Are Subway Riders the Angriest Commuters?

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The Times has been running a series this month, called Next Stop, about the experience of commuting in the New York metro region. Reporter Billie Cohen took a different route to or from Manhattan every weekday, riding all manner of buses, trains, and subways. No bike commutes so far (and with just a few days left in the series it’s probably safe to assume there won’t be any).

Of particular interest, given the relevance of transit access to the discussion of congestion pricing, was this profile of the X68 Express Bus from Midtown to Floral Park, Queens, which left me wondering how those commuters might see their trips change — or not — in the coming year.

Then on Sunday, in an article summarizing her experience, Cohen uncorked this dour portrait of subway commuters:

…the unhappiest travelers I found were on the subway. Worn out by drudgery, angered by slow service, they were the most vocal and the least satisfied, and that makes sense.

Despite their deep wells of anger, subway riders were generally the most reticent and the most difficult to engage. In a city of ubiquitous crowds, their commute remains a bastion of anonymity.

Speaking for everyone who rides the subway, I’ll admit there’s a grain of truth to this, but c’mon — "deep wells of anger"? Sure it’s frustrating when there’s a service delay or the train gets packed, and maybe people on the subway do want to keep to themselves by and large. Despite all that, any anger on display runs pretty shallow, I think, compared to the code of conduct and common decency most straphangers abide by — not to mention the deep-seated anger to be found above ground.

Photo: Runs With Scissors/Flickr

  • YouGotAProblemWiddat?

    “seating on the F and D allows for the most seating and does not depend on “making space” by people already seated.”

    The right angle seats do not make for the most seats because they do not account for the fact that not everybody is the same size. Moreover, they reduce standing area, and create obstacles for people trying to move in or through the car. They’re a terrible design.

    I’m a medium-sized adult male. I’m not huge. Of the five possible spots in the cars that have the right angle arrangement, I only fit in two of them (really only one comfortably). On the bench style seats, there’s a much greater chance that I’ll be able to sit without getting completely smushed.

  • Hilary

    Hip-height bars along the sides allow most people to rest comfortably — more than hanging on a strap. If the seats were fold-up, more passengers could be accommodated during crush periods (and in the crowded segments of the route). And again I raise the idea of overhead racks to remove some of the space-consuming packages..

  • Christine Berthet

    my personal experience is that the car commuters are the angriest, and most agressive. I would bet anything htat there is a a higher rate of heart attacks and stress in car commuting than in mass transit.
    these pepole are really insane.
    At the netrance of the linconl tunnel we have observed many of them step out of their cars and fight with each others.. if you touch their cars they scream like crazy..

    but yes, the design of most cars needs to be improved.

  • gecko

    As endless window-less rooms traveling underground is not the greatest.

    Physiological and psychological comparisons to comparable above ground transit would likely provide easy proof.

    People hunker down and tune out until the ordeal is over.

  • Hilary

    A subway is not an endless windowless room. Each station is different, and many are beautifully restored. It is a shame that the aesthetics of the Fulton Street Station may be abandoned.

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