, the former color scheme was scrapped, and the MTA settled on a more coherent policy of assigning the same color to every service on each Manhattan mainline, plus different colors for lines not entering Manhattan. Also in May 1985, the MTA decided to scrap the double letter system that was used since the IND opened in 1929, having realized that there were many services that were express for part of their route and local for other parts. In most cases, this was accomplished by simply eliminating the second letter in route designations.
There were several grandiose plans in the past to expand to areas that do not have subway service, notably Staten Island and eastern Queens. Though discussion remains strong to this day and provisions were built for future expansion, they never get past the drawing board for various reasons. Some of these proposals included:
- The infamous Second Avenue Subway, which was on the city's to-do list for many decades until finally opening in 2017. It will be built with provisions to expand the line to the Bronx and Brooklyn, but that remains to be seen given the MTA's limited funding and looming debt crisis.
- Extensions of the Astoria, Fulton Steet, Flatbush, Archer Avenue, Queens Boulevard, New Lots Avenue, Crosstown, Broadway (Manhattan), Jamaica, Sixth Avenue, Concourse and Flushing Lines.
- There were also proposals to expand the subway into New Jersey. A proposal in the 1930s recommended using the George Washington Bridge's lower level to Fort Lee, while another suggested extending the Flushing Line south of 34th Street to Secaucus Junction via Hoboken.
- While the JFK and Newark airports have rail connections, LaGuardia lacks a direct connection to any subway or rail line. Earlier proposals to extend the Astoria Line to LaGuardia and beyond were kiboshed due to budget woes, lack of interest, and NIMBYism.
- Connecting the disused portion of the LIRR's Rockaway Branch to 63rd Drive-Rego Park.
- Extension of the 4th Avenue Line south of 95th Street with a connection to the Staten Island Railroad at Grasmere, either via the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge or a new subway tunnel. In anticipation of this, the SIRT electrified its lines and purchased subway cars. The BMT also planned to extend the express tracks to 95th Street with the idea that locals will terminate there while expresses continue to Staten Island.
- New subway lines proposed include:
- Under Utica Avenue in Brooklyn to Sheepshead Bay (it would either be a separate line, or as a spur of either the Fulton Street or Eastern Parkway Lines).
- Under Worth Street in Manhattan to the Rockaways, where it would connect the proposed Utica Avenue Line at South 4th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with the 8th Avenue local tracks south of Canal Street and the 6th Avenue express tracks east of Lower East Side-2nd Avenue (the 6th Avenue express tracks now feed to the Manhattan Bridge north side, while the inner tracks at 2nd Avenue have been converted into stubs that dead end east of the station; the local tracks cross Brooklyn via the Rutgers Street Tunnel and onto the Culver Line). A spur would have connected with the Fresh Pond Road line via Myrtle Avenue.
- Under the Long Island Expressway to Bayside (in Queens, as a spur of the Queens Boulevard Line).
- Under the Van Wyck Expressway to southeast Queens (the connection was later built for the Archer Avenue Lines, and they too were to be expanded towards that area).
- Under 120th Avenue to Cambria Heights (in Queens, as an elevated spur of the Rockaway Line).
- A super-express bypass between Forest Hills and 21st Street-Queensbridge (also as another spur of the Queens Boulevard Line).
- Under Fresh Pond Road and 65th Place to Maspeth, where it would connect with the Myrtle Avenue el and provide direct service to the Rockaways via the LIRR's Rockaway Branch, which is currently connected to the subway via the Fulton Street Line. The spur would also connect with the Queens Boulevard Line in Jackson Heights, where a station shell (complete with tile work) and bellmouths were built in preparation.
- Under Lafayette Avenue to Throggs Neck (in the Bronx, as a spur of either the 2nd Avenue or Pelham Lines).
- Under Boston Post Road to Co-op City (also in the Bronx, as a spur of the 2nd Avenue Line or an extension of the Concourse Line).
- Using the LIRR's freight-only Bay Ridge Branch for thru service between the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and possibly Staten Island.
- Under 149th Street and 11th Avenue to College Point (in Queens, as a spur of the Flushing Line).
As you can see from the page quote, most announcements on the Subway, including the famous "Stand clear of the closing doors, please," are done by a friendly-sounding guy with a very neutral accent. Fun facts: his name is Charlie Pellett, he was born in London but moved to New York as a kid, worked hard to erase his English accent after he got teased for it in school, he's a reader for Bloomberg Radio, and yes, he rides the subway every day.
Unlike many similar subway systems that use a zone system or calculate fares based on the entry and exit stations, the New York subways are flat-rate: pay once when you enter, and you can go anywhere the cars will take you, be it one stop away or to the opposite end of the city. Originally costing a nickel, it's now $2.75 for entrancenote , with the option to purchase unlimited cards that last a set time period—7 days (perfect for visitors) or 30 days (the Commuter Standard)—instead. On top of all of that, students of New York public schools receive free MetroCards for the duration of the school year. The cards are only supposed to be used only on school days, but that rule is often ignored.
Additionally, the MTA runs a complicated system of buses; Staten Island (the Red-Headed Stepchild of New York City) has its own above-ground train line across the island operated by an MTA subsidiary; and there are several separate local rail systems primarily for commuters:
- The Long Island Railroad (LIRR), serving Long Island. This railroad is the bane of law students across America, as it got into quite a few notable lawsuits in the early 20th century—most notably Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co., which every American law student reads and learns to hate and love for the complex beauty and beautiful complexity of Chief Judge Cardozo's opinion. The Far Rockaway extension of the A was originally a branch of the LIRR.
- Metro-North Railroad, serving
upstate New Yorksouthern New York State suburbs like Westchester and Putnam Counties, as well as the Connecticut suburbs.
- New Jersey Transit, with commuter rail service to North and Central Jersey.
- NJ Transit's Secaucus Junction—where all NJ Transit heavy rail lines save the Atlantic City Linenote and Princeton Branchnote Also... meet—is touted as a potential terminus for the new extension of the 7 train of the NYC Subway proper. If this happens, it would be the first NYC Subway station outside the city itself.
- The Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH), connecting the "sixth borough" of Jersey City and Hoboken to lower and midtown Manhattan.
The NYC Subway is one of only five mass-transit systems in the United States that run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.note The city that never sleeps, indeed.
Inevitably, any TV show or movie set in New York City has at least one subway scene. Listing all of them would just be silly. Usually, though, they are in trains found in systems outside of NY, with the stations also being fictitious (but named after actual stations). If the filming is done strictly in NYC, then you are usually treated to multiple different trains inside and outside, almost never just one.
- A - Eighth Avenue-Fulton Street-Rockaway Express: The A runs from 207th Street in Inwood, Manhattan to either the Rockaways or to Lefferts Boulevard in Richmond Hill, Queens. During the daytime, the A runs express along the Eighth Avenue and Fulton Street Lines between 168th Street and Euclid Avenue (with the C providing local service), and then local to either Far Rockaway or Lefferts Boulevard, with some peak direction rush hour-only trips coming to/from Rockaway Park. Some northbound trains also terminate at either Dyckman Street or 168th Street during rush hours. The A provides the longest one-seat ride in the system, at 32 miles (51 km) between Inwood and Far Rockaway and has a weekday ridership of 600,000. During late nights, the A runs local and serves as a replacement for the C, originating to/from Far Rockaway only, with shuttle train service between Euclid Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard. Another shuttle runs on the Rockaway Park branch during off-peak hours.
The A train fleet is primarily made of R46 cars, and a limited number of R68, R68A, R179, and R211 cars.
- C - Eighth Avenue-Fulton Street Local: The C is a local supplement to the A, running from 168th Street-Washington Heights to Euclid Avenue only during daytime hours. During late nights, the A serves as a replacement for the C, originating to/from Far Rockaway only, while a shuttle runs between Euclid Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard. Until the 1980s, the C was a rush-hour only service that ran from Bedford Park Boulevard to Rockaway Parknote , as off-peak service was provided by the now-eliminated K. Similar to the terminal swap between the N and R, the B and C swapped their northern terminals, ending the connection between the C and the Bronx. This was done to eliminate rider confusion between the C's three different terminals (depending on the time of day) and reduce crowding.
The C is operated with a mix of R179 and R46 cars.
- E - Jamaica Express-Eighth Avenue Local via 53rd Street: The E runs from Jamaica Center to World Trade Center at all times (with some rush hour-only trips coming to/from 179th Street due to capacity issues at Jamaica Center, while a few Jamaica-bound rush hour trips short-turn at Kew Gardens), running express between Queens Plaza and Jamaica-Van Wyck during weekdays, and between Queens Plaza and Forest Hills during weekends. During late nights, the E runs local on Queens Boulevard to replace the R and M lines. Prior to the Archer Avenue Lines opening in 1988, the E ran full-time between 179th Street and World Trade Center. The E also ran to Brooklyn and the Rockaways during rush hours only until the 1970s, when it was replaced by the A and C lines.
The E uses a fleet of R160 cars.
- B - Concourse Local-Sixth Avenue-Brighton Express via Bridge: The B only operates on weekdays. During rush hours, it goes from Bedford Park Boulevard in the Bronx to Brighton Beach, running local on the Concourse and 8th Avenue Lines, while midday trips end at 145th Street in Harlem. After leaving 59th Street-Columbus Circle, it runs express along the Sixth Avenue and Brighton Lines (the Q runs as the Brighton local at all times). During the early 2000s, the Manhattan Bridge's north side closed, and the W was created to replace the B in Brooklyn and provide service to Coney Island (via West End), while the Q was rerouted to the Broadway Line. When the Manhattan Bridge tracks re-opened in 2004, the B and D swapped routes. The D was made the West End service to Coney Island, while the B was made the part-time Brighton Express to Brighton Beach. This was done to eliminate the need for part-time shuttles on the West End Line.
The B train fleet is pooled with the D, and is made of R68 and R68A cars.
- D - Concourse-Sixth Avenue-West End Express via Bridge: The D operates at all times between Norwood-205th Street in the Bronx and Coney Island via the West End Line. It runs express in Manhattan (Central Park West and 6th Avenue) and makes all stops on the West End Line in Brooklyn; the D also makes all stops in the Bronx except when it runs express in the peak direction during rush hours. It also runs express on the 4th Avenue Line at all times except nights when it serves all stops, supplementing the R (which runs only between Whitehall and 95th Streets during late nights). Prior to the Manhattan Bridge closures, the D operated in Brooklyn as the Brighton local to Coney Island, while the B ran via West End; this changed in 2001, when the W replaced the B as the West End express, while the Q was made the Broadway express. When the Manhattan Bridge tracks re-opened in 2004, the B and D had their Brooklyn routings switched, with the D now operating to Coney Island via the West End Line while the B became the part-time express to Brighton Beach. The D is one of only two services to have 24-hour express service, the other being the 3 train.
The D train fleet is entirely made of R68 cars.
- F - Jamaica Express-Sixth Avenue-Culver Local via 63rd Street: The F operates at all times between Jamaica-179th Street in Queens and Coney Island via the Culver Line, serving all stops except for an express section between 21st Street-Queensbridge and Forest Hills along the Queens Boulevard Line. Some trains short-turn at Kings Highway due to capacity issues at Coney Island during rush hours. In recent years, there were calls to restore express service on the Culver Line during rush hours, although it has been controversial as some riders feared they would lose their one-seat ride to Manhattan. Previously, the Culver Line had express service from Jay Street to Kings Highway between 1967 and 1987, but this was eliminated due to low usage and rider complaints. To alleviate rider concerns, a peak direction-only Culver express service was implemented in 2019 on a limited scale.
- <F> - Jamaica Express-Sixth Avenue Local-Culver Express via 63rd Street: A very limited express service between Jay Street and Church Avenue started on September 16, 2019 with two trains running in the peak direction during rush hours and is represented with a diamond <F>, similar to the symbol used on the other peak-direction express services.
The F uses a fleet made entirely of R160 cars.
- <F> - Jamaica Express-Sixth Avenue Local-Culver Express via 63rd Street: A very limited express service between Jay Street and Church Avenue started on September 16, 2019 with two trains running in the peak direction during rush hours and is represented with a diamond <F>, similar to the symbol used on the other peak-direction express services.
- M - Queens Boulevard-Sixth Avenue-Myrtle Avenue Local via 53rd Street: The M operates between Forest Hills and Metropolitan Avenue-Middle Village, Queens via the Queens Boulevard, 6th Avenue (via 53rd Street), Jamaica and Myrtle Avenue Lines, making it the only service that travels through the same borough via two different, unconnected lines. The M short turns at Delancey-Essex Streets in Manhattan on weekends, and at Myrtle Avenue–Broadway in Brooklyn during late nights. Late night service on the Queens Boulevard Line is supplemented by the E. It is the only non-shuttle service that has both of its full-run terminals in the same borough (Queens). The 71st Avenue and Metropolitan Avenue termini of the M are 2.47 miles (3.98 km) apart, marking this as the shortest geographic distance between termini for a non-shuttle service. Prior to June 28, 2010, the M traveled during weekday rush hours to Bay Parkway on the West End Line via Nassau Street, and to Chambers Street during midday hours. As part of the 2010 service changes, it was combined with the V to allow a one-seat ride to Midtown for passengers on the BMT Jamaica Line.note
The M is operated entirely with R160 cars.
- G - Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown Line: The G operates at all times between Court Square in Long Island City, Queens and Church Avenue in Kensington, Brooklyn via the Crosstown and Culver Lines. In Queens, it only serves two stations – Court Square and 21st Street, both in Long Island City – but previously served all stations to/from Forest Hills on the Queens Boulevard Line. It is the only non-shuttle line in the system that does not serve Manhattan and suffers from frequent service disruptions, leading to criticism from riders. Throughout its history, the G ended at Smith-9th Streets by switching over to the express tracks on the Culver Line, then relaying back on the northbound local platform. It proved to be inefficient, as F service was held up and express service couldn't be operated except for a short time in the 1970s. This ended in 2009 when the G was extended to Church Avenue, coinciding with repairs on the aging Culver viaduct. The G's extension to Church Avenue also freed up the express tracks and allowed two peak-direction F trips during rush hours only.
The G uses a fleet made entirely of R160 cars.
- J - Nassau Street-Jamaica Local: The J operates at all times between Jamaica Center and Broad Street in Lower Manhattan, using the Archer Avenue and Jamaica-Nassau Street Lines; some northbound rush hour trains also terminate at Broadway Junction. On weekdays, trains run express in the peak direction in Brooklyn between Myrtle Avenue and Marcy Avenue, bypassing three stations. During rush hours also in the peak direction, the J forms a skip-stop pair between Sutphin Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue with the Z. At other times, the J serves every station on its entire route.
- Z - Nassau Street-Jamaica Express: The Z operates internally as a rush-hour variant of the J, with six trips in the peak direction on weekdays; some Jamaica Center-bound trains also short turn at Broadway Junction during rush hours. During rush hours also in the peak direction, the Z forms a skip-stop pair between Sutphin Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue with the J. At all other times, the J serves every station on its entire route. The rapper Jay-Z adapted his stage name in part as a shout-out to the combined J / Z service which services his childhood neighborhood of Bedford–Stuyvesant.
The J / Z service is entirely operated by R160 and R179 trains.
- N - Astoria-Broadway-Sea Beach Express via Bridge: The N operates at all times between Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard in Queens and Coney Island via the Sea Beach Line, running express between 34th Street-Herald Square in Manhattan and 59th Street-4th Avenue in Brooklyn (via the Manhattan Bridge and skipping DeKalb Avenue) during daytime hours on weekdays, with some rush hour trips coming to/from to 96th Street on the 2nd Avenue Line (skipping 49th Steet); some rush hour put-ins also begin and end their trips at Gravesend-86th Street. During weekends, it operates as an express between Canal Street and 59th Street-4th Avenue (also via the bridge and skipping DeKalb Avenue), and runs local via the Montague Street Tunnel during late nights, replacing the R (which runs only between Whitehall and 95th Streets during late nights; local service in Queens is supplemented by the E). Until 1987, the N's northbound terminal was Forest Hills while the R ended at Astoria, but this was changed in order to give the R direct access to a train yard. Previously, the N had easy access to the Jamaica and Coney Island yards, while the R had to deadhead to/from the Coney Island Yard.
The N is operated primarily with R46 cars and a limited number of R68 and R68A trains.
- Q - Second Avenue-Broadway Express-Brighton Local via Bridge: The Q operates between 96th Street-2nd Avenue on the Upper East Side in Manhattan and Coney Island at all times, running express on the Broadway Line in Manhattan (except during late nights, when it runs local between Canal Street and 57th Street-7th Avenue via the Manhattan Bridge), crossing over the Manhattan Bridge south side, and serving all stops on the Brighton Line in Brooklyn (the B runs express only on weekdays between Prospect Park and Brighton Beach). Also, the lone northbound R that goes to 96th Street during rush hours is then re-designated as a southbound Q to Coney Island. During rush hours, a few northbound trips run via the N, running express on the 4th Avenue Line. Prior to this service realignment, the Q ran to Astoria on weekdays (and to 57th Street-7th Avenue during late nights and weekends), serving as a replacement for the W, which was originally eliminated in 2010 due to budget cuts.
The Q is operated primarily with R46 cars and a limited number of R68 and R68A trains.
- R - Queens Boulevard-Broadway-4th Avenue Local via Tunnel: The R operates between Forest Hills, Queens and 95th Street-Bay Ridgenote , Brooklyn at all times except late nights (when it short-turns at South Ferry), running local on the Queens Boulevard, Broadway (via the Montague Street Tunnel) and 4th Avenue Lines; some 95th Street-bound trains short turn at 59th Street-4th Avenue during rush hours, while some northbound put-ins begin their run at 36th Street-4th Avenue. Late night service originally ended at 36th Street in Brooklyn, but was extended to South Ferry in November 2016 in order to reduce the need to transfer at 36th Street, thereby eliminating the need for northbound trains to skip the 45th and 53rd Street stops. Also, many southbound trips used to short-turn at either Canal Street or South Ferry during rush hours, resulting in long headways along the R in Brooklyn. Beginning November 2017, one northbound rush hour trip terminates at 96th Street-2nd Avenue due to rising demand for service along the 2nd Avenue Line; this trip is then re-designated as a southbound Q to Coney Island. Until 1987, the R's northbound terminal was Astoria, while the N terminated at Forest Hills, but this was switched over in order to give the R a direct access to a train yard. Previously, the N had easy access to the Jamaica and Coney Island yards, while the R had to run light to/from the Coney Island Yard. Also until 1987, some rush-hour only trips ran from Bay Ridge to Chambers Street on the Nassau Street Line.
Until 2016, late night R service only ran to 36th Street on the 4th Avenue Line, and passengers had to transfer to a D or N to continue to Manhattan. The 2016 service changes that re-introduced the W also extended late night R service to Whitehall Street for the purposes of increasing late-night trips along the 4th Avenue Line. The N still replaces the R at stations from South Ferry to Lexington Avenue-59th Street during late nights, and the E replaces it in Queens during these times.
The R is operated entirely with R160 cars.
- W - Astoria-Broadway Local: The W is a weekday-only service, running local between Astoria–Ditmars Boulevard and South Ferry in Lower Manhattan. Some rush-hour trains originate from Coney Island (running local via the Sea Beach and 4th Avenue Lines) while the last-scheduled trips are extended to Gravesend-86th Street to be sent down to the Coney Island Yard. On weekends, the N and R replace it. The W was first introduced on July 22, 2001 as part of the major service realignments caused by years of track work on the Manhattan Bridge. It was created to replace the B in Brooklyn and provide service between Coney Island (via West End) and Manhattan. On February 22, 2004, when the north tracks on the Manhattan Bridge reopened, the W was cut back to its current service pattern while the D train replaced it in Brooklyn (prior to the track closures, the D ran to Coney Island as the Brighton local). On June 28, 2010, the W was discontinued alongside the V due to budget cuts, and was replaced by the Q in Queens and the N and R in Manhattan. However on November 7, 2016, it was brought back to fill in the service gap created by the full-time rerouting of the Q to Second Avenue and maintain weekday service capacity on the Astoria and Broadway Lines.
The W is staffed internally as part of the N, so all of its rolling stock is shared with the N.
- L - 14th Street–Canarsie Line: The L operates between 8th Avenue-14th Street in Chelsea, Manhattan, and Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie, Brooklyn at all times, serving the 14th Street-Canarsie Line; some southbound trains also short-turn at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues during rush hours. It is also the first subway line to be fully automated, using communications-based train control rather than block signaling, which most of the system currently uses. Starting April 27, 2019, and continuing until mid-2020, service will be limited between Third Avenue and Bedford Avenue on late nights and weekends to allow for repairs on the Canarsie Line tunnels under the East River, which were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The original plans called for a full 15-month closure similar to the repairs done on the Montague Street tunnel, which carries the R, but the plans were revised in January 2019 to a longer project that saw single-tracking on weekends.
The L uses a mix of CBTC-compatible R143 and R160 cars.
- 1 - Broadway-Seventh Avenue Local: The 1 is the local service on the Seventh Avenue Line. It operates at all times between Van Cortlandt Park–242nd Street in the Bronx and South Ferry in Lower Manhattan, with some northbound rush hour trains terminating at either 238th Street, 168th Street, or 137th Street-City College. From 1989 to 2005, the 1 ran in a skip-stop service pattern during rush hours, with a separate route called the 9 providing complementary service on the same route.
The 1 train fleet is entirely composed of R62A cars.
- 2 - White Plains-Seventh Avenue Express: The 2 operates at all times between Wakefield-241st Street in the Bronx and Flatbush Avenue–Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, making all stops in the Bronx (on the White Plains Road Line) and Brooklyn (on the Eastern Parkway and Nostrand Avenue Lines). During the daytime, the 2 runs express in Manhattan and local elsewhere, while late night service operates local along the entire route. During rush hours, some trips end at either Utica or New Lots Avenues due to capacity issues at Flatbush Avenue, as well as a switching bottleneck at Rogers Junction east of the Franklin Avenue stop, where trains can either continue along Eastern Parkway or diverge to Nostrand Avenue.
The 2 train fleet is entirely composed of R142 cars and is the only line on the West Side IRT to use them. The fleet is shared between it and the 5. Because the two routes have so much overlap in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and only separate for their trips through Manhattan, this has confused riders due to the electronic strip maps in the trains only having the map for one route or the other. To fix this, the MTA began replacing the strip maps for cars assigned to these yards in 2016 with combined strip maps showing both services.
- 3 - Lenox-Seventh Avenue Express: The 3 operates between 148th Street in Harlem, Manhattan and New Lots Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn, making express stops in Manhattan and all stops in Brooklyn. During late nights, the 3 runs only between 148th Street and Times Square (operating express south of 96th Street), with the 2 replacing it between there and Franklin Avenue–Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, and the 4 replacing it between Franklin Avenue and New Lots Avenue. Previously, the 3 ran only as a shuttle between 148th Street and 135th Street during late nights, but this caused frequent switching delays along the Lenox Avenue Line. In 2008, the 3 was extended to Times Square to eliminate this late-night switching holdup.
The 3 train fleet is entirely composed of R62 cars.
- 4 - Jerome-Lexington Avenue Express: The 4 operates between Woodlawn in the Bronx and Utica Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn at all times except nights. During late nights, 4 trains serve all stops except Hoyt Street and are extended to/from New Lots Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn as a replacement for the 3. During rush hours only, 4 trains skip 138th Street–Grand Concourse in the peak direction, with some northbound trains running express north of 167th Street and short turning at Burnside Avenue, as well as a limited number of trains coming to/from New Lots Avenue for storage at Livonia Yard.
The 4 is operated with R142 and R142A cars. It is the only line to use R142A cars, thanks to the R142A cars on the 6 being converted to R188 cars for the IRT Flushing Line.
- 5 - Dyre-Lexington Avenue Express: The 5 operates between Eastchester-Dyre Avenue in the Bronx and Brooklyn College in Flatbush, Brooklyn, making all stops in the Bronx and running express elsewhere on weekdays except evenings and weekends. It also runs express in the Bronx between East 180th Street and 3rd Avenue–149th Street in the peak direction during rush hours, with some rush hour service staying on the IRT White Plains Road Line to/from Nereid Avenue in Wakefield, supplementing the 2 train. The 5 short turns at Bowling Green in lower Manhattan on evenings and weekends, and becomes a shuttle-only service between Dyre Avenue and East 180th Street during late nights. Limited rush hour service also operates to/from either Utica or New Lots Avenues in Brooklyn due to capacity issues at Flatbush Avenue, as well as a switching bottleneck east of the Franklin Avenue stop, where trains can either continue along Eastern Parkway or diverge to the Nostrand Avenue Line.
The 5 train fleet is made up entirely of R142 cars, and shares its fleet with the 2.
- 6 - Pelham-Lexington Avenue Local / <6> - Pelham Express-Lexington Avenue Local: The 6 is the local service on the Lexington Avenue Line. It operates local at all times between Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall in Lower Manhattan. On weekdays, every other train runs express in the peak direction between Parkchester and 3rd Avenue-138th Street (only stopping at Hunts Point Avenue) and are marked with a diamond <6> route bullet, while locals are marked in a circular bullet. During these times, <6> trains run all the way to Pelham Bay Park, while regular 6 trains terminate at Parkchester. Weekdays from 9 AM to 11 AM, select Manhattan-bound <6> trains run local from Parkchester to Hunts Point Avenue while select Parkchester-bound 6 trains run express in that section.
The famed City Hall station lies just past the southern terminus at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. The station is located on a balloon loop that the 6 train uses to turn around and head back uptown, as of this writing passengers are allowed to stay on the train as it passes through the stationnote . The beautiful station was the showpiece (and the southern terminus) of the original IRT subway when it opened in 1904, but the odd track layout meant the platforms couldn't be expanded, not that they really needed to be when the Brooklyn Bridge station is only 600 feet away. Ridership numbers were never very high and it closed in 1945. The station is actually pretty well preserved (mainly because it's on the National Register of Historic Places), untouched by vandals and in better condition than some open stations. The platform itself is closed to the public for security reasonsnote but the NY Transit Museum occasionally hosts tours of it. Two more abandoned stations are on this line, at Worth Street (closed in 1962 due to platform lengthening at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall) and at 18th Street (closed in 1948 due to platform lengthening at both 14th Street-Union Square and 23rd Street).
The 6 currently operates with a fleet of R62A cars, which were displaced from the line from 2001 to 2003 by the R142A cars and moved to the IRT Flushing Line to retire that line's Redbird trains. However, the change only lasted for 13 years before the R62A trains were transferred back to the 6 as part of the Flushing Line automation program, and the 6's R142A trains were given to the 7 to be converted to R188 cars.
- 7 - Flushing Local / <7> - Flushing Express: The 7 operates between 34th Street-Hudson Yards and Main Street in Flushing, Queens at all times. During weekdays, some trips are designated as <7> Flushing Express, and run express between Queensboro Plaza and Main Street in the peak direction only during rush hours. It is the only IRT route to service Queens and, along with the 3 and 42nd Street Shuttle, one of only three IRT routes to not service the Bronx. In addition to regular local and rush-hour express services, "Super Express" service to Manhattan is also provided after New York Mets games weeknights and weekends at Citi Field, as well as after US Open tennis matches: starting at Mets–Willets Point and operating express to Manhattan, also bypassing Junction Boulevard, Hunters Point Avenue and Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue. Because the 7 was the principal subway route to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair and traverses through several different ethnic neighborhoods populated by immigrants in Queens, it is unofficially nicknamed the "International Express."
Unlike the other IRT lines, the 7 is unique for running eleven car trains instead of the normal ten car trains. This has been in place since the 1964-1965 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in April 1964, when trains were lengthened to eleven cars. The Flushing Line received 430 new R33 and R36 "World's Fair" cars for this enhanced service, and due to platform lengths, it was chosen to maintain the existing train length.note
The 7 is also unique for having the only cross-platform transfer to a B Division service, as it has a cross-platform exchange with the BMT Astoria Line at Queensboro Plaza. This is a remnant of the complicated Dual Contracts history under which the IRT and BMT co-shared the Astoria and Flushing Lines.
The 7 train fleet is entirely made of CBTC-compatible R188 cars.
- 42nd Street Shuttle: The IRT shuttle service runs at all times except late nights, connecting Times Square to Grand Central under 42nd Street (for late night service between, the 7 supplements it). It is the shortest regular service in the system, running about 3,000 feet (910 m) in under two minutes. Also in order to distinguish it from the other shuttles in the system, it is internally referred as the 0 (zero). It uses short trains of R62A cars. In an effort to improve the shuttle, its tracks were reconfigured in 2022 that allowed two six-car trains to run more efficiently (instead of shorter three-car ones that ran previously) and made the Times Square stop wheelchair-friendly. As part of this, the center track was removed.
- Franklin Avenue Shuttle: The BMT shuttle service uses the Franklin Avenue Line exclusively. The north terminus is Franklin Avenue (with a free transfer to the Fulton Street Line), with the south terminus being Prospect Park (with transfer and track connections to the Brighton Line). The shuttle runs One Person Train Operation (OPTO), with the motorman also being the conductor - they will go to the opposite end to make another run at each terminal. Also, in order to distinguish it from the other shuttles in the system, it is internally referred as the S. Previously, the shuttle ran to Coney Island during summers, but years of neglect and declining ridership have led the MTA to consider tearing down the right-of-way and replace it with bus service in the 1980s, though local opposition forced the MTA to instead rehabilitate the line in 1999 with new tracks, platforms and signals. The line uses its own fleet of R68 cars.
- Rockaway Park Shuttle: The IND shuttle service connects with the A at the Broad Channel station and utilizes the Rockaway Line's Rockaway Park branch, terminating at Beach 116th Street at all times (though some A trains come to/from Rockaway Park during rush hours in the peak direction). Also, in order to distinguish it from the other shuttles in the system, it is internally referred as the H, though the route was openly designated as such in the past.note Throughout the shuttle's history, it ran to Euclid Avenue and/or Far Rockaway, serving as a replacement for routes that didn't run during off-peak hours. Since 2016, the shuttle is extended to Rockaway Boulevard on the Fulton Street Line on weekends during the summer months, allowing single transfers for A train passengers originating on the Lefferts Boulevard Branch. The Rockaway Park Shuttle shares the same rolling stock with the A.
There are several late-night shuttles that are not designated with the letter S, but use other designations instead.
- Dyre Avenue Shuttle: During late nights, the 5 operates exclusively as a shuttle on the IRT Dyre Avenue Line exclusively, running from Eastchester-Dyre Avenue to East 180th Street, where passengers can connect to the 2 to continue their journey into Manhattan.
- Lefferts Boulevard Shuttle: This shuttle runs from Euclid Avenue to Lefferts Boulevard and is designated as the A (although the late night subway map designates the shuttle as the S). It operates concurrently with regular A service, which goes to Far Rockaway. Prior to the early 1990s, the A ran to Lefferts Boulevard during late nights, while a shuttle ran between Euclid Avenue and Far Rockaway.
- Myrtle Avenue Shuttle: During late nights, the M operates exclusively as a shuttle on the BMT Myrtle Avenue Line, running from Middle Village-Metropolitan Avenue to Myrtle Avenue–Broadway. It connects to the L at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues and with the J at Myrtle Avenue-Broadway.
- The "miles of abandoned tunnels" trope appears in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers: The Manhattan Guardian, where they're the domain of pirates. Subway pirates. With names like "Captain Nobeard".
- Minimum Wage (later repackaged as Beg the Question) provides an excellent and mostly accurate depiction of what it's like riding the New York City subways. Though it was made in The '90s, it still holds up - take it from this native New Yorker.
- Thomas Fay Syndicate developed the comic strip A Train's World in 2007, set in New York a few years into the future. The trains talk and have a mind of their own, and is summed up by the creator as "an urban Thomas & Friends". Highlights of the collection are up on DeviantArt.
- The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 is a hostage-taking heist film set on a NYC subway car.
- Turk 182, with a pissed-off First Responder turned graffiti artist as the hero, the graffiti-proofing of the subway system is a plot point. He hijacks the mayor's train and sandblasts it with "Turk 182".
- The Incident: In the main sequence, a pair of punks terrorize the passengers of a subway car.
- The Warriors features a New York gang trying to get back to Coney Island, often by subway.
- Death Wish, filmed and set in 1970s New York City, has a particularly chilling scene of two knife-wielding muggers stalking a subway train for their next victim, until they settle on a man reading a newspaper in an empty car. Fortunately, this is the Vigilante Man protagonist, who shoots them both.
- Money Train, about two fired transit cops planning a robbery of a federal reserve shipment being transported via subway car in order to pay off gangsters and get back at their asshole boss. Inspired a brief spate of terrorist attacks against window cashiers in Real Life.
- The Cowboy Way went from a subway scene to a "chasing the train" scene straight out of a cowboy movie. Yes, really. Horses and everything!
- The famous finale to "Crocodile" Dundee involves a jam-packed subway Train-Station Goodbye reunion scene. Dundee has to walk over other passengers' heads to get there.
- In The Bone Collector, a plot point just before the climax involves Angelina Jolie's character finding an old abandoned subway car and having to figure out the significance of the number on its side. It matches the detective badge belonging to Lincoln Rhyme, Denzel Washington's character, revealing he is the killer's next target.
- Die Hard with a Vengeance has a subway system bombing as a major plot point.
- Enchanted has several shots of the subway. And for all it takes place in New York, they walk past the Subway and/or take cabs and horse drawn carriages instead. (The one time the subway is actually used, it's implied that it's confusing enough that Giselle has to change trains at least once before she manages to leave the system.)
- The first American Godzilla (1998) featured the titular reptile nesting in the subway.
- The French Connection features a car/train chase under the BMT West End El (then the B line, now the D line) in Brooklyn. A less famous scene takes place on the Times Square - Grand Central Shuttle.
- The river of slime in Ghostbusters II is actually located in one of the abandoned pneumatic transit system tubes (although the station depicted closely resembles the City Hall IRT Station). Later on, Egon, Ray, and Winston explore a real abandoned subway line and run into a ghost train.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the live-action movieverse move into an ornate, abandoned subway station after the location of their original lair is compromised.
- In the first movie the Foot attack April in a subway too, and she gets saved by Raphael.
- Men in Black II. Apparently the subway has a slight giant worm problem.
- The Visitor has a pivotal scene, and its final scene, there.
- Mimic centers around a breed of bugs that evolve in abandoned subway tunnels and eventually adapt the ability to blend into populated subway terminals. The main characters also discover a massive abandoned subway station.
- Madagascar has the zoo animals taking the subway, terrifying the human riders. The crappy PA system is mocked when Alex asks, "Did he say 'Grand Central Station' or 'my aunt's constipation'?"
- King Kong
- Hellboy is merely typical in its depiction of Hell Hounds choosing to flee into the subway and lay their eggs there (prompting an emergency kitten rescue scene on the turnstiles), but in Hellboy II: The Golden Army the New York Subway is actually the secret home of faerie prince Nuada of Bethmoora. (The High Elf King holds Autumn Court in an abandoned factory.)
- In Spider-Man 2, Spidey battles Doc Ock on top of a Chicago L train masquerading as an R train.
- Gregory Peck's character rides the subway during a brief scene in Mirage (1965).
- Eve of Destruction: The climax of the film takes place in the New York subway when the protagonists pursue the killer gynoid down there. It gets hit by a subway, but even that is not enough to put it down.
- The 1983 documentary Style Wars presents subway trains as the canvases of the graffiti artists of the era, and features a few interviews with subway personnel. The documentary also touches on the city's efforts to clean up the trains and eliminate the graffiti.
- The climax of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them occurs in the City Hall IRT Station and involves a great deal of Trashing the Set (which thanks to the need to be true to history is naturally undone afterwards).
- Stand Clear of the Closing Doors is about an autistic boy who spends days riding the subway after running away from his family.
- Law & Order has at least one episode about the Mole People who used to live under Grand Central Station.
- Friends. The extended version of the pilot has a scene of Phoebe playing her guitar there. She later stalked her twin sister's stalker there.
- Monk once got lost on the subway on a trip to New York.
- Several episodes of CSI: NY involved the subway:
- "Grand Murder in Central Station" had two doctors set up an accident as an insurance scam, intending to use the crowd as witnesses.
- Danny accidentally shot another cop while chasing a perp thru the subway in "On the Job."
- A woman was poisoned during a party on a subway car in "Murder Sings the Blues."
- Jo's adopted daughter Ellie witnessed a murder on the subway while skipping school in "Identity Crisis."
- A couple of NewsRadio episodes have a subway scene. One early episode has them trying to cover a subway accident, but all we see is Matthew standing in a pitch-dark tunnel waist deep in water.
- The opening intro montage of The Equalizer featured the subway, likely due to its publicly-perceived link to vigilantism (with the 'Subway Vigilante' case).
- Seinfeld has an entire episode set in a subway car.
- Seinfeld also has a subplot involving Kramer getting bored waiting for the subway and deciding to run down the tunnel (wearing pants he intended to return at the store). Everyone expects him to have to dodge a train coming down the tunnel, but the actual story is that he slipped in mud and ruined the pants.
- As does All in the Family.
- And The Odd Couple (with guest star Barney Martin).
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer referenced the 'street crime' cliche in a flashback, showing how Spike killed a previous Slayer in a subway car.
- The Criminal Minds episodes "Lo-Fi" and "Mayhem" take place in New York City, and deal with urban terrorism. In "Mayhem", Morgan pursues one of the UnSubs down into a subway station and onto a deserted section of track. It appears as if the suspect is going to commit suicide by train, however he grabs onto the electrified section of track instead, electrocuting himself.
- 30 Rock: Liz Lemon's loser boyfriend Dennis Duffy gets a guest spot on TGS when he saves a woman from being run over by a train, based on an actual incident.
- Jack gets a case of bedbugs, and is denied the use of a company car and refused by taxi drivers. He becomes lost on the subway and the passengers refuse to even talk to him.
- On one episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney tries to prove that you can run a marathon without training first, and ends up paralyzed on a subway car. "I've been to where the trains turn around. Ted, you don't ever want to see where the trains turn around!"
Lily: It's OK, I speak Conductor.
- In another episode, Lily claims that she can beat the others to a location by using the subway, but she is stymied by the inconsistent scheduling and garbled PA announcements (which she claims to be able to understand).
- In yet another episode, Barney and Ted try to pick up women on the Long Island Railroad.
- The titular girls of Girls use it to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan. In the first-season finale, Hannah falls asleep on the train home from a party and ends up where the trains turn around in Queens.
- Saturday Night Live performed a sketch about Bernie Goetz waiting in a studio green room and inadvertently intimidating the other guests.
- They did another sketch where they revealed that the garbled sound of the announcement speakers was the announcers' actual voices.
- As mentioned above, Mad Men invokes a bit of historical humor with Peggy's prospective apartment and the Second Avenue Line. In earlier seasons, when she lived in Brooklyn, she took an IND train at least to get as far as Manhattan (we see her getting out of the station one episode); she complains to her mother that commuting from Brooklyn is a huge pain, which is why she wants to move to Manhattan. She's one of the few central characters who gets around on the Subway; most are rich enough to own cars and take cabs.
- Person of Interest:
- The first scene of the show set in the present is a down-and-out Reese being attacked on the subway by a bunch of punks. Reese is a former CIA assassin, so he gets the better of them, which brings him to the interest of the NYPD and Finch, kicking off the show's plot.
- In the fourth season, the Machine leads Finch to an abandoned station which serves as the group's base after the library got discovered and trashed.
- Forever begins with the immortal Henry Morgan dying and resurrecting after a deadly subway crash, inadvertently earning the attention of the NYPD and an evil immortal. Henry later faces off against the evil immortal in an abandoned station in the series finale.
- The Rescue 911 episode "Subway Save" profiled an incident from September 1987 about a seizure victim who had fallen onto the tracks at 50th Street on the IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line. The guys who saved him did so by rolling him to the gap under the platform mere seconds before a local train rolled in.
- The Nanny: In "The Nanny Napper", Fran Fine is taking the Sheffield children home on the subway when decides to help an ethnic woman who had her hands full by holding her baby. Unfortunately, they get separated and Fran is stuck with the baby. This soon leads to the NYPD posting a bulletin calling Fran a kidnapper, and she must clear her name.
- Jessie: A Season 1 episode has Jessie and the Ross kids take the subway to get to an event Emma wants to go to for a school assignment. Unfortunately, Jessie is still new to New York City and the kids don’t usually take the subway. Hilarity Ensues.
- The Defenders (2017): Scene changes are marked by the sights and sounds of the subway, as the main characters live in different parts of the city. At one point, Matt, Jessica, and Luke take the subway to get down to Midland Circle, although this scene was shot on a PATH train.
- Dash & Lily: Both Dash and Lily take the subway at different points.
- A book, Subway lives: 24 hours in the life of the New York City subway, by Jim Dwyer, is, as it says, a look at one day in the life of the system. Shows some of the incidents happening: a station agent stealing tokens; a bum selling discount access to the system through a broken gate; how David Gunn (the General Manager before he went on to run the Washington, DC system) negotiating with the unions to see to it that they don't strike; how maintenance has to be performed; how passengers put trains out of service through stupid stunts; and many more.
- The supernatural/historical fiction children's book, Voices after Midnight by Richard Peck, involves the characters slipping back and forth between the present day (the 80s, then) and the blizzard of 1888. An important plot point which lets them know when and where they need to go to change history relates to the elevated subway lines, where the ice on the tracks causes one train to slide backwards and telescope with another, resulting in a giant crash that can be heard for miles despite the storm.
- Duke Ellington's "Take the "A" Train" is about the line that runs express up to Harlem.
- Jay-Z takes his name in part from the J/M/Z lines that serves his old neighborhood, Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
- Similarly, Jennifer Lopez named her first album "On the 6" because she used to ride the 6 train from the Bronx into Manhattan while still trying to get her big break.
- The Bernhard Goetz incident is referenced by the song "Executioner (Bernie Goetz a Gun)" by British neo-prog band Pallas.
- "And out of the subway..."
- The Brooklyn Funk Essentials' debut album, Cool and Steady and Easy, begins with a lively track called "Take The L Train (To B'klyn)" that incorporates sounds from the L train to Brooklyn. The album closes with "Take The L Train (To 8th Ave.)," which takes the melody of the first track and makes it slower and more somber (and takes out the subway sounds).
- The term "Subway Series" is applied to any series between New York baseball teams, now down to just the Bronx-based Yankees of the American League and the Queens-based Mets of the National League (in the past, the NL Dodgers and the Giants were also in New York before they both moved to California in 1958). In 2000, the teams met for the World Series and they played it up in advertising for all it was worth. These days, with regular interleague play, a single 4-game series or two 3-game series (depends on the schedule rotation) between the two teams are scheduled every season, each team hosting with no travel break in the case of a set of four (though if rain cancels one in the first half, it's possible for the make-up game to be played in one stadium in the early afternoon before everybody rushes over to play an evening game at the other stadium on the same day — so far this has happened in 2000, 2003, and 2008).
- Theoretically, a "Subway Series" applies to any North American sports championship between two teams from the same city/metropolitan area, but a pairing of anyone other than the Yankees and Mets is relatively unlikely, for several reasons.
- First, both hockey and basketball have purely geographic structures, so it is literally impossible for two teams from the same city to face each other in the finals; even in the unlikely event the Knicks and the Nets were the best teams in the NBA, the latest playoff round they could face each other is the Eastern Conference Finals.
- The other sport in which two teams from the same area could face each other is football. However, the Super Bowl is a single game played in a pre-determined neutral location; no subway applies. Theoretically, one supposes a "Subway Super Bowl" could be where both teams can get to the stadium by subway for the single game - as of 2020 this is only possible for the New York (Giants, Jets) and Los Angeles (Rams, Chargers) teams, and they would both have to win their respective conference championships in the exact year the Super Bowl was held in that particular stadium (hosts are determined three or four years ahead of time), which has only happened exactly once, when the Rams reached, and won, Super Bowl LVI in 2022, which was played at their and the Chargers' home stadium, SoFi Stadiumnote . (And at any rate, you can't get to MetLife Stadium on the NYC Subway since it's actually in the Meadowlands of New Jersey - best you can do is take the PATH to Hoboken, then switch to New Jersey Transit's Meadowlands Rail Line.) Meanwhile the K Line of the Los Angeles Metro Rail does get somewhat close to SoFi Stadium, but the closest stations are a fair distance away, plus the line didn't open until eight months after Super Bowl LVI.
- Within baseball, only three metropolitan areas other than New York have two teams: Chicago (NL Cubs/AL White Sox), the San Francisco Bay (NL SF Giants/AL Oakland Athletics), and Greater Los Angeles (NL Dodgers/AL Angels). The thing for Chicago and Los Angeles is that both teams never seem to be good at the same time (Chicago's teams go one-two for longest World Series droughts in historynote ). As for the Bay Area, the Giants and Athletics have in fact faced each other in the World Series since moving to the area,note and a series between them remains a strong possibility (both have made the postseason regularly of late), but the press prefers to call it a "Bay Bridge Series" (the subway connecting the two, the BART, is too goofily-named and too obscure to outsiders to qualify, anyway).
- Additionally, even if the World Series came down to Cubs-White Sox or Angels-Dodgers, public image of such a series would unlikely give it a Subway brand (c.f., the A's-Giants '89 Series). Chicago's rapid transit system is mostly above-ground, and its most prominent portions around The Loop are actually elevated above street level (hence why it is called the 'L') (even though the Red Line that serves both Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field, where the teams play their home games respectively, actually runs through downtown in a subway). Los Angeles, on the other hand, is in the public mind the epitome of urban sprawl with a large, expansive freeway network to connect everything - there is a public transit system in LA, but a lot of people don't even know it exists and those that do think nobody rides it. Add on top of that the likely conscious effort by local promoters and sports fans to not use the term "Subway Series", as by now the terms are pretty much inexorably linked with built-up super-crowded New York. End result: an Angels-Dodgers series might be termed the "I-5 Series" or "Freeway Series", while Cubs-White Sox might be the "Red Line Series" or "L Series"; they could also go for things totally unrelated to transportation infrastructure like "The Windy City Series" (Chicago) or "The Hollywood Showdown" (LA).
- In On the Town ("The people ride in a hole in the groun' / New York, New York, it's a helluva town"), Gabey first sees his dream girl Ivy on a poster in a subway car presenting her as Miss Turnstiles of June. (The contest rules: "She's got to be beautiful, she's got to be just an average girl, and most of all, she's got to ride the subway.")
- There was an actual "Miss Subways" from 1941 to 1976 with substantially the same rules.
- Dutchman by Amiri Baraka.
- If Then has a scene on the subway where Liz meets Josh the second time. The train is stopped momentarily for reasons only conveyed by an incoherent conductor.
- InTransit is basically "The New York Subway: The Musical!" It's also the first Broadway musical to be sung completely a capella.
- Animal Crackers: A deleted version of Captain Spalding's monologue about exploring Darkest Africa alludes to how IRT lines were designated before the city took over and numbered them:
"I don't know whether any of you people have ever seen darkness descend on the jungle. It is so dark you can hear a pin drop. For a moment it is pitch black, then mysterious little lights appear in the distance, first a red light, and then a green light, so we knew it was the Lenox Avenue Express. We got out at 135th Street, and found ourselves again in Africa."
- Sin and Punishment has a dream sequence of the future that takes place on a runaway subway car in Long Island, complete with monster infestation. It's literally the only scene in the game that isn't set in Japan.
- The Liberty City version of the subway appears several times in Grand Theft Auto IV. In one mission as Niko, you must follow the train in a car, in an Homage to The French Connection. It gets really crazy in The Ballad of Gay Tony, when you have to destroy a train car and then steal another one.
- The Liberty City version of the subway also appears in Grand Theft Auto III.
- The Darkness, where it serves as the Hub Level.
- No More Heroes features a level that takes place in a subway station, and later on an actual train used to get to a distant fight. Both were obviously inspired by New York subways.
- Appears in Street Fighter III 3rd Strike as the America stage (fittingly, since Alex is a native New Yorker.) A sign in the background says "42". There are 3 different 42nd street stations in the city, and the stage doesn't resemble any one of them specifically.
- Def Jam: Fight For New York has a level set in a subway station.
- Need for Speed: The Run has you DRIVING THROUGH the tunnels in its final level...and the trains are still running. It seems in this universe, subway trains can reach bullet train speeds seeing as how you can't outrun one despite driving a hypercar capable of 200+ mph at full throttle.
- Parasite Eve has a small section of the game take place inside a subway tunnel in New York City, complete with a boss fight. One of the tracks has a huge gaping hole at one end, which Aya notes that it would cause one hell of a train wreck.
- Though not the subway proper, Battlefield 3's final mission has Solomon's terror plot focused on a hijacked train in the underground section of the Long Island Railroad, on its way to Times Square, where he plans to detonate a stolen Russian suitcase nuke.
- Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA has the two New York courses, both of which have shortcuts that take you through the subway. Unfortunately, the trains are running, which can spell death if you don't move out of the way when oncoming trains show up. In addition, there are mice in the subway than can be run over, or turned into killer mice that destroy your car through a cheat code.
- The Unova region in the fifth generation Pokémon games is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of New York City. The subway system exists in lieu of the Battle Tower present in previous games. From a central station in Nimbasa City, the player can take one of a multitude of lines and engage in a battle-til-you-lose tournament. Each line has a different format such as single, double, triple, and rotation battles.
- Crysis 2 has the protagonist move through a near-future, near-destroyed New York City, including several subway stations and tunnels. This includes the long abandoned City Hall station.
- The first few chapters of Max Payne takes place in the fictional Roscoe Street Station.
- The New York Subway is one of many metros you can reinvent in Mini Metro. The game also has an alternate level based on an older version of the map (New York City 1972).
- Spider-Man (PS4) cleverly uses the subway system as the game's Fast Travel system. The loading screen even shows Spidey riding the subway like a regular citizen: checking his phone, napping, etc. while almost no one seems to care. You can also hang out on the above-ground stations and hear the iconic closing doors announcement (using the actual recording from the real life MTA!) and there's also a climactic level inside Grand Central, culminating in a bossfight on a running train.
- The third movie in the An American Tail series features an abandoned subway station with small caverns beneath it housing Native American mice who fled when the Europeans came. The Beach Pneumatic Railway system actually did exist at the time the movies took place, and it was abandoned, so the writers at least did some research.
- The Simpsons: The family is in town in "City of New York vs. Homer Simpson" and so naturally they take it. Bart tries the sob story panhandling routine, complete with licking a subway pole to show how he was "born without taste buds." After tasting it, he quickly decides that he's in over his head and quits.
- Futurama: When Fry, Leela, and Bender explore the abandoned "Old New York City" in "The Luck of the Fryrish" they get around by Bender running on an old subway line by using his feet for wheels while Fry and Leela ride on his back. Oddly enough, the line is still electrified despite being over a thousand years old and in a state of decay. Bender makes a fake subway announcement informing his "passengers" that they're on the "B train" traveling nonstop to "wherever the hell [he] feels like" ending it with an imitation of the iconic "Stand clear of the closing doors... Bing-Bong!"
- The best NYC Subway website ever.
- A New York Post photographer was heavily criticized in 2012 after he took a picture of a man who was thrown onto the subway tracks seconds before the man was killed by an oncoming train. Then the Post itself ran that picture on the front page with the headline "DOOMED." The picture, which is on the front page of the New York Post, is currently the trope image of If It Bleeds, It Leads.