Riders waiting for the L train on a packed subway platform at Union Square in Manhattan last month. Subway use, now at nearly 1.8 billion rides a year, has not been this high in New York City since 1948.Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times
For New Yorkers who rely on the 86th Street subway station on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the morning commute is a humbling experience. An endless stream of people funnel onto the platforms. Trains arrive with a wall of humanity already blocking the doorways.
As No. 6 trains pull into the upper level of the station, riders scan for an opening and, if they can, squeeze in for a suffocating ride downtown.
“You can wait four or five subways to get on, and you’re just smushed,” Cynthia Hallenbeck, the chief financial officer at a nonprofit, said before boarding a train on a recent morning.
The Lexington Avenue line is the most crowded in the system, but subway riders across New York City are finding themselves on platforms and trains that are beyond crowded. L train stations in Brooklyn are routinely overwhelmed. In Queens, No. 7 train riders regularly endure packed conditions.
The crowded trains can make for tense commutes, contributing to an uptick in assaults among disgruntled passengers, the transit police say. With crowds lining the platform edge, some riders and train operators worry that someone could fall onto the tracks.
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