Subway hack: Gum-shoe detecting where the doors will open

I don't want to wait in vain for your train. Via Flickr's drain.
I don’t want to wait in vain for your train. Via Flickr’s drain.

If you’ve ever ridden San Francisco’s meager but clean and efficient version of the subway the BART, you would think those Bay-Area-ians (Bay-guls?) have some sort of sixth sense when it comes to pre-walking to where the subway doors open, as they all form an orderly line on the exact right spot. Then you realize the damn floor is marked for the doors, which is cheating. We have no such thing in New York though, where everything is chaotic and unpredictable and dangerous! Or is it? There’s an easy subway hack hidden in this New Yorker story about the Norwegian architecture firm redesigning Times Square that lets you know exactly where the doors are going to open. The secret? Gum.

The story quotes Craig Dykers, a principal in the New York office of Snøhetta, which is the Oslo-based firm contracted to redesign Times Square, and not, sadly, the name of my new black metal band.

[H]e said that in most stations, you can anticipate where the doors of the next train will open by looking for concentrations of chewing gum splats near the edges of the platforms. (Subway riders apparently tend to spit out gum either just before entering or just after exiting a train.)

Have you tried this? Does it work? Will anonymous launch a campaign to spit gum willy-nilly all over the subway platforms just to fuck with your sheep-brain mentality?


  1. Ryan P

    Love the gum hack! Slight correction on “we have no such thing in New York though”: the floor is marked on the 4,5,6 platform at Grand Central. There may be others as well.

  2. Conal Darcy

    I always looked where it was dirtiest. worn, or damaged at the edge. Most people won’t step there unless there’s a train door.

    It also took me 3 years to figure out the big ugly boxes on the 2/3/4/5 platforms at Atlantic line up with the subway doors. Once I got that figured out it was just a short jump to figuring out which box I need to stand at to be closest to the stairs at my next stop.

    Commuting is terribly lonely and dull.

  3. chrisgiganti

    You can also determine where the conductor will be by the black-white diagonal board hanging above the platform. (The conductor always stops at that board.)

    This can help in door detection, or more importantly, finding where the G will stop on the platform.

  4. Got very excited to showcase the gum hack with my friends on the way home late Friday night, gleefully guaranteed I could predict where the doors would open by looking at the gum, utterly failed, and was ridiculed the whole way home. Thanks Brokelyn!

    • Tim Donnelly

      You can blame the New Yorker, which was probably trolling all of us anyway. But I did try this a few times this weekend and it totally worked! Anyone else?

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