This occasion calls for a dance party of one. Blair Kay/Flickr

“Was it something I said?”

An empty transit car is the urban unicorn. Boarding one is about as likely as snagging a loaf of bread from a Trader Joe’s in the face on an impending snowstorm.

As of July 1, 2014, New York City’s population numbered 8,491,079. Total number of subway cars: 6,366.

There’s much that plays into how these two variables work in tandem: the location of the train, the time of day, and any number of other confounding factors. But still. That’s one car per 1,334 people.

Sometimes, though, a vancant car will roll up to a station and collect a lone commuter. And when that happens, people freak out.

The unoccupied car has a bit of a reputation. A 2006 travel guide in The New York Times says outright: “Avoid empty cars.”

Why? According to artist Nathan Pyle, author of NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette, they’re empty for a reason. Whatever that reason is, suffice to say you will not want to smell it.

(Nathan Pyle)

Some intrepid transit riders out there, though, decide to brave it. What do they find? Pure, unadulterated joy.

”I've sprinted from one end of the car to the other playing with the gravity pull as the car pummels on,” Jando S. writes on Yelp.

Yelper Kajitsu N. is even more enthusiastic:

IT’S THE FUCKING BOMB.

I love it - the doors close and you can SING YOUR FUCKING HEART OUT AND NOBODY GIVES A SHIT.

I can't do that at home.

One Chicago Transit Authority passenger took the opportunity to further her yoga practice:

General acrobatics are also acceptable.

A photo posted by spring cooper (@springc) on

Some passengers, though, get a little more contemplative.

One London Rail commuter wonders, from the Landan Victoria station, if he somehow offended his transit system:

Was it something I said? #fridaynighttravel #emptytrain #southerrail

A photo posted by Barney Fox (@barnabyfox) on

Chicago Yelper Claire Y writes:

Irony:  In this over-populated city, we're always looking for a little more room for privacy and frowning upon that sweaty guy who just ran down the stairs to the platform and is trying to squeeze into the bursting subway car during the morning rush hour.... and yet should the occasion arise where we're riding the train all alone in a subway car in the wee hours of the morning, we are suddenly overcome by the sentiments of subtle fear and even loneliness...

An insight which is nicely summed up with some musical accompaniment:

A video posted by Stephanie Dluhos (@dluhosfotos) on

But really, this New Yorker has the right idea: Just embrace the weirdness of it all and have the time of your life.

A video posted by Andrew Wojtek (@andrewwoj) on

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Coronavirus

    Why Asian Countries Have Succeeded in Flattening the Curve

    To help flatten the curve in the Covid-19 outbreak, officials at all levels of government are asking people to stay home. Here's what’s worked, and what hasn't.

  2. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

  3. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

  4. photo: a bicycle rider wearing a mask in London
    Coronavirus

    In a Global Health Emergency, the Bicycle Shines

    As the coronavirus crisis forces changes in transportation, some cities are building bike lanes and protecting cycling shops. Here’s why that makes sense.

  5. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

×