New York City is the most populous city in the United States. With over 8 million people living in New York City, it is over twice as large as the second largest city in the U.S. (Los Angeles, CA). With that many people in a relatively small area, it can be difficult to get around. Thankfully the New York City Subway System is the largest rapid transit system in the world by number of stations (468). The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) boasts an average weekday ridership of 5.6 million people per day and operates 24 hours per day, every day of the year.
New York City residents and visitors rely heavily on the subway system for transportation throughout the City. This article provides basic information about safety and emergency response in New York City and when using the Subway System.
General Safety Tips
Here are some general safety tips to follow while using the subway system:
- Be careful not to display money in public.
- Hold onto your pocketbook when using the shoulder strap. Keep the zipper closed with the opening tab in front of you.
- Keep your wallet out of sight, preferably not in your back pocket.
- Cover up jewelry as best as possible.
- Do not sleep on trains – stay awake and observe what is going on around you.
- Be aware of potentially unsafe riders.
- Do not give anyone money on the train.
- Avoid situations that may be staged to distract you while someone else may be attempting to steal your belongings.
- Take off your backpack and hold it in front of you so no one can tamper with it from behind.
- If you see something dangerous or suspicious, alert an MTA employee immediately.
- If there is a potential problem on a train, get off and move to a different car or wait for another train.
- Keep electronic devices tucked away and out of site.
- Travel with a buddy when possible.
While on the platform stay as far away from the yellow line on the edge of the platform as possible. It is preferable to stand or sit with your back to the wall of the station so that no one can approach you from behind. It is also advisable to wait in the middle of the platform and not at the far ends of the station.
When the train arrives, select a car that is populated, preferably with an MTA employee. The Train Conductor’s car is usually in the middle of the train. Some short trains have no conductors, but the Train Operator will be stationed in the first car.
Safety after Dark
Every station has an Off-Hours Waiting Area. Off-Hours Waiting Areas may be located near the station booth, on the middle level in a two-level station, or on the platform. These well-lit areas are marked by yellow signs usually hung from the ceiling.
Try to wait for your train in an Off-Hours Waiting Area when you travel at night. You’ll usually find a bench and a public telephone from which 911 can be called for free.
In stations where you can’t see the platform from the Off-Hours Waiting Area, an electronic sign will alert you to the arrival of a train. Once the sign indicates that a train is coming, you’ll have enough time to reach the platform, so it is advisable you wait near the sign.
Off Hours Waiting Areas that are not in sight of the station agent have a “talk-back box”. You will find talk-back boxes mounted on station columns. You can talk to the station agent using the talk-back box.
There are closed-circuit television cameras in Off-Hours Waiting Areas that are not in sight of the Station Agent. The camera enables the station agent to see you on the platform if you use the talk-back box.
Just like in everyday life, you may encounter emergencies while using the subway system in New York City. In most cases you will receive instructions from MTA emergency responders, conductors or employees.
Instructions are also posted in cars to include response to medical emergencies, fires, police emergencies and emergency evacuations. See the side bar images on pages 1 & 2 which are also posted in all MTA cars.
Some emergencies may require an evacuation from a train while on the tracks. If encountered with an evacuation situation, remember to listen to the instructions given by the train crew or other emergency responders. A recent Inside Edition video gives instruction on how to get off a train during an emergency situation
- Once outside the train there are four ways to evacuate:
- There are bench-like walkways that run along the tracks called Benchwalks. This type of evacuation requires riders to exit the train and walk to the nearest station or exit on the Benchwalk.
- Transfer to a train behind or ahead – exit the car and walk to a train behind or ahead of the disabled train.
- Transfer to a train alongside – exit the car and walk to a train parked adjacent to the disabled train.
- Evacuate to the track bed – power will be turned off on the tracks and you will exit the car and walk within the tracks to the nearest station or emergency exit.
- Never walk on the tracks unless instructed to do so in an emergency! If you drop something on the tracks, leave it and let a transit employee know!
- Never stand on the yellow line!
- Never put your head over the yellow line!