New York's huge subway system includes the notorious Lexington Avenue Line that runs along Manhattan's East Side, which has the distinction of serving more riders than the entire Washington Metro. While that makes for a cool stat, it's also an enormous problem: mass transit ridership is growing substantially, and the line is completely tapped out. It's basically impossible to run any more trains on it, and the trains that do run there are physically smaller than those on many of the city's other lines. Attempting to ride it during rush hour — which over a million people do every day — is a little like punching yourself in the face.
Fortunately, there's a solution coming. (That was sarcasm.)
The MTA is pilot testing stickers on the floors at one of the Lexington Avenue Line's stations, 51st Street, that will urge the hundreds of sweaty commuters attempting to pile through each door of the overcrowded train to get out of the way so others can get off first. If people can move on and off the train more efficiently, the theory goes, they'll be able to move out of the stations faster. The logic is sound, but let's be real: writing "step aside" on the ground isn't going to magically turn subway stations into bastions of efficiency. (The MTA is testing two designs — as you can see above — but I don't have much hope that either one is going to get the job done.)
That said, it's hard to blame the agency for resorting to asking commuters nicely to board hopelessly overcrowded trains in an orderly fashion. It's still roughly $15 billion short of what it has said it needs to upgrade and expand the crumbling, nightmarish system over the next five years, which could affect the opening of the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway that's designed to help alleviate Lexington Avenue Line overcrowding. (Don't even ask about funding phases two through four, which are needed to complete it; at this point, they're decades away at best.) A lot of the funding for the system comes from the state of New York — more than the city — but legislators completed their most recent session without taking up the issue.
Meanwhile, the next time you find yourself waiting for a 4, 5, or 6 train wondering if your fragile body can survive the crush of humanity trying to board the same tin can that you are, remember to "step aside." Problem solved.