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 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 in 1940, 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||23 hours, 16 minutes|||
|December 12/13, 1988||Rich Temple, Phil Vanner and Tom Murphy||466||29 hours, 47 minutes, 12 seconds|||
|October 25/26, 1989||Kevin Foster||469||26 hours, 21 minutes, 8 seconds|||
|December 28/29, 2006||Bill Amarosa Jr., Michael Boyle, Brian Brockmeyer, Stefan Karpinski, Jason Laska and Andrew Weir||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, Glen Bryant, Peter Smyth and Adham Fisher||468||22 hours, 26 minutes, 02 seconds|||
|January 16, 2015||Matthew Ahn||468||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 425 multi-station complexes (necessary for the Class C record), on 25 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.
Guinness Record breaking
The December 28–29, 2006, attempt became known as 'The Subway Six' in the press, as all were classmates at Regis High School in Manhattan and represent all five boroughs of New York City, with the sixth member hailing from New Jersey. Bill Amarosa was a lifelong railfan and had discussed a record attempt while they were in high school, but it was 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, but Guinness took five months to confirm the record and nine months to send the team an official record certificate.
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, which was then covered by many major news outlets, including the New York Times (where it was the most-emailed article), CNN, and Reuters. The Reuters story was subsequently picked up by newspapers around the world, in such countries as Scotland, Argentina, India, South Africa, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Iran. 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 September 17, 2010, Guinness World Records confirmed that Matt Ferrisi and Chris Solarz set a new record during their January 22, 2010, attempt with an official time of 22:52:36.
On November 18–19, 2013, the record was beaten with a new time of 22 hours, 26 minutes, and 2 seconds, or 26 minutes shorter than the former record. The competitor, who used an unusual route, had learned about the challenge from reading Wikipedia.
On May 30, 2014, Guinness World Records confirmed that a British team of Andi James, Glen Bryant, Adham Fisher, Steve Wilson, Peter Smyth, and Martin Hazel set a new record during their attempt on November 18–19, 2013, with an official time of 22:26:02. As former record holders for the Tube Challenge, James, Hazel, and Wilson thus became the first people to achieve the feat on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
The current record holder, Matthew Ahn, broke the 468-station record on January 19, 2015. He began his trip at Far Rockaway – Mott Avenue and finished at Flushing – Main Street, both in Queens. After the 7 Subway Extension opened, the record was invalidated, so Ahn completed another such trip on July 23, 2016, starting and ending at the same stations. He broke his previous record while completing the new 469-station challenge; however, it was not immediately validated by Guinness World Records. This record was officially validated on August 26, 2016. There is no record holder for the new 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.
In popular culture
A 2004 Class B attempt to traverse the system was documented in a short film entitled New Lots.
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