Derrick Richard began his adventure on the subway as a 2-year-old boy taking the hour-long trip with his family from their old home in Brooklyn to their new home in the Bronx. Along the way, Richard, now 22, remembers watching people enter and exit the train cars at each stop. When it was their turn, they transferred from the C train to the 2 train at the Fulton Street station in Manhattan.  He also remembers gazing at the buildings outside once the train emerged from the tunnel to the elevated platforms in the Bronx.

For this train enthusiast, this was the journey that started his love affair with the New York City subway system.

Derrick Richard waiting to catch the shuttle train at Times Square (Monique LeBrun/ NY City Lens)

Derrick Richard waiting to catch the shuttle train at Times Square (Monique LeBrun/ NY City Lens)

Richard, who some call Metro, is known for helping frustrated subway riders get to their destinations one tweet at a time. He spends most of his day notifying his followers about service changes and delays, and responding to people who turn to Twitter with questions about the subway. But he doesn’t work for the MTA, he only dreams of it.

“It’s my passion to be a conductor for the subway,” said Richard, who plans to apply for a job at the MTA as soon as the next conductor test is announced. “I can make the announcements regarding what the service change is, try to help people in and out of the train to make sure they know where they’re going,”

The New York City subway system is comprised of 472 stations serviced by 27 lines that run throughout the five boroughs. In 2017 over 1.7 billion rides were completed by the MTA—including buses and train rides. However, on any given day, trains can be stalled because of signal problems, police investigations, sick passengers and other common problems that often cause confusion among riders. In January, there were 52 major incidents reported by the MTA, but that doesn’t include thousands of countless minor incidents that resulted in delays. For now, Richard is satisfied trying to make sense of it all for his 2,258 followers.

His obsession with the subway started early. When he was 13, Richard had memorized all of the routes of the MTA subway system including all of the stops. But he started putting his knowledge to use to help confused passengers two years later by simply shouting out service problems to fellow riders.

“Sometimes I would go to like a 34th Street, Lexington and 59th, 14th Street—those stations like that—and then help out passengers with the subways,” Richard’s laughs. “I would usually yell, saying like, ‘There’s no 1 train service or 2 trains on a local track,’ all of that.”

He eventually took his services to Twitter—helping riders get from one point to another—in 2014 when he started his account.

Riders walking through the Times-Square terminal. (Monique LeBrun/ NY City Lens)

Riders walking through the Times-Square terminal. (Monique LeBrun/ NY City Lens)

After he graduated from Bronx Academy of Letters high school in 2016, Richard went to study engineering at SUNY Canton, his studies didn’t stop him from helping New Yorkers. He would search through Twitter looking for subway riders in distress whenever he wasn’t in class. Richard completed the associates program for engineering and was allowed to walk at graduation in 2018. But he didn’t receive his degree because of financial problems. He returned home in September of last year to live with his mother, grandmother and their dog in a single-family home—which is a five-minute walk away from the 2 train in the Bronx. Now, since he does not work, he says he is able to dedicate most of his time to helping subway riders. He said, he’d rather wait to work for the MTA than to get a job in his field.

Every morning Richard wakes up at roughly 6 to help riders during their commutes to work or school. It’s the start of the morning rush hour, which is one of the busiest times of day for the MTA. Richard posts every delay and service change that he tracks from the NYC Transit Twitter account and the MTA website to his personal Twitter account and Facebook page.

And when he sees a passenger in distress, he’s quick to respond with an answer, always keeping the tone respectful and informative.

Most of his exchanges are to extremely frustrated riders like the ones below,

He even helps people with directions to their destinations:

Just last month, Richard typed in via Twitter to help the MTA assist a passenger with identifying the train car she was in while traveling on the E train. He told her where to find the four-digit number and then retweeted the car information back to the NYC Transit account.

“We wonder when he sleeps,” said Sarah Meyer, NYC Transit’s chief customer officer told the Daily News in an interview. “His dedication to fellow New Yorkers is beyond admirable.” Meyer said the MTA appreciates New Yorkers like Richards, who help riders get from point A to B. The MTA did not respond to requests for comment from NYCityLens. 

After the morning rush hour ends around 10, he takes a break. But then he’s right back to pounding the keys on his grey 15-inch HP laptop for the start of the evening rush hour in the afternoon. Even if he has to run an errand or help his grandmother to an appointment, Richard said, he always tries to find the time to help riders before he leaves.

Derrick Richard at the Grand Central subway station. (Monique LeBrun/ NY City Lens)

Derrick Richard at the Grand Central subway station. (Monique LeBrun/ NY City Lens)

Richard said, he also keeps a close eye on how things are moving when he rides the train by watching the conductors as they stick their head out of the cabin to help passengers on the platform.

He hopes one day to be in their position of authority—and he’s ready to jump on the process as soon as the next round of tests are announced by the MTA. To qualify for the position, an applicant must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, pass a drug and medical test, and pass a written exam. However, the MTA doesn’t have any open conductor positions available and isn’t offering any exams at this time.

Richard’s proud of his Twitter feed, but being a conductor, he says, would give him a different sense of accomplishment.

“Well what I do now, I don’t have a sense of authority,” said Richard, “but if I’m a conductor, I’m getting them from one last stop all the way to another last stop.”