MTA board member: ‘We should ban backpacks’ on the subway

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MANHATTAN (PIX11) -- If you’ve ever squeezed your way into a crowded New York City subway car, you’ve inevitably encountered this character.

The straphanger who, despite the cramped conditions, refuses to take off his backpack to make room.

But if one MTA board member has his way, that rider who draws the ire of his fellow squished straphangers would be subject to a special rule.

At this month's transit committee meeting, MTA board members are hearing statistics that confirm what riders know: The trains are packed and delays are common.

Board member Chuck Moerdler on Monday asked about projects to add more capacity, and staff members pointed to communication-based train control that could allow more trains to run.

During the meeting, Moerdler complained about crowding on trains and commented that some riders wearing backpacks -- instead of putting them in the floor -- contributed to the problem.

"I think we should ban backpacks," Moerdler said.

The idea was not discussed further. He later explained to PIX11 News that rather than ban backpacks all together, he thinks the agency's code of conduct should be tweaked to require that straphangers take off their backpacks or put them on the floor.

MTA Rules of Conduct require riders not to obstruct the flow of traffic or take up more than one seat, but don’t specifically lay out the rules of backpack etiquette.

According to a portion of Section 1050.6, no rider may:

(i) conduct himself or herself in any manner which may cause or tend to cause annoyance, alarm or inconvenience to a reasonable person or create a breach of the peace;

(j) (1) occupy more than one seat on a station, platform or conveyance when to do so would interfere or tend to interfere with the operation of the Authority's transit system or the comfort of other passengers; (2) place his or her foot on a seat on a station, platform or conveyance; (3) lie on the floor, platform, stairway, landing or conveyance; or (4) block free movement on a station, stairway, platform or conveyance; ...



  • Kat

    How about the MTA get rid of some over-pad, under-working managers, supervisors, and etc. and use those funds for more staffers for buses and trains running, as well as people to clean the trains? There would be less-cramped trains and cleaner floors for people to risk putting stuff down. If seen trains with floors covered in feces and urine, so no thanks! Keeping my stuff on me or in-hand. I’ve seen trains pull up during rush hour that were empty on the N, meanwhile the D pull up with people practically fornicating with the subway door.

  • Angel

    The floors are NOT always clean enough to put my backpack down. They’re forgetting there’s people who ride the subway and leave trash behind. The last time I put my book bag down, there was spilled coffee on the subway floor and soaked the bottom of my bag. That was the last time I ever took my backpack off…

  • nygrl4evr

    The subway floors are beyond disgusting, plus I would think it could be a safety issue because if people had to get out of a subway car in a hurry how fast can you grab your bag off the floor of a packed subway car before people start falling over you and your bag. Not a very well thought out idea if you think about it.

  • Michael Bastianelli

    I always place my backpack if wearing it in front of me or hold it in my hand in front while riding the subway. Placing on the ground on a packed train is actually dangerous. I’ve seen people trip over bags laying by the feet of those sitting in the seats. Sad they are discussing this when the real issue is how disgusting the trains and buses are. When I go on a bus and the seats have a cloth layer and are all brown and black from obvious over use.. they SHOULD BE removed and replaced. It would be nice if they upgraded their outdated metrocard.. I am sure many can agree that they have encountered the dreaded “just used” on the subway entries. I should be able to replace it INSTANTLY if lost of damaged. I shouldn’t have to wait 2 weeks or a month later to get my money back or get a card replacement.

  • chris

    First thing the train
    Stinks with homeless people also they suspended the express services too early some of us still work late hours at least end the express services in the busy line like @ 1am

  • Fred

    How about teaching people to move to the middle? It’s no doubt the biggest issue other than the people who insist on leaning or standing by the door and don’t move for those going in/out.

  • Nubia

    I am simply not doing this. I keep my back pack on so that strange men do not have the opportunity to rub up against me. Let the trains stay crowded. As a women I would rather let people keep their bags on than to be subjected to being touched by strangers in a crowded train car.

  • Michael Transit Buff

    Funny how the MTA NYC Transit is getting worse and worse and people are complaining and complaining about crowded Subway when they can just wait for another one. The MTA is really horrible in bus service, especially in Queens since the Takeover of the Private Bus Companies (Triboro Coach, Queens Surface, Green Lines). Jerome Cooper who owned all those companies even said “Let’s see if the MTA can provide service better and cheaper than ours”. It’s worse and more expensive ever since. And the fact that their buses keeps breaking down and their saying their retiring them when the whole time they’re never retired they could’ve over haul (or rebuild) the bus so the can be stronger.

  • Walt Gekko

    There would be a lot of unintended consequences of such a rule. Besides the fact that kids used them for the most part to and from school (and I’m old enough to remember what it was like before backpacks started becoming common in the late 1970’s), a lot of people use them to carry packages. It would have a serious impact on business, especially as there are messengers who often need them to carry a lot of packages to and from businesses and can’t always use a bike (I speak from my own experiences in the early-to-mid 1980s and always used backpacks for that purpose).

    Sure, some people are guilty of it, but some don’t like to take them off because they are afraid they will get stolen. That is something people don’t realize.

  • Jarvisimo

    This is everything that’s wrong with the MTA. The dumbest, least effective solution to a real problem. Hey, MTA, the house is on fire. “Well, in that case, no one is allowed to use the microwave anymore. “

  • Michael N

    And what about the one million students who take the subway every day? Are they to just walk with their backpacks five miles to school?

  • S. Trevor Swenson

    And yet the MTA workers who stand around en masse doing nothing with union protected jobs and large salaries and benefits never seems to be discussed. I have written to Greg Mocker about this, and yet…nothing. The next time you happen by an MTA project or “work site” do a quick count to see how many are working and how many are standing or sitting around. While I support good wages, workplace protections and benefits…is a 4 or 5 hour workday where people actually work too much to ask? Every few years the MTA cries about their multi-billion dollar shortfalls, so they can raise fares…Yet they have money to make signs on the buses and trains about what an amazing job they’re doing. Does the MTA really need to toot it’s own horn? You got us…there is no other public transportation entity. Address the bureaucracy, address the corruption, address that it’s getting harder and harder to get a seat on a bus or train regardless of what time of day or night it is, address that one can’t ride the train without being yelled at by beggars or almost kicked by “dancers”, and address the almost constant rudeness and apathy of MTA staffmembers…Then we can talk about backpacks.

    • rymphsklymptor

      There are very particular jobs on construction sites, many of which involve waiting for one part to be completed before progress with all workers can move forward. This is true from a surgery situation, to the printing process, oil drilling, and hundreds of other things in which some have to wait around for an expert to do their thing before the other less skilled do what they are hired to do and at a level that is proficient for them. This is where the phrase ‘hurry up and wait’ comes from. I do understand your point and frustration, but some of it is with reason that things are done as they are, and may appear wrong to you, and btw, I am no fan of the MTA in how they run things either.

  • rymphsklymptor

    why focus on this, vs. safety of waiting riders by placing a barrier between the open track and the people so no more get tossed or pushed onto tracks for the crime of just waiting for a train? this is deflection of real problems instead of taking care of what they were hired to do.

  • BKTO

    Funny how backpacks are a problem but there’s nothing wrong with the 4-person baby strollers people use to carry their groceries instead of their kids. Or the bicyclists who bring their bikes on at the height of rush hour and block everything

  • sam

    Mmm, yeah, I bet all those school kids that’s need to take the subway to school every morning are going to just love having to carry overly heavy bags in one hand for however long their subway ride may be. And yet, they’re talking about banning backpacks but I don’t hear about getting any stricter about people with big bikes on the subway or tourists with overly heavy suitcases.

  • Joanna

    I’m sorry (actually not even a bit) that I, as a student, have to say this, but if you haven’t noticed almost 75% of people on MTA subways are commuting students and workers, who obviously NEED backpacks for school and for work.
    If you are really banning backpacks on the subways, that’s telling us that we students are not welcomed to take public transportation, which can be totally fine. Sure, we’ll have our parents drive us to school, totally no problem. However, that’s not going to do good for the NYC traffic jams during rush hours, which is already bad enough, and also that won’t help the MTA business either. Yes, it would be an effective way to just simply ban them, but you are just turning people away and against public transportation
    If you think banning backpacks on MTA subways, think again.

  • Draco

    Great, majority of students can’t go on trains after this ban. The floor’s dirty and it’s going to get trampled. Next thing you know is that they’re going to ban baby carriages, but wait, why not canes that elderly people use as well. MTA needs people with brains, not money-hungry businessmen that keep raising prices despite all the objection.

  • Wolfe

    I’m one of the few people who actually puts my backpack to the side with my hand. Many people don’t do it. These people have big massive backpacks that people. Each time some jerk hits me with their bag, I hit it back. I do understand the floors being dirty. The straphangers aren’t any help bringing food on the train and leaving it on the floor. If you don’t feel like holding your garbage, don’t bring any on the train. Also, I’m a courier so I need to travel with my backpack. I always make sure it’s not in anyone’s way. People also need to learn to move in the damn middle of train. Way too many people just stand close to the door, making boarding the train slower than it should be. It’s annoying how y fellow riders are mostly inconsiderate and then get mad at the MTA when something goes wrong. Straphangers are just as much of a cause for train delays and overcrowding as much as the crappy service the MTA provides.

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