What New York Subway Globes Are Really For

Many New Yorkers will get on the subway day in, day out without paying much attention to their surroundings. But have you ever wondered what the globes at the entrance are for?

One TikToker has gone viral thanks to their explanation.

John Friia, who runs the fact account @hereinnyc, has received over 40,000 likes on his video.

This is his explanation.

What Are New York Subway Globes For?

"These are not just for aesthetics, they actually served a purpose," he begins.

He explains that they were first introduced to the city's subway system in the 1980s when tokens were still in use and could be green, yellow or red.

Each of the colors had different meanings.

Green initially meant that the entrance was open for use 24 hours a day and had a token booth.

Yellow signalled that the entrance was open but only had a part-time token booth, while red was an indicator that a station was exit only and did not have a token booth.

The globes that sport a half-moon design were the result of a decision to make them brighter and emit more light in the 1990s.

Once the MetroCard was introduced in 1997, things became more confusing, he says.

"Some of the exit-only spots were converted into a regular entrance with a MetroCard machine, the yellow ones were phased out and today, in general, the green means it's a subway entrance and red is still an exit-only with some exceptions."

The video, which has been viewed over 400,000 times, is part of Friia's Subway Secrets series in which he shares facts about the transport network.

In another video in the series he revealed a hidden subway station that's no longer in use.

"It was the 18th Street station and you can still see it today when you're on the six," he explains.

"Look out the window facing the walls between 14th and 23rd Street and you'll see this ghost station."

He adds that it was one of the original 28 subway stations in New York and first opened in 1904.

As the city's subway system expanded, other stations became too close to justify it remaining open and so it closed in 1948.

Friia boasts over 170,000 followers on the platform and has received over 5.1 million likes for all of his videos sharing facts not just about the subway, but about the history of New York City.

Two people enter Union Square Subway Station
Two people enter Union Square Subway Station. A TikTok user has explained what the globes outside the stations really mean. Getty