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The Best Seats on a New York City Subway, According to New Yorkers

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 1/4/2020 Andrea Romano

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(Video via CBS New York)

Ask any New Yorker about the subway, and you will definitely get some strong opinions.

Not only can you expect a tirade on delays, annoying riders, and the random animals (including ducks and raccoons) that dwell near the tracks, but pretty much every New York subway rider will have an opinion on the best seat.

According to Gothamist, a Twitter user posted a photo of empty seats on a D train with numbers added to them. The seats consist of an L-shaped layout, including a three-person bench (numbers one through three) and a two-person bench (numbers four and five) that sits perpendicular to the three-seater.

The Twitter user asked, “All my New Yorkers, which is the best seat?”

Of course, New York Twitter responded with gusto.

For all the non-New Yorkers out there, you may think that a seat is just a seat, and that there’s no real difference between them, right? Wrong. There are lots of pros and cons to which seat you choose (or settle for, more often).

For example, seat one is closest to the door, and if you get on the side where the door opens at your stop, you’re likely to be first off the subway. What bliss. The con, however, is that you may have to deal with an annoying straphanger leaning on the bars or standing with their heavy backpack pushed into your face. It can get uncomfortable.

The advantage of seat two is that it's most likely to be empty, even on a fairly crowded day. If you're lucky enough to encounter riders who don’t sit directly in the middle of two seats (the nerve), you may be able to rest your feet. Of course, this seat also means you’re more likely to be smushed between other riders, especially when everyone is wearing puffy winter coats.

Seat three offers a bit more room, since it’s on the edge of a bench, but you may also run into people pushing their knees into you.

Seat four is also often left empty, since some people are a bit too tall to sit in the narrow area. However, if you can manage to squeeze in, you'll have a nice corner and very few space issues, even in a crowded car.

Seat five is also a good option because it has the benefits of seats four and three, but with a little legroom. Most people opt to sit with their backs to seat four, but if you do that, you’ll wind up with your legs in a narrow aisle, so expect dirty looks.

However, as Gothamist points out, there is no “best” seat since no one is the same. Also, the question itself does not account for other factors, like how crowded the train is, who you’re sitting next to, or the duration of your trip.

Still, people had their opinions. There’s no clear winner in this debate, but there were a lot of responses, including from celebrities like J. Smith-Cameron (HBO’s Succession), author Bess Kalb, and actress/author Amber Tamblyn.

You could say, one man’s (or woman’s) best seat is another man’s (or woman’s) worst. If New Yorkers can agree on anything, it’s that we can’t agree on where to sit.

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