Editor's Note

Editor’s note: A subway train improvement creates a whole new breed of straphanger

Everyone going back-and-forth across the open gangways on the new R211T cars deserves the distinction of being called “Gangway Walkers.”

An open gangway on one of the C line’s new R211T trains.

An open gangway on one of the C line’s new R211T trains. Ralph R. Ortega

I won the subway lottery last week when I found myself on one of only two new C trains featuring open gangways. The open gangway R211T trains are part of a pilot program launched before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rolls out a full order of the cars, paid for with federal funding.

Immediately, I was catapulted into a subway ride experience like no other – and one I never expected after a lifetime of crossing the closed gangways of old, which was always a risky bet. Crossing them, while the train was moving, without getting injured or falling into the tracks was a badge of honor.

The R211T is a first in what’s considered the modern subway era. Straphangers can walk the entire length of a train until they come up to a conductor’s booth. To continue, they can exit at a station and board the next car to reach the end of the train. I walked the whole length of the train, turned around and went back and forth several times before I reached my stop. And I wasn’t alone. Others also tried out this new subway sport. I took videos of straphangers walking across the cars and even came up with a name for them: “Gangway Walkers.”

No one minded the catchy description for an activity that’s a lot safer than subway surfing. Critics say open gangways expose everyone to odors that come with riding on some subway cars and repeat performances from musicians and others providing random entertainment on the rails. Safety, however, trumps those complaints, and if the gangways offer some fun on the subway, why complain?