When The New York City Subway Was The Most Dangerous Place On Earth

Published July 2, 2014
Updated August 29, 2022

Venture back to the 1980s in this photo gallery, when the New York City subway was the most dangerous mass transit system on the planet.

The New York City subway of today is what one might lightly call “starkly different” from its predecessors. In the 1980s, over 250 felonies were committed every week in the system, making the New York subway the most dangerous mass transit system in the world.

Over the course of a decade, New York public transportation would lose over 300 million riders, largely due to its reputation as a hotbed of crime and drug use. In the gallery below, we take a look at what the New York City subways were like in the 1980s:

New York Subwy Pictures

1980s New York City Subways

6 Train

Caught In The Act


New York Subway Photos

Going Out

Shirtless Subway Ride

Creepy Costume

Guardian Angels

Listening To Walkman

Accordion Player

Couple On the Subway

Kids In The Subway

Holding On



NYC Subway 1980s

Subway Conductor

New York City Subways In The 1980s

Knife Hanging Out Of The Subway Window

Graffiti In Subway Car

Holding The Pole

Riding The Subway

New York Subways In The 1980s

Passed Out

No Admittance

Outside Subway Station

Out Of Place

Passed Out Drunk

Riding The 2 Train

Sax Player

New York In The 1980s


New York City Subways In The 1980s Photographs

Waiting For The Train

Pope Shot


Subway Ad

Summer Subway Ride

Avenue H

Making An Arrest On The NYC Subway

Graffiti Train Cars

Subway Cars

Subway Cars In The 1980s

Meryl Streep

Michael Jackson Takes A Subway Ride

Video Thumbnail For Youtube Video Jn4atdfcymo

Subways Photos

Sunday's Best

Subway Emergency

Tagging Subway Trains

Vintage New York Subway

Walking Through A Subway Car

We also recommend watching this video of taking the subway from Union Square to Coney Island in 1987:

Thank you to Time, The Rsvlts, and Flickr for the images above.

And if you enjoyed these photographs of New York subways in the 1980s, check out our other posts on the summer of 1969 in New York and the most incredible photographs of New York City. Then, learn more fascinating facts about New York City.

Alexander is a cofounder of All That's Interesting with an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in History and Economics and an MSc from the School of Oriental and African Studies in Economics. He specializes in American history, the Cold War, and true crime.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Baldwin, Alexander. "When The New York City Subway Was The Most Dangerous Place On Earth." AllThatsInteresting.com, July 2, 2014, https://allthatsinteresting.com/new-york-subways-1980s. Accessed May 28, 2024.