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. New Yorkers riding the subway.
    Transportation

    The Great Divide in How Americans Commute to Work

    We are cleaving into two nations—one where daily life revolves around the car, and the other where the car is receding in favor of walking, biking, and transit.

  2. An archived Geocities family homepage showing a green cottage against a background of fall leaves.
    Life

    How Geocities Suburbanized the Internet

    In the 1990s, AOL and Netscape got Americans onto the web, but it was Geocities—with its suburban-style “neighborhoods”—that made them feel at home.

  3. A photo of a DART light rail train in Dallas, Texas.
    Transportation

    What Cities Are Getting Wrong About Public Transportation

    Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.

  4. A man carrying a young boy on his shoulders amid the fall foliage of New York's Central Park.
    Life

    Which U.S. Cities Have the Most Families With Kids?

    Spoiler alert: It’s simply not the case that families with kids have disappeared from urban America.

  5. A rendering of the Detroit People's Food Co-op
    Equity

    A Black-Led Food Co-op Grows in Detroit

    The Detroit People’s Food Co-op will control food production and dissemination to bring good food and wages to an underserved community.