Capturing the Dance of the NYC Subway Rider

In a short video, part comedy/part anthropological study, The New York Times documents "The Subway Shuffle": that "daily gamble" as NYC commuters dash "to victory, or despair" between local and express trains arriving on the same platform.

Matt Flegenheimer describes the complicated calculus performed daily by riders of the N, R or Q trains, traveling uptown through Midtown Manhattan, which is caused by an MTA dispatching quirk.

"Every morning, during peak commuting periods, two trains often arrive at about the same time. Sometimes the express leaves first. Sometimes it is the local. Sometimes at least two local trains will depart before a single express does. Sometimes they move together. And virtually every time there is a decision to be made, riders scamper across the platform, groping for a competitive travel advantage even as they are unsure why they have made their choice."

"It's a gamble that you take," Michelle Price, 34, an investment adviser, said of the dash. "Sometimes you win; sometimes you don't."

"But there is often a deeper indignity conveyed in the expression of the blundering traveler - a rare unguarded moment, when many others are spent with faces buried in iPod playlists or other reading material. Heads shake. Eyes roll. Teeth clench. Sometimes, someone chuckles in resignation. They have gambled, and the city has won."

Full Story: In Commuters’ Daily Gamble, Dashing to Victory, or Despair



Irvin Dawid's picture

Which grocery line do you choose?

For those who don't understand the conundrum facing these subway commuters at these stops, I think it's a bit like choosing which line at the grocery store to wait on.....except without the shopping cart.
I only wish I had such difficult choices to make in my daily commute, which is more along the lines of, if Caltrain is delayed and I don't know for how long, do I take a bus?
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Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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