Man Spends 14 Hours Riding the Longest NYC Subway Route

By Maddie Stone on at

New Yorkers aren’t exactly known for taking leisurely strolls, but leisurely subway riding? The concept is as foreign as ketchup on pizza. That’s why most city slickers will have no idea that the longest non-repeating subway route is 155 miles and includes over 54 transfers. Why should they? Who on Earth is ever going to ride that?

Answer: ESPN reporter Jody Avirgan, who decided to actually brave the longest, non-repeating subway route earlier this week. His journey began in Wakefield (in the Bronx), and ended in Far Rockaway, Queens some 14 hours later.

According to City Lab, the longest subway route was recently determined by WNYC’s Subwaytron5000, which used an algorithm to sift through billions of different possibilities:

The rules are simple: The computer gets one card swipe and unlimited transfers. It can repeatedly visit any station, as long as it doesn’t cover any stretch of the track twice.

Man Spends 14 Hours Riding the Longest NYC Subway Route

The longest possible subway route, determined by sourcing over 200 billion possibilities. Via The WNYC Data News Team

When Avirgan heard tell of the 155 mile non-repeating route, he knew he had to try it. He discusses the experience during the Brian Lehrer Show on WYNC, and you’re at all considering following in his footsteps, it’s worth having a listen first. Rather than the romantic, reflection-filled journey Avirgan had imagined, riding the longest subway route was more like following a torturously confusing mess of instructions written by a vindictive child, punctuated by inexplicable delays and gross toilet breaks.

Still, Avirgan did manage to get some good people-watching in (“43 attractive women, 41 good-looking guys, seven adorable old couples, countless lost tourists”), and his account of the journey on Twitter perfectly captures the weirdness of the smelly, crowded, bustling universe beneath the city that never sleeps.

[WNYC via City Lab]