Please Use All Available Doors

This is a phrase used by subway conductors very often to let passengers know that the train doors are about to close and you need to be either on or off the train.  Most subway trains in New York City have 10 cars, 3 or 4 doors per car, depending on the division you are riding (“A” Division with the numbered lines, or “B” Division with the lettered lines).  The trains on the numbered lines (1-7) have three doors per car, so a 10-car train would have 30 doors; most trains on the lettered lines (A-Z) have four doors per car, so a 10-car train would have 40 doors.  The only exception is those trains whose cars are 75 feet long versus 60 feet on a standard B Division train, which have 4 doors on each of 8 cars, so the amount of doors would equal 32 on those trains.

With that said, please use any of those 30-40 doors on the train, instead of everyone cramming into one door like it’s the only door on the train.  It pisses off conductors to see many people trying to cram into one door when there are two or three other doors in the same car that people could use to enter a crowded train.  This excessive door holding can cause delays to an already delayed train and can even prevent the doors from opening at stations down the line.  When this happens, we have to stop service to go to the door and lock it to prevent the door from opening and causing even more delays.  This is called “cutting out a door” in transit speak.  When a door has to be cut out, that door panel or panels will not open at later stations, which means that the train will be slowed down even further because people will have to either use the other panel to exit that door or use another door altogether.

When we ask that passengers “use all available doors,” it’s not in vain…quite the opposite.  We just want to keep the trains moving, and passengers moving by allowing as much free movement on and off the train as possible.  Now, we do realize that riders tend to be creatures of habit when they have a particular door in a particular car positioned so that when the train gets to their stop, they are right by the stairwell or by their preferred exit of the their stop.  However, if it is too crowded at that particular door, you should try to find another door to stand or sit by in that car, or move to another car with an alternate preferred door by an alternate exit or stairwell.  We are pretty sure that everyone who gets off the same stop as you might have the same idea as you, but if there is room otherwise, it’s best for the good of the service to use it.  After all, the platforms are 8 to 10 cars long, and not being in your preferred car doesn’t mean you have to wait for the next train with open space in your car.  You can simply find another nearby car and use any of those doors.  It’s even more so important during the rush hours, when trains are packed and space is minimal but crucial.

We would prefer to keep trains moving at steady paces and spaced apart than to have door-related delays which cause some trains to stall and make intervals between trains uneven.  Even though most riders don’t feel we have a set schedule, the train crews and dispatchers have to keep everything running timely so that riders can enjoy their ride and not be forced into cattle car situations.  That should be the next topic of discussion.

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4 Responses to Please Use All Available Doors

  1. Johan says:

    I can see the point, but when the WMATA conductors say this at Prince George’s Plaza on a morning green line train bound for Greenbelt (meaning, the train is almost empty, and almost no one is going to board or disembark) I get puzzled. It also makes me want to behave like an electron, going through several doors at the same time.

    • C. Walton says:


      I frequent DC quite a bit, and a lot of what they do down at WMATA is following their rules by the book regardless of the ridership level at the time. No train operator wants to be written up by supervision for not following a script regardless of whether the train was crowded or not, because they don’t want someone to write a complaint letter about a delay in service that couldn’t be rectified by the operator. Especially with the presence of social media and smartphones with camera and video capabilities, no one wants to be disciplined for not complying with rule and endangering the confidence of the riding public, as absurd as the rule might be.

      • Johan says:

        I see what you mean, but all drivers say very different thing in the speakers (with the exception of “Train moving”, which I do see the point with). The “use all available doors” is a phrase I hear very rarely. Much more often I will just hear noise coming out of the speakers, or irrelevant information like “This is the first station in Montgomery county” (ticket prices do not depend on jurisdiction, but on distance) or “Your time is 08:23… uh… AM… and today is the 6th of April… uh… 2014.. uh… correction… 2015”. I look forward to the 7000 series with automated station calls.

      • C. Walton says:

        Those “irrelevant” pieces of information aren’t always necessary but to those who pay taxes to their jurisdictions who pay for WMATA and subsidize the service levels of Metro in their counties, it’s something to improve customer confidence in Metro providing reliable service to the region. Especially since you have the families and assistants of politicians and prominent federal workers riding Metro to work, a little bit of what you and I would call “irrelevant” information goes a long way. WMATA is in the business of customer service to the federal government. Yes, fares are based on distance, but it’s helpful to know that if you are entering another jurisdiction, you know where your service is going and how far you are going within or out of a jurisdiction, i.e. what service your taxes are subsidizing. That is not to say that the 7000s won’t be programmed with some of this information either as part of the station announcements (“This station is…Friendship Heights, first stop in the District of Columbia”) or as a public service announcement (like “Ladies and Gentlemen, the time is 8:00am, thank you for choosing Metro”). We shall see…

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