The Subway Challenge is a challenge in which participants must navigate the entire New York City Subway system in the shortest time possible. This ride is also known as the Rapid Transit Challenge and the Ultimate Ride. Although the challenge requires competitors to stop at all 472 stations, no person holds that record. One competitor holds the record for 469 stations, as he had competed before the January 2017 opening of the Second Avenue Subway. All the other competitors hold the record for 468 stations, as they had all competed prior to both the September 2015 opening of the 7 Subway Extension and the January 2017 opening of the Second Avenue Subway.
There are three primary variations of this challenge:
- Ride that requires a rider to traverse every line, but not necessarily the entire line. (Class A)
- Full-system ride that requires a rider to stop at each station. (Class B)
- Skip-stop ride that only requires a rider to pass through each station. (Class C)
The three classes of rides (A, B and C) are defined by the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee (ANYSRC), created by Peter Samson in 1966. In Class A, "the contestants making the run must traverse completely at least once each segment of right-of-way of the Transit Authority system. Each segment may be traversed either in one continuous transit or in any number of partial transits between stations on the segment." Guinness World Records recognizes what is essentially the Class B rules as the official world record. The only difference between the rides defined by Guinness and the ANYSRC is that per the ANYSRC, rides must be completed on a single fare, while the Guinness rules allow for "transfers between subway lines must be made by scheduled public transport or on foot. The use of private motor vehicles, taxis or any other form of privately arranged transport (bicycles, skateboards, etc.) is not allowed." The complete Guinness rules can be found on the Rapid Transit Challenge website and are similar to the rules for the London Underground's Tube Challenge.
On May 30, 1940, two days before the IRT, BMT, and IND were unified, Herman Rinke, an electric-railroad buff, became the first person to tour the entire system on a single 5-cent fare, doing it purely as a "sentimental gesture". Rinke rode the system for some 25 hours. Since then, more than 70 others – supposedly recorded in an unofficial file in the MTA Public Relations Department – rode the entire system. Kevin Foster held the Guinness World Record for the full-system ride for over 17 years. He set the mark of 26 hours, 21 minutes on October 25, 1989. Searching for a diversion while training to become the first person to bicycle the entire length of The Great Wall in China, Kevin Foster opened up the Guinness Book of World Records to find another challenge. He decided that to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the New York subway system he would spend 85 consecutive hours on the subway, during which time he broke the record for stopping at every station.
Guinness Record times
|June 1, 1966||Michael Feldman and James Brown||491[a]||23 hours, 16 minutes|||
|December 12/13, 1988||Rich Temple, Phil Vanner and Tom Murphy||466[b]||29 hours, 47 minutes, 12 seconds|||
|October 25/26, 1989||Kevin Foster||469[c]||26 hours, 21 minutes, 8 seconds|||
|December 28/29, 2006||Group of six including Bill Amarosa Jr. and Stefan Karpinski||468||24 hours, 54 minutes, 3 seconds|||
|January 22/23, 2010||Matt Ferrisi and Chris Solarz||468||22 hours, 52 minutes, 36 seconds|||
|November 18/19, 2013||Andi James, Steve Wilson, Martin Hazel, Peter Smyth, Glen Bryant and Adham Fisher||468||22 hours, 26 minutes, 02 seconds|||
|January 16, 2015||Matthew Ahn||468[d]||21 hours, 49 minutes, 35 seconds|||
|July 22, 2016||Matthew Ahn||469||21 hours, 28 minutes, 14 seconds|||
There are 472 stations in the system (which must all be visited for the Class B record) and 424 multi-station complexes (necessary for the Class C record), on 28 different routes. Challengers cover 662 miles of track in passenger service, while only being able to go to the toilet at 80 of the stations. All of the official record holders, except one, have held the record for 468 stations, since all official records are from before September 2015, when the 7 Subway Extension opened. One record holder has the record for the 469 stations, after the opening of the 7 Subway Extension but before the January 2017 opening of the Second Avenue Subway. As of 2018[update] there were no record holders for the 472-station challenge.
The Guinness record rules allow a rider to exit and re-enter the system during the course of the run. Matthew Ahn's run may be the first to utilize this loophole, and thus is the first Guinness record not to follow the rules of the Class B attempt as defined by the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee. It is unclear whether this will have any effect on public perception of the latest record.
The Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee is not an official body and does not validate any record attempts, nor does the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
On August 23–24, 2006, Donald Badaczewski and Matt Green made a run setting the skip-stop record. During their run, a Class C attempt as defined by the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee, they were required to pass through, but not necessarily stop at, each station. Thus they utilized express trains where possible to save time. They did this on a single fare, not exiting the system until the completion of the race. They posted a time of 24 hours, 2 minutes, breaking the previous Class C record of 25 hours, 11 minutes for this feat set in 1998 by Salvatore Babones and Mike Falsetta. Metro broke the story of this Class C record. An AM New York article suggested that the news environment at the time created a perfect opening for such a lighthearted story. Pundits frequently questioned the pair on how they had relieved themselves during their journey. The two invariably answered that they had "held it" or "toughed it out," despite the fact that "it was tough."
On December 28–29, 2006, a Class B attempt was made by former classmates from Regis High School in Manhattan, representing all five boroughs of New York City, with a sixth member from New Jersey. In the press they were nicknamed "The Subway Six": Bill Amarosa was a lifelong railfan and had discussed a record attempt while they were in high school, but it was a conversation at their 10-year reunion on June 17, 2006, that sparked planning for the attempt. From conception to execution, the record attempt took six months. Guinness World Records confirmed the record five months afterward and sent the team their official record certificate after nine months.
On January 22, 2010, Matt Ferrisi and Chris Solarz set a new record with an official time of 22:52:36, confirmed by Guinness World Records on September 17, 2010.
On November 18–19, 2013, the record was beaten by a team of six Britons, including Glen Bryant from Emsworth, with a new time of 22 hours, 26 minutes, and 2 seconds. The competitors had learned about the Subway Challenge from reading Wikipedia, and used an unusual route, achieving a time 26 minutes shorter than the former record, as confirmed by Guinness World Records on May 30, 2014. Three members of the British team were former record holders for the Tube Challenge, and thus became the first people to achieve the feat on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Another member was Adham Fisher, who went on to set corresponding Guinness records for the Paris Métro and Berlin U-Bahn.
After the 7 Subway Extension opened in September 2015, Ahn's previous record was invalidated. On July 23, 2016, he completed another such trip, and despite the addition of one station, he beat his previous record while completing the new 469-station challenge. This record was officially validated by Guinness World Records on August 26, 2016. He began his trip at Rockaway Park–Beach 116th Street in Queens and finished at Flushing–Main Street.
In popular culture
A 2004 Class B attempt to traverse the system was documented in a short film entitled New Lots.
- New York City Subway stations
- History of the New York City Subway
- Tube Challenge, a similar challenge in London
- Travelling salesman problem, a computational problem where the goal is to find the shortest route that runs through all points in a collection
- Between 1966 and the next record in 1988, half of the BMT Myrtle Avenue Line (9 stations), the IRT Third Avenue Line (14 stations), the BMT Culver Shuttle (3 stations), and part of the BMT Jamaica Line (5 stations) were closed. The Harlem–148th Street station, the Chrystie Street Connection (2 stations), and the Archer Avenue lines (3 stations) were opened. This resulted in a net loss of 25 stations.
- Between 1988 and the next record in 1989, the 63rd Street lines (3 stations) were opened.
- Between 1989 and the next record in 1995, the Dean Street station was closed.
- Between 2015 and the next record in 2016, the 34th Street–Hudson Yards station was opened.
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