Balancing your child’s safety and independence is a battle of the mind for many NYC parents. The struggle of wanting your kids to have and experience their own independence, but also being legitimately concerned with their safety is a real discussion for parents. While there aren’t any clearly stated or written rules about age limits for riding the subway, the official recommended age is between 8 and 13.
Most NYC students are given their own MetroCards in the 7th grade, so that's a pretty good gauge on age minimum and maturity level. According to the official recommendation, the MTA “recommends that children under the age of 8 be accompanied by an adult or a responsible youth (at least 12 years old) when riding its trains.” This goes for the entire transit system: NYC subways, buses, the LIRR, and Metro North.
Most parents tend to agree that for kids traveling alone on the subway, it’s not so much about their age, but rather their maturity level and knowledge of safety and emergency precautions. You will see many kids riding the subway to and from school, but that doesn’t happen until the child is extremely familiar with their daily travel route. In addition, it’s best that the kids know any alternatives to take in case of any train issues that may come up.
Distance is a huge factor to consider. You want to limit the number of blocks your child will need to walk to and from the train to school. Some parents opt to ride the train with their kids to their school stop and then allow the children to walk the rest of the way to school. You want to ensure that your child is very familiar with getting on and off the train and how to read and understand the different train routes.