Everything You Wanted to Know About the New York City Subway

The New York City subway is sprawling system, with more than 5 million people per day (and sometimes many more, on special occasions) passing through more than 460 stations. There is probably someone who knows more about the intricacies of the system than Max Diamond, but whoever it is, I don’t know him or her.

Diamond is a transportation engineering student at the City College of New York and a “rail fan”—he studies budgets and plans, delves into contracts and historical minutia, and, of course, pays close attention whenever he’s riding the subway. Every time he rides it, he brings a camera on the off chance he spots something that’s not quite right.

Diamond runs the DJ Hammers YouTube channel, which features roughly 1,500 videos shot on the subway. These videos feature trains entering and leaving stations, new and rare subway announcements, subway rails catching fire, and lots of other sorts of weirdness you won’t notice if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

“I don’t usually just film any train departing and arriving, i like seeking out these reroutes—say you’re waiting for the F train at 14th St. and all of a sudden an N train came in, that’s something I would love to film because it’s unusual, it’s odd, it’s out of the ordinary,” Diamond told me. “Whenever I’m traveling around the city I bring my camera with me just in case something comes up.”

I learned about Diamond from this very informative Ask Me Anything he did on the NYCRail subreddit. But I had lots of additional questions (namely: Is the G train the actual worst or what?), so I called him in to talk about the past, present, and future of the New York City subway and about mass transit in general.

You can subscribe to Radio Motherboard on iTunes and on Stitcher.

Show Notes:

6:06 – Railfan – it’s a thing!

10:30 – A Division and B Division

14:20 – Many thanks to James Somers of The Atlantic, who wrote this incredibly informative article about why New York subway lines are missing countdown clocks.

24:00 – L Train power upgrades

25:00 – The Second Avenue Subway was proposed back in the 1910s.

37:00 – Here’s the article Diamond is referencing

38:00 – This is a good article about the G train

39:30 – This is a great article about open gangway subway trains (and America’s resistance to them)

41:40 – More information about cell phone service on the New York City subway

43:10 – The Infuriating History of How Metro Got So Bad

45:30 – Here’s some of the other best subway systems in the world, according to a totally subjective list