The Unwritten Rules of Riding the LIRR

Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

For the most part, public transportation in New York is less than pleasant -- but riding the Long Island Railroad is its own special brand of hell. And while a little common courtesy won’t do much to fill the gaping hole in the MTA’s budget, there is still a case to be made for a little human decency in transit.

Whether you’re shelling out $400 a month to ride the LIRR each and every morning, or merely a seasonal, Hamptons-bound New Yorker, there are certain rules to be followed. And by virtue of reserving a seat for your 30 rack of Bud Light while you barrel towards Penn Station with your feet up, blasting Billy Joel, you are what is wrong with the LIRR. This is not the Polar Express. Do better.

1. If you're alone, don't take the middle seat.

It’s perfectly understandable that you want to maintain your distance from every other human being on the LIRR -- but this is public transportation. Take the middle seat, and all you’re doing is inconveniencing groups or couples, who will rightly punish you by having very animated conversations across your lap.

2. Your heinous Michael Kors bag does not get a seat.

It doesn’t matter how precious your cargo is: it does not deserve a seat. Whether your duffel is filled with rare documents, bricks of cocaine, or a small dog, it goes in overhead storage. Seats are for human beings. Period.

eating on LIRR
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

3. Choose your food wisely.

We understand this is not the Subway -- you’re likely spending up to two hours in transit, and you’re hungry. But that’s no excuse for treating yourself to a bacon-topped cheeseburger (unless you’ve brought one for everyone else too). There are plenty of odor-free foods out there -- eat them instead.

4. Seats do not come with outlets. Remember this.

This is not Metro-North and outlets are not conveniently placed in every row of seats. If you need to charge your phone, the only available outlets are by the seats nearest the door. Even so, don’t expect whoever is in those seats to put up with your charger dangling across their lap while you scroll through your Instagram feed.

5. Keep your phone conversations brief and to-the-point.

If you absolutely have to make a phone call on the LIRR, it should go something like this: “I’m on the 6:05, pick me up at 7:10. Bye.” It should not go like this: “I heard Deborah is getting new carpets in the living room, can you believe it? Oh, and I called the dermatologist and she thinks the rash is contagious. Anyway, what’s for dinner?”

6. Don't get upset when the conductors are rude.

Your conductor literally rides the LIRR for a living. He/she does not care about your grievances. Have a heart.

7. Whoever's in the window seat gets first dibs on the coat hook.

True, there’s only one hook per row. But regardless, whoever claimed the window seat is in command, and they sure won’t appreciate spending the entirety of their ride with your wet coat dripping on their leg.  

8. Drinking is legal, but take it easy.

If you want a cold beer while you journey homeward at 7pm, more power to you. If you’re a gaggle of squealing 17 year olds downing Four Lokos en route to a Flying Lotus concert at Terminal 5, please do less.

9. You should be the only person who can hear your music.

It may or may not be fair to assume that everyone on the Long Island Railroad is a Billy Joel fan -- but it’s a safe bet that nobody wants to hear a low-quality rendition of "Uptown Girl" blasting through your headphones.

personal grooming on LIRR
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

10. Do your personal grooming at home.

A fun fact about your fragrance of choice: no one other than you wants to inhale it for the next two hours. A little touch-up here and there is totally acceptable, but please avoid lotioning your legs and brushing your hair for the sake of your poor neighbor. And do not even THINK about clipping your nails.

11. The overhead compartments exist for a reason.

The aisles are for walking. This is literally the only purpose they serve. Your bag resting in the walkway does not need to be the reason that 35 different commuters suffer crippling back injuries.

12. Walk toward your car of choice on the platform, not inside the car.

In spite of the absurd amount of money you pay per month to ride this luxury mode of transit, LIRR trains are not exactly spacious. If possible, avoid hitting every seated customer in the back of the head with your bag while you saunter through the first nine cars of the train, by moving towards your desired car on the platform.

13. The person sitting next to you is not your friend.

Chances are, you wouldn’t speak to the person to your left on the subway, so what makes you think the rules are different on the LIRR? The girl reading across from you does not want to take a break from her book to give you a detailed description of what she’s reading. I promise. Don’t ask.

14. If you put your feet on the seat across from you, you are objectively an asshole.

Whether the train is crowded at this moment or not, someone will eventually have to occupy the seat you have now so graciously coated with the filth lining the bottom of your Midtown-sidewalk-dusted loafers.

15. Quiet cars are actually a thing.

During the morning peak, the first car of your train is the quiet car, and during the evening peak, it’s the last. There is one car on the entire train dedicated to complete silence. Do not be the person who ruins it.

16. Expect judgment if you have a single ride ticket.

Most of the other commuters on your train have likely been dishing out $350 a month to travel from Babylon to Penn on a daily basis for years. Nobody is amused by the novelty of your first LIRR ride. And that being said, don’t spend 10 minutes looking for your ticket when the conductor arrives -- shockingly enough, you bought a ticket for a reason, and someone will check it. Keep it in hand.

17. Sleep with caution.

No one will blame you for dozing off on your 7am train to work, but no one will sympathize when you miss your stop because you were drooling down the front of some poor NYU boy’s T-shirt.

18. Nobody cares if you're going to the Hamptons.

Your pink shorts and your pastel Montauk pull-over already gave you away. You and your Vineyard Vines luggage do not also need to discuss, at top volume, how excited you are for the lobster rolls at Surf Lodge. Seriously, no one cares.

19. Wait until you exit Penn Station to Google directions to your destination.

You are asking to be pummeled to the ground by a hoard of already-late commuters if you plan on wandering through Penn Station while staring intently at the little blue dot on your phone screen. You are an inconvenience. Look up.

20. Blocking the big board makes you a public menace.

Not only does this make you look like an oblivious half-wit, but by choosing this specific piece of real estate for rapid Tindering, you have managed to inconvenience everyone in Penn Station while standing still.

21. Transferring at Jamaica is the MTA's way of culling the weak.

If you’re not getting off at Penn Station, odds are you’re going to almost miss your stop. This means that when you jump up last minute, you’ll have at least two problems. First you’ve got to fight your way through throngs of people who have never considered that some folks might get off before Penn, and then there’s the onrushing parade of commuters boarding at Jamaica -- all of whom are already bitter about having had to wait at this godforsaken station for so long. Sorry.  

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Eliza Dumais is a writer who typically refuses to venture beyond city limits. Follow her @elizadumais