Subway riders get ready to board a No. 1 train...

Subway riders get ready to board a No. 1 train at the 72nd Street station on the Upper West Side. (Feb. 23, 2010) Credit: Craig Ruttle

Ever ride the subway drunk? Well, if you have, you’ve technically broken the law.

NYC Transit’s rulebook is littered with obscure and sometimes nonsensical regulations that are decades old, and even transit officials and police officers were baffled by the existence of the rules when amNewYork pointed them out.

Nobody, for instance, could explain why stone throwing, torch lighting and gambling are specifically prohibited on the subway.

“I remember rules for no spitting,” said Robert Olmsted, an MTA planning official from 1967 to 1989, who didn’t recognize the other regulations.  But straphangers were astounded by the technical ban on being drunk or under the influence of drugs on the train.

“What kind of rule is that?” said John McFadden, 27, a Park Slope straphanger, who sometimes rides with alcohol hidden in a coffee cup.

The “disorderly conduct” rules state that riders can’t:

- gamble, unless it’s at authorized locations like “OTB parlors,”

- sleep or “doze where such activity may be hazardous,”

- throw “any stone, projectile or other article,”

- act in way to “cause annoyance, alarm or inconvenience to a reasonable person.”

Violating the rules could result in a summons, ejection or arrest, transit spokeswoman Deidre Parker. Summonses carry fines ranging from $25 to $100.

“We want customers and employees to be safe,” Parker said. “Anything that would put others in jeopardy would not be tolerated.”

Riding the trains when drunk is only illegal if it “interferes with your ability to function safely,” Parker said.

Several transit officers said they hadn’t heard of the most obscure rules, but anyone acting in an annoying or disorderly way would be asked to cut it out, or be ejected. Officers removed 5,110 people from the system and issued 19,600 summonses in January and February, down from the previous year, according to the most recent transit statistics.

The rule against annoying behavior was strikingly similar to a city regulation that was overturned in 2004, said Christopher Dunn, a director at the New York Civil Liberties Union.“The government cannot make merely annoying behavior a crime,” Dunn said.

Straphangers thought the rules governing safety were important. But the ones regulating drinking and stone throwing? Not so much. “I see people get drunk on the subway all the time,” said Louis Moran, 24, a Washington Heights rider.

With Julia Borovskaya

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