You can’t be too drunk. You can’t carry a cup of water. And you can’t hold the closing doors for that guy who’s running down the stairs.
These are just a few of the more obscure MTA rules that, while somewhat ambiguous and often broken, are rarely enforced. Some are ignored so often people don’t even realize they are breaking the rules.
“People do it all the time, I think they’re kind of stupid laws,” said Carroll Gardens resident Martha Bordman, 62, remarking on the rule that bans commuters from carrying objects that interfere with passenger traffic. “People take the subway in New York, they don’t have cars. I understand why people need to schlep their stuff around.”
John Goldschmidt, 27, called some of the rules “kind of silly” but said it ultimately depends on the circumstances.
“They need to be more specific with what the rules are,” said the actor.
Goldschmidt was commuting with his wife, Maria, 2-year-old daughter, Mia — and Mia’s stroller.
“The train was about to leave and she was still coming down,” said Maria Goldschmidt, 25, adding they held the door for little Mia. “I never thought of it — I didn’t know that fines exist for that.”
Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman, said the rules in question help maintain order and create a “safe and pleasant” riding experience.
“These rules are established to promote safety, to facilitate the proper use of transit facilities, to protect those transit facilities and our customers, and to assure the payment of fares and other lawful charges,” Ortiz said in an email. “In other words, to make riding our system as safe and pleasant an experience as possible for our customers.”
Number of subway fines issued in 2015 (and fine amount):
Obstruction of seating: 3,066 ($50)
Interfering with movement: 168 ($100)
Impairment by alcohol or drugs: 8 ($50)
Causing annoyance: 26 ($50)
Liquid in open container: 16 ($25)
Littering, etc.: 619 ($50)
Unauthorized commercial activity: 882 ($50)
Carrying obstructive object: 1 ($75)
No person can "conduct himself or herself in any manner which may cause or tend to cause annoyance, alarm or inconvenience to a reasonable person or create a breach of the peace"; and if you do, you could face a $50 fine for your trouble.
Carrying obstructive objects
You'd be slapped with a $75 fine for carrying any object that "constitutes a hazard to the operation of the Authority, interferes with passenger traffic, or impedes service," according to the Transit Adjudication Bureau. But the rule is fairly vague in its wording, and could seemingly mean carrying anything from a large suitcase on a crowded rush hour train to a bicycle. Only one person was cited for that offense last year.
You'd be written a $50 fine if you "lie down or place feet on the seat of a train, bus or platform bench or occupy more than one seat." The rule, however, does not make an exception for a completely empty train.
Carrying liquid in open containers
This rule prohibits riders from carrying "any liquid in an open container," including an open coffee cup, in order to prevent slipping hazards. Anyone who breaks this rule can face a $25 fine.
Interfering with movement
Riders can be fined $100 for interfering with movement (preventing the doors from closing, included), but only 168 people were fined in 2015 for it, according to the MTA. It also includes "activating the emergency brake in a non-emergency or other interference that will delays or accidents."
Unauthorized commercial activity
You will have to pay up $50 if you're caught "advertising" anything for sale. Similarly, riders can't distribute "food, goods, services, or entertainment (including the free distribution of promotional goods or materials)."
You'll be slapped with $50 fine if you "litter, dump garbage, liquids or other matter," including "spitting, or urinating, except in facilities."
Impairment by alcohol or drugs
Passengers who appear to be excessively drunk can be slapped with a $50 fine if their ability to function safely is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Eight people were fined for that in 2015. "I think it could be a public safety issue," said Sunnyside resident Rebecca Devers, 38.