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Pusher (railway station attendant)

Rush hour at Ueno Station in Tokyo, 2007

A pusher (押し屋, oshiya) is a worker who pushes people onto the train at a railway station during the morning and evening rush hours.


New York CityEdit

New York City conductors were well-known for using the phrase "step lively" to exhort passengers to clear space by the doors of streetcars and subway cars during the early 20th century,[1] dating back to the opening of the subway in 1904.[2] "Step lively" was seen as an overly imperative phrase that "flusters the timid and uncertain and angers those who desire to be courteously treated".[3] The New York Times advocated the use of "press forward" instead of "step lively" in 1908.[4]

Why, from the moment of starting, I have been mauled and hauled about by the crowds, and every conductor yelled at me, 'Step lively, step lively, lady,' and some even caught hold of me and jerked me on the car and then pushed me into the struggling crowd of passengers inside. 'Step lively,' indeed!

— anonymous widow describing her New York City streetcar experience, The Spectator, c.1890s[3]

Early legal precedent in New York held railway operators liable for injuries resulting from overcrowded platforms; since the operator controlled access to the platforms, they could limit the number of passengers on the platform and prevent crowds from pushing and potentially injuring unwilling passengers.[5][6] Another New York decision held the operator would be blameless for the pressing action of the crowd, but noted that since the car had been subject to "forced augmentation" by an employee (the guard), the operator was held liable.[7] In Boston, a court ruled the schedule and convenience of other passengers meant that efforts to minimize station dwell time were justified, although physically packing passengers on trains was not mentioned.[8][9]

A New York Times article from August 8, 1918, mentions subway guards and police trying to direct and push crowds onto trains operating along the new 42nd Street Shuttle service between Times Square and Grand Central.[10] By the 1920s, pushers in the New York City Subway were known worldwide, but were not well-liked due to their reputation as "sardine packers".[11][12]

New York City subway pushers are depicted in the 1941 biographical movie Sergeant York; George Tobias plays the character "Pusher" Ross, a soldier from New York City. In the film, "Pusher" has to explain his nickname to Alvin York – which he got because he pushes passengers onto the crowded subway cars during rush hours. The story takes place during World War I, which establishes that "Pusher" was a subway pusher in New York City prior to 1918. Also, in the Bugs Bunny cartoon Hurdy Gurdy Hare, Bugs dons a conductor's cap and pushes a gorilla while saying, "push in, plenty of room in the center of the car!", pausing to tell the audience "I used to work on the shuttle from Times Square to Grand Central". The cartoon was copyrighted in 1948 and released in 1950.


The term oshiya (押し屋) is derived from the verb "osu" (押す), meaning "push", and the suffix "-ya" (), indicating "line of work." Oshiya ensure every passenger has boarded and does not get caught in the doors, as described during a CNN interview with Sandra Barron, an American living in Tokyo.[13]

In Japan, when pushers were first brought in at Shinjuku Station, they were called "passenger arrangement staff" (旅客整理係, ryokaku seiri gakari), and were largely made up of students working part-time; currently, station staff and/or part-time workers fill these roles during morning rush hours on many lines.[14][15] During the run-up to the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a special issue of LIFE magazine described a photograph by Brian Brake as showing "the Tokyo commuter trains where riders are squashed aboard by white-gloved official pushers."[16] In 1975, oshiya packed commuters into rush-hour trains that were filled to an average of 221 percent of designed capacity.[17]

A 1995 New York Times article noted white-gloved oshiya were still being deployed during rush hours, but called them "tushy pushers", or shiri oshi (尻 押し).[15] By 2000, rush-hour trains had become significantly less crowded, running at an average of 183 percent of capacity; this was driven partially by increased capacity (a system-wide 60% increase in 2000 compared to 1970), by the prolonged recession which started in the 1990s, and by commuter incentives designed to make off-peak hour trains more inviting.[17]

Current useEdit


At least three cities in China have employed professional train pushers. The Beijing Subway has hired employees to help pack commuters onto the train carriages since 2008.[18][19] On the Shanghai Metro, trains running on Line 8 at up to 170% of capacity during peak hours in 2010 have used volunteers to help fill carriages.[20] In 2012, seven years after opening, crowds on Chongqing Metro trains were so thick that pushers were used during peak hours.[21]

Madrid MetroEdit

In February 2017, Madrid hired "pushers" in its Metro to cope with increased numbers of passengers. Line 8, which connects the Madrid–Barajas Airport to Madrid's city center, was temporarily closed due to maintenance works, which caused a surge of passengers on other lines. In Spanish, subway pushers are literally called "pushers" (empujadores); they help passengers embark and make sure that carriage doors are properly closed. Some observers immediately made comparisons with the Japanese oshiya.[22][23]

New York City SubwayEdit

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority hires "platform controllers" to direct crowds to minimize platform dwell times, although their duties do not include physically moving passengers.[24][25] They perform similar duties as the subway guards, who performed similar duties in the subway through the 1940s.[12][25]

Frankfurt am Main S-BahnEdit

Since 2015, Deutsche Bahn AG has been using pushers at the city's main train station (Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof) and at times at the S-Bahn station "Messe" (trade fair) and other highly frequented metro stations (e.g. Eschborn Süd). These platform attendants are called Einstiegslotsen (boarding guides, initially they were called Fahrgastlenker, i.e. "passenger steerers"). As it was considered delicate to really "push" people forward physically, as is standard procedure e.g. in Tokyo-Shinjuku station, the Einstiegslotsen try to avoid direct physical contact. They concentrate on boosting passenger entry and barring the access to the closing doors to stop people trying to enter the full train.


  1. ^ Larned, Augusta (9 January 1902). "Little Dramas of the Street-cars". The Christian Register. Vol. 81. pp. 35–36. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  2. ^ Kennedy, Randy (20 March 2001). "Tunnel Vision; The Subway Voice of the Future Is a Recording". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b "The Spectator". The Outlook. 14 July 1906. pp. 597–598. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  4. ^ "New Subway Admonition" (PDF). The New York Times. 11 November 1908. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  5. ^ Dawson v. New York Brooklyn Bridge, 31 App. Div. 537 (Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department 1898) ("Nevertheless, it clearly appears that the mass of persons desiring to board the train was allowed to crowd upon the car platform so rapidly and with such force that the plaintiff was unable to control his own movements, and was thrust hither and thither against his will, until one of his legs sank into the space between the third and fourth cars. Fortunately for himself, and fortunately for the defendants, so far as the amount of damages is concerned, the plaintiff succeeded in withdrawing the greater part of his leg before the starting of the train brought the bumpers together, so that he suffered only an injury to his foot, which has resulted in the loss of a portion of two toes.").
  6. ^ Dittmar v. Brooklyn Heights R.R. Co, 91 App. Div. 378 (Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Second Department 1904) ("There were few people on the platform when she first reached it, but before the train arrived a crowd of passengers had collected so dense that there was no room to move, to escape, or even to turn around. She chanced to stand within a foot of the edge of the platform, and when the train finally came was pushed by the crowd with considerable force against the side of the car where she was held for a moment or two and was then thrown by the crowd violently into the car, sustaining the personal injuries which form the basis of her recovery.").
  7. ^ Viemeister v. Brooklyn Heights R.R. Co, 182 N.Y. 307 (Court of Appeals of the State of New York 1905) ("But the court did charge that if the accident was caused by a voluntary rush of other persons who wanted to get on board the car, the defendant could not be held liable, and plaintiff's counsel, instead of contenting himself with an exception to that part of the charge, emphasized his adherence to the theory of the action set forth in the complaint by requesting the court to charge that, even though plaintiff was forced upon the car by other persons, yet, if he boarded it in safety, and the accident was caused by the guard's subsequent forced augmentation of the crowd, the defendant was liable. This request was granted.").
  8. ^ Hannon v. Boston Elevated Ry. Co., 65 N.E. 809 (Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts January 8, 1903) ("The stations are not far apart, and during the busy hours of the day throngs of passengers are very great. In order to accommodate them with rapid transit, it is important that arrangements be made for their exit and entry at the stations with the least possible delay.").
  9. ^ Willworth v. Boston Elevated Ry. Co., 74 N.E. 333 (Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts May 19, 1905) ("The nature of the business in which the defendant is engaged and the convenience of its passengers, who cannot afford an unnecessary loss of time, justify efforts to make the transfers at stations quickly.").
  10. ^ "Drop Shuttle Plan as Subway Crush becomes a Peril". New York Times. August 3, 1918. pp. 1 (continued on page 7). Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  11. ^ Fitzpatrick, Tracy (1967). Art and the Subway: New York Underground. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-8135-4452-6. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  12. ^ a b "Subway Guards are Versatile". The New York Times Magazine. 1930-02-09. p. 22. Retrieved 2017-04-10.
  13. ^ Said-Moorhouse, Lauren (29 October 2012). "How to survive Tokyo's subway sandwich". CNN. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  14. ^ Mito, Yuko (2001). 定刻発車 (Teikoku Hassha). Tokyo: Shinchosha. pp. 113–118.
  15. ^ a b WuDunn, Sheryl (17 December 1995). "On Tokyo's Packed Trains, Molesters Are Brazen". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  16. ^ "A serene love of nature and a frantic side to life". Life. Vol. 57 no. 11. Time, Inc. 11 September 1964. p. 13. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  17. ^ a b Schaefer, Gary (27 April 2000). "Tokyo commuters breathe easier". The Advocate-Messenger. Danville, Kentucky. Associated Press. Retrieved 11 April 2017.(subscription required)
  18. ^ "Beijing subway: a commuter's story". China Daily. 28 November 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  19. ^ Jiang, Steven (22 May 2008). "Beijing commuters feel the squeeze". CNN World. Retrieved 11 April 2017. Busy stations not only deploy "door pushers" to help commuters squeeze into the carriages during peak times but also limit the number of passengers on the platforms out of safety concerns.
  20. ^ Bao, Daozu (4 February 2010). "Shanghai metro hires people to shove commuters into trains". China Daily. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  21. ^ Chang, Star (7 February 2012). "Subway in Chongqing Hires Pushers to Stuff Passengers into Trains". M.I.C. Gadget. Archived from the original on 14 February 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  22. ^ Ramírez, Daniel (8 February 2017). "Los 'empujadores' del Metro de Madrid: "No somos como los de Japón"" [The 'pushers' of the Madrid Metro: "We are not like those of Japan"]. El Espanol. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  23. ^ "El Metro de Madrid camufla el uso de 'empujadores'" [The Madrid Metro camouflages the use of 'pushers']. La Vanguardia. 7 February 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  24. ^ "Your Ride Matters: Platform Controllers". Metropolitan Transit Authority. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  25. ^ a b Fitzsimmons, Emma G. (3 May 2016). "Surge in Ridership Pushes New York Subway to Limit". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2017.

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