How long do you think it would take for you to travel to every subway station in Manhattan? College students James Doernberg and Kai Jordan found an answer to that question this past Wednesday, when they travelled to all 118 subway stations in Manhattan to take selfies. "The whole trip took 9 hours almost to the minute, and was quite a challenge, as we had to hop off the train, find a sign, take a photo, and get back on the train before the doors closed," Doernberg told us.
According to the MTA, there are officially 143 stations in Manhattan—but, if each station complex is counted as one, then there are 118, as you can see on this list. Altogether, the couple took over 130 shots from the various stations (we've only included 14 pictures above, but we have seen all of them).
Doernberg, 20, is not a NYC native, but he spent the past year working at the Renaissance Youth Center in the Bronx; Jordan is originally from Teaneck, NJ. We asked Doernberg a few questions about their project.
What inspired this quest? The idea just came to me a few months ago. I was probably thinking about ways to make commuting fun/useful, or different records/accomplishments that I could do while in NYC. I mentioned the idea to Kai a few days ago, and she latched onto it and thought it sounded really fun. And it was, the nine hours flew by actually. I planned the route out as we went, and I was really worried that an inefficient route would make it take too long or stretch into two days. But everything fell into place pretty well. I marked each stop we went to with an X on a paper map. I almost missed the 5th Ave stop on the 7 train, but noticed it before it was too late...
Did you have to make pit stops to pee? Only once or twice. We stopped to get food and drinks and go to the bathroom on the walk from Lex/59th (N/Q/R) to Lex/63rd (F), as well as from 207th (A) to 215th (1 train). And Kai works at a bakery part-time, so she brought a few pastries along. I had a string backpack to hold some props/drinks/food, and she did the same with her purse.
Did you encounter anything odd along the way? One conductor was furious and told us that if we kept "playing around on the subway" he would leave us behind. I think it was in the 90s that day, and we saw a woman wearing four layers of clothing and multiple hats/hoods. I'll see what other interesting tidbits Kai remembers.
Did rush hour get in the way of your journey? It wasn't too bad. Most lines weren't very hectic from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., but the 4/5/6 at the end of the day around 6 p.m. was pretty bad. Our normal routine was to hop out, snap a pic, and hop back in, but the trains and platforms were so crowded that we had to take a pic and wait for the next train maybe 2 times.
Do you have a favorite/least favorite train line/stop? The A-train was pretty tough: it was very empty, so the doors opened and closed really quickly. Also, my phone's camera was messing up, so a few times we would get in front of a sign and mash the photo button but it would freeze, and the train would leave us. The 1 line was also tough, as there was construction at some stops, and the station signs were only on the back wall, not on any pillars right by the train doors, so we had to run to the wall each time, snap the pic, and run back in.
Did anything surprise you about the stations? It was cool seeing different color schemes and how some stations have cool designs on them. South Ferry kind of looked like a dock or a ship, with landing platforms and chain railings...I have a better appreciation for station decorations now. I was really excited to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum stop, which I've never been excited for the first several times I passed that stop.
Update: You can now peruse the full set of aforementioned photos here. We also asked whether they had any plans to try getting subway selfies in another borough: "Possibly," Doernberg said. "Manhattan was a natural place to do it though, since there are so many lines and so many stops. The Bronx for example only has 5 lines, which are spaced out; less of a challenge, and more backtracking required. But it's possible we'd do other boroughs, haven't discussed it yet."