How many people can be LEGALLY crammed into a subway car?

I’ve lived in Cambridge, MA my entire life and as such have ridden the MBTA (the T) since I was a baby. As I’m sure people from NYC, Chicago, London, Tokyo, and all other cities with major public transit systems know, cramming like sardines into the subway cars is a daily occurrence that nobody thinks twice about (except for myself and the few other considerate people who stay behind on the platform at Park St. and wait for the next train).

What is the legality of this? Surely it’s fine if there are a good number of people standing, because it’s simply unrealistic to expect the doors to close as soon as all the seats are filled, but don’t subway cars that are bursting at the seams with passengers pose a safety issue?

I live in the DC area. DC Metro cars are rated at 82 seated with a total capacity of 175. I have never seen anything about a legal limit. IMHO to get more than 175 people in one of those cars you would have to be doing a stunt where you stack people up in tiers.

I don’t know if the capacity is based on floor space or weight, but these cars are probably overengineered to provide a comfortable buffer beyond their rated limit. Unlike airplanes or elevators, weight isn’t as a big a deal for a subway train car. So I don’t see any safety consideration from the standpoint of normal operation.

The other thing that might affect safety is the ability to evacuate in case of an emergency. Buildings have legal maximums for this reason, which can be enforced by the fire marshal. However, for something as small as a subway car, even one packed to the max can be emptied in fairly short order, as I have seen during rush hour at Metro Center, or at Navy Yard for a Nats game. There are no posted signs in the DC cars or anywhere else that give a legal maximum.

You mentioned Tokyo–not only do there not appear to be legal limits but officials make sure (or possibly did so in the past) that the maximum physical capacity is used by employing pushers to cram people in the cars (Google “Tokyo subway pushers”).

I live in China.

Q: How many Chinese can you fit into a subway car ?

A: One more, one more…