Billy on the Subway
January 20, 2009 12:31 PM   Subscribe

Would I be silly to bring a largeish bookcase on the NYC subway?

So I just bought a bookcase off Craigslist, your normal Billy from Ikea, dimensions:
Width: 31 1/2 "
Depth: 11 "
Height: 79 1/2 "
I need to get it from Park Slope to the Lower East Side and I can't figure out if its crazy to bring it on the F train. I keep going back and forth. 80 pounds won't be too heavy for two people right? Will the subway officials let me enter the station with it? Will it be too obnoxious for other riders? Will the F train be too full at 10:15 AM? I don't want to be a nuisance, I just want to save 50 bucks off the man with a van. So, thoughts? Sorry if this is too specific for MeFi, fell free to delete it if that's the case. Thanks!
posted by sdsparks to Shopping (28 answers total)
I think that as long as you aren't going during rush hour, you'll be okay. I've seen people with similar size objects. Just make sure you don't use a subway entrance or exit that only has those meat grinder type gates.
posted by kimdog at 12:37 PM on January 20, 2009

I don't know if it's allowed or not, but I've definitely seen a lot more obnoxious baggage than that, like two guys carrying a pinball machine, for example. (I didn't want to know.) Once you're on the train it's only taking up the space of a standing person, after all.

You can handle 80lbs if you're both in decent shape and don't have to walk too far to/from your stops. It might be unwieldy around corners and down the stairs, though.

10:15 isn't bad, but it'd be better still if you could take it on a Sunday morning: the train action is pretty dead then.

For that matter, if you get one of those station-wagon type taxis (you can call for one, or get a cabbie to do it for you) that'll be less than $50 during dead hours, too.
posted by rokusan at 12:39 PM on January 20, 2009

10:15 am is a stupid time to do it. Do it around 11 or 11:30. Better yet would be in the evening. That would be the considerate time to get it on the F train.

You won't be banned by subway officials, but make sure you are going to a 24/7 manned entrance with a token booth clerk, and be prepared to wait for the clerk (although you could just hand it over the turnstiles).

Don't do it yourself. It will get heavier.

Ride at the beginning or the end of the train and the beginning or end of your particular car. Don't stand in the middle. Be prepared to wait a train or two to find a more empty situation. This shouldn't be a problem if you're getting off on the LES since you want the back car if you're coming from PS.

Don't push on as though you were carrying a shopping basket.
posted by micawber at 12:40 PM on January 20, 2009

As stated by other posters: stranger things have been on the subway, and 10:15 AM is not a good time to do this. I would wait until later in the evening/early morning, or midday. good luck.
posted by teabag at 12:44 PM on January 20, 2009

If you have a driver's license, you could Zipcar a pickup truck for a lot less than $50, right?

Also, assuming you go for it, don't forget to bring a dolly or two or a handtruck for wheeling the thing to/from the subway.
posted by zachlipton at 12:45 PM on January 20, 2009

Agreeing with previous posters--if I were attempting this, I'd make sure to avoid not only rush hour, but also that part of the afternoon when kids are getting out of school for the day, because it will be chaos. And I'd bring a friend to help you. But, honestly, getting it up and down station entrances and exits sounds like it could be kind of a pain. I think the Zipcar idea is smart.

(I am not a professional mover.)
posted by teamparka at 12:49 PM on January 20, 2009

If I remember correctly, 3 shelves are not fastened into the shelf, so you need to bring something to carry those shelves in.

Seconding going a bit later (after 11) esp. going into the city from BK. And Zipcar is the best option definitely.
posted by anthropoid at 12:55 PM on January 20, 2009

You can probably take it apart with a phillips screwdriver in about five minutes and strap the pieces together. Might be easier to carry.
posted by lee at 12:57 PM on January 20, 2009

I'd wager that taking a car service would be cheaper than Zipcar and easier than the subway. There are oodles of local car services in Park Slope that I'm sure would give you a quote over the phone, and meet you at the door.
posted by goingonit at 1:02 PM on January 20, 2009

You'll be fine. I did the same thing with one of IKEA's tables about a month ago and that monster went from Wall Street to Inwood with no problems. Upon entering the subway car, I went to the nearest end and stacked it flat against the conductor's booth (There was no one in there.) and leaned against it for the rest of the ride. Your bookcase will block the door to the next car, but MTA's policy is to not have anyone opening those anyway.

Don't go at 10:15. That's still the tail end of commuter traffic. 11:30 should be fine. Good luck. That thing's gonna be heavy even with two people.
posted by greenland at 1:02 PM on January 20, 2009

If you do this, do *not* take it on the escalator, and watch out for low ceilings. I speak from experience. 59th and Lex, I'm looking at you.

Also, too late, I know, but a used Billy? They're what, like, $39 at Ikea? Particle board does not travel well once assembled. After you get it home, pick up some angle brackets to take out the wiggle.
posted by libraryhead at 1:03 PM on January 20, 2009

Response by poster: Well I looked at Zip Car and unfortunately I'm not 21 (2 months to go), so I am not able to use it yet. So as of right now I'm going to push the time back to 11:15, bring a friend, a screwdriver, and maybe some ratchet straps. Thanks for all the advice so far. The hive mind never ceases to amaze me.
posted by sdsparks at 1:05 PM on January 20, 2009

I have done this sort of thing before -- many times. While I was living there, I moved some 11 or 12 times (in three and a half years!), all of which was done via subway. Just pick a really off-peak hour, and you should be fine.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:12 PM on January 20, 2009

In NYC it is appropriate to bring whatever you want on the subway as long as it would not be offensive or annoying by widespread consensual agreement of subway riders, however, if in transporting the object you delay any individual or individuals more than five or ten seconds, you are no longer being appropriate.

Your bookcase will block the door to the next car, but MTA's policy is to not have anyone opening those anyway.

For example, blocking the door to the next car is inappropriate because regardless of MTA policy, in practice people want to use those doors and you're in the way. (Additionally, those are emergency exits for a public space and as general policy everywhere YOU SHOULD NOT BLOCK THE EMERGENCY EXITS WITH BULKY OBJECTS because people will die if there's an accident.)
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:22 PM on January 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't bring a screwdriver -- bring an Allen wrench! This is Ikea, remember...
posted by chowflap at 1:26 PM on January 20, 2009

In the event you need to take it apart... it's Ikea, you'll most likely want an allen-key set instead of a screwdriver. Although if the person you're buying it from likes Ikea, they probably have several of the standard Ikea size allan keys cluttering-up their drawers. And there's probably a back nailed-on, so you'd want to ensure you had something to remove those small nails as well.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:28 PM on January 20, 2009

@chopflap: Beat me by two minutes...
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:28 PM on January 20, 2009

Honestly, Billy bookcases are a dime a dozen on craigslist. I would just find one vaguely within walking distance of where you live. I mean there are a lot of people living within 1 mile of the les, probably would be a lot less of a hassle.
posted by whoaali at 1:37 PM on January 20, 2009

I just have to try and prevent this, please call the sixes (ya know, 212-666-6666) and ask them if you can put it in the back of one of their vans or something. Or get some bungee cords, flash an extra $40 at a cabbie and beg. Last weekend, on a jam packed late Sunday morning 1 train there were two double strollers and a jogger stroller, a young man wielding a nighttable, the usual wheelie-draggers, and a couple eating a multi-course Indian meal across the way. Not to mention a lady with a very nice jade plant, the usual cacophony of iPods competing with the Mariachi guys, legs-wide-apart guys, tourists speaking at non-subway-conversation decibels OMG across the car from each other , the guy who sells Metro card holders to raise money for ... I forget who ... and people who refuse to move out of the doorway, WTF? With a lot of congestion on the route. And an unexpected "this train's checking out, get off now" at 96th street, with all of us pushing for the exit.

If you must use my NYC subway system to haul a Billy, please do it before 8 a.m. Thank you. I apologize, I've been stressed out since Sunday from this experience.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:58 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

What? Cab, Zip car? If it were me I sure wouldn't spend $40 more on a cab. Go the subway route.

Nthing disassembling it and carrying it. Billy bookshelves disassemble okay (remember to bring an allen wrench and a plastic bag for the screws and wooden pegs, and maybe some straps or tape to keep everything together), and you'd put less stress on the particle board than carrying it intact. Plus, if you choose a right time (as everybody advises) you won't bother anyone. As a fellow NYC subwaygoer, I'd look at you, blink a few times, and go back to my own business.
posted by suedehead at 3:17 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Okay... as someone who's transported some HEAVY-ass objects all over our fair city on the subway, I have to say 80 lbs of assembled bookcase sounds unrealistic for two non-professionals (even if they're very experienced in the art of subway hauling, and the questions you're asking suggest you haven't done this much before).

Really think about this weight, the stairs involved, and all the other steps involved. I think many of the people responding encouragingly above are not considering the weight you specified.

If I were doing this, the only way I'd consider it -- and this is actually doable -- is disassembling the bookshelf into equal piles (40 lbs for each person) and both people securely binding their piles together with a VERY good easy grip (minimum) or a rolling cart (much better).
posted by kalapierson at 4:34 PM on January 20, 2009

And let's replace "sounds unrealistic" with "is unrealistic."
posted by kalapierson at 4:36 PM on January 20, 2009

I've got this exact bookcase. I could carry it on my own, in fact, it's not that hard to maneuver around my apartment, but the idea of taking it up and down stairways, tilting it below doorways, turning corners and the like just seem more trouble than it's worth.

For one, unless you have bizarrely long arms you won't be able to tuck it under one arm. You'll somehow need to heft it around with both arms.

Second, it's not the most sturdy material. Mine has survived three moves between apartments, but only because I've carefully loaded and unloaded into and out of trucks. I think the rocking, turning, hefting, and inevitable bumping that would happen on the subway would leave the billy as wobbly mess.

The back is basically cardboard and if you apply any pressure to it you'll probably pop it out. The whole thing is held together with Ikea's torque nut system, which works well when the item is standing still, but not so great when you're lurching around with it.

Also, only one of the shelves is fixed in the Billy. The others will have to be carried by someone else. And you'll need to keep up with the little metal shelf retainers...

Third, you can buy the Billy online and have it delivered to your door. Perhaps that is beyond your budget (Ikea has very high shipping charges) but it's an option.
posted by wfrgms at 5:02 PM on January 20, 2009

Don't bring a screwdriver

Actually, the Billy is secured using Ikea's torque nut system which requires a Phillips head screw driver. You'll need an allen wrench to remove the fixed shelf though.

Dissembling it though would require prying off the back, which is nailed on. This wouldn't be hard to do, but putting it back together would be hard due to the damage. You'd also wind up with several heavy, easily chipped, and unwieldy pieces of particle board to deal with.

At the end of the day, it's a helluva lot of work and expense for what is a $80 bookcase when bought new...
posted by wfrgms at 5:08 PM on January 20, 2009

I've done this (with this exact bookcase, flat-packed of course, and all the way on LIRR from Hicksville to the Upper West Side, because Brooklyn IKEA didn't exist then). You can do it. But second the above comment -- just buy the exact same bookcase on Craigslist instead. It won't make a difference.
posted by zvs at 7:27 PM on January 20, 2009

From the MTA rules of conduct:
Section 1050.9

Restricted areas and activities.

g. No person may carry on or bring to any facility or conveyance any item that:
1. is so long as to extend outside the window or door of a subway car, bus or other conveyance;
2. constitutes a hazard to the operation of the Authority, interferes with passenger traffic, or impedes service; or
3. constitutes a danger or hazard to other persons.
posted by billtron at 12:37 AM on January 21, 2009

I once saw two guys carrying a queen-sized mattress on the 1 train. The F train is wider by more than a foot, so space won't be a problem. The fact that that Billy bookcase is quite heavy, and not particularly narrow in any dimension, probably will be.

I understand that the seller may not want you to pick it up in the middle of the night (and you may not want to either), but that would honestly be the best time.

And in case you're wondering if this is too specific, look how many different people have chimed in!
posted by oaf at 10:13 AM on January 21, 2009

Response by poster: I moved a light desk on the subway with a friend just now. Frankly it was tough. Thank god I did not attempt it with a bookcase. That would have been a horrible idea. So to anyone who finds this question in the future somehow, my final answer is yes, it is silly.
posted by sdsparks at 10:28 PM on January 25, 2009

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