Train crews dish about what like and loathe, along with weird tales from the job
Some lines have sharper dressed riders than others. The A train has nice vista views. And the No. 4 train has good food where the line ends in Brooklyn.For straphangers and train crews alike, what makes a subway line good or bad is a matter of individual taste.
Breaking it down to several categories, we asked a dozen train operators and conductors what they liked and loathed about particular lines:Riders:
Riders of each line have their quirks.
• The D train has people schlepping in fish heads from Chinatown; a lively mariachi band; and kids from rival Brooklyn high schools fighting each other and holding the doors, workers said.
Then there are the Yankee fans.
“They come tanked up,” Mike Smith said. “You can never find a cop to throw them out.”
• Straphangers on the east side of Manhattan dress better than those on the west side, with downtown riders especially dapper, said Dan Clemente, 34, a train conductor on the No. 6 line.
• Several train workers said they preferred tourists to New Yorkers, because they tend to be politer and ask better questions.
“A typical New Yorker will say, ‘Yo chief, you stop around 42nd Street?’” said Bill Graham, 54, a train operator for 29 years.
• Hipsters on the G also often “lack common sense,” said Ray Costanza, 44, a train operator from Brooklyn.
But for all the headaches, there are also the riders who smile and greet those they see during their commute, including a woman who would bring desserts to Graham on the N line. Once, a guy that gaveClemente a $10 tip after he held the doors for him.
“It’s not as faceless as it seems,” Graham said. “I’ve had friendships develop.”
The break rooms are like clubhouses. Some are snobby or filled with complaining, while others are like little families, where people bring in cookies and keep a pot of coffee brewing.
“You find comradery,” said Torin Reid, 51, a train operator who finds the G room to be particularly close knit.
Sunshine and nature:
Some train workers feel fine toiling away all day in the dark, but many crave the moment where they pop aboveground. The Rockaways are a favorite location, with seagulls, dunes and the smell of seawater.
“The pigeons board the train at Far Rockaway. I have no idea if they’ve paid their fares or not,” said Tristan Zieley, 39, a train operator who likes the A line.
Other nature sightings include hawks and towering trees along the No. 5 train in the Bronx and raccoons in Brooklyn on the D line.
Some workers love the new trains, claiming the air conditioning is cooler and the driver’s seat more comfortable. Others hate the automated announcements and a radio that often blares into the cab. Many train operators can’t stand the old trains on the A line, as they have to straddle the main navigation switch.
“You are basically humping the master controller,” said Michael Smith, 44, a train operator for 23 years.Route length:
Some train workers enjoy the short runs of the G and Q lines, while others want to do two long runs and then call it a day — like on the No. 5. Curvy routes like the No. 3 and No. 6 are often viewed as tough lines, as are lines that stop a lot like the F. ...
From panicking claustrophobics to human excrement smeared all over the cars, train crews have seen the good, bad and really weird. Here’s some of the oddest incidents veteran workers have witnessed:
- A customer on the M banged on train operator Elliot Ekenazi’s door while the line was stuck and begged to get off, saying he was claustrophobic. Four months later, the same guy did it again. “I said, ‘You shut up and sit down. You have to behave yourself,” said Ekenazi, 56.
- A drunk man stumbled onto a No. 2 train during rush hour and passed out on the floor. He stayed that way for 13 stops, with people stepping on and over him, said Dan Clemente.
- Torin Reid was walking through the L train tunnel in Manhattan when he caught two men engaged in oral sex. “One guy laughs and runs. Then other one says, ‘I seem to have lost my way,’” Reid said.
- A bunch of tourists stripped their clothes on a D train leaving Coney Island when they thought no one could see them, said train operator Michael Smith. “They put on a show,” said Smith, 44. Riders have also asked him to stop women from breastfeeding on the train.
- Reid observed an injured rider jump down on the tracks at Jay Street to fetch his crutch, then roll back on the platform before the F train could hit him. “No body helped him. People were just reading their newspapers,” he said.