section 1050.6 Use Of The Transit System of MTA rules:

Go to MTA website for this link then click on Authorization and Purpose scroll to read  1050.6 c 

the important section in the 1,188 word document of non transit uses permitted, is this phrase. artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations;

Memorize it. sing it. and get a copy of the Rules of Conduct pamphlet to carry with you. (BuskNY is happy to send them to you). But also realize it isn't just that simple either. You can't impede traffic, you can't amplify. And be respectful of the surroundings anytime you perform in a public space. 

here's the section below: words highlighted in bold are mine for emphasis:

c) Except as expressly permitted in this subdivision, no person shall engage in any nontransit uses upon any facility or conveyance. Nontransit uses are noncommercial activities that are not directly related to the use of a facility or conveyance for transportation. The following nontransit uses are permitted by the Authority, provided they do not impede transit activities and they are conducted in accordance with these rules: public speaking; campaigning; leafletting or distribution of written noncommercial materials; activities intended to encourage and facilitate voter registration; artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations;

equally important in MTA Rules of Conduct is 1050.7 Disorderly conduct which in section e states that you can not:

e) create any sound through the use of any sound production device, except as specifically authorized by 1050.6(c) of these rules. Use of radios and other devices listened to solely by headphones or earphones and inaudible to others is permitted;

and here is what is written directly on the NY.GOV website MTA Rules of performing:

Entertaining on the Subway 

The Rule which regulates the provision of entertainment on the subway is Section 1050.6 (c).   Some features of this Rule are listed below. This description should NOT be considered a full explanation of all aspects of this rule, but only a brief and general summary. All persons who are interested in performing on the subway and who wish to avoid violating the law are strongly advised to contact New York City Transit beforehand to get a copy of the Rules of Conduct, as well as a more complete explanation of their requirements.

Some general rules for performing on the subway include (but are not limited to) the following:

  1. Artistic performances on transit facilities are permitted, but only if they are in accordance with the following rules AND if they do not impede transit activities, including access to the trains and stations and the free movement of passengers. All artistic performances which violate these rules OR which impede transit activities are forbidden.

articles 2-13 read on for the rest of the rules of conduct


MTA Rules of performing document below from NY.GOV website:

The use of the facilities of the New York City transit system for non-transit activities is regulated by the New York City Transit Authority Rules of Conduct. These Rules (their full name is actually "Rules governing the conduct and safety of the public in the use of the facilities of the New York City Transit Authority and Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Authority") form Part 1050 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations, or "NYCRR" for short. They are enacted and amended by the Board of the New York City Transit Authority, and have the force of law.

Entertaining on the Subway 

The Rule which regulates the provision of entertainment on the subway is Section 1050.6 (c).   Some features of this Rule are listed below. This description should NOT be considered a full explanation of all aspects of this rule, but only a brief and general summary. All persons who are interested in performing on the subway and who wish to avoid violating the law are strongly advised to contact New York City Transit beforehand to get a copy of the Rules of Conduct, as well as a more complete explanation of their requirements.

Some general rules for performing on the subway include (but are not limited to) the following:

  1. Artistic performances on transit facilities are permitted, but only if they are in accordance with the following rules AND if they do not impede transit activities, including access to the trains and stations and the free movement of passengers. All artistic performances which violate these rules OR which impede transit activities are forbidden.
  2. You may not perform on board a subway train or a bus.
  3. You may not perform within 25 feet of a token booth.
  4. You may not perform within 50 feet of the marked entrance of a New York City Transit office or tower, or in any areas not open to the public.
  5. You may not perform on or near a platform where construction, renovation, or maintenance work is actively underway.
  6. You may not make excessive noise, or any noise which interferes with transit operations. (Note: Consult the text of the rule for the specific decibel levels defined as "excessive noise.").
  7. You may not use media devices, such as films, slides, or videotapes.
  8. You may not use an amplification device of any kind on a platform.
  9. You may not use a sound production device during public announcements made by Transit employees or police.
  10. Special rules govern the use of the locations designated for the "Music Under New York" component of the MTA's "Arts for Transit" program. Arts for Transit may be contacted directly at (212) 878-7452.
  11. Some station platforms are so narrow that any performance will always interfere with passenger movement. In certain other locations (including some platforms and passageways), performances which create no obstruction during off-peak times may create obstructions during rush hours. In addition, even designated performance locations can become unsuitable because of unexpected service disruptions or emergencies. It is therefore not possible to list locations in which performances are always allowed. Performers should use common sense before choosing a location in which to perform, and in all cases must comply with the lawful orders and directives of police and Transit employees.
  12. You may accept donations for your performance, but you may not use your performance as an excuse for active, aggressive solicitation. For example, you may have an open instrument case into which listeners may place donations, but you may not walk through the audience with a container asking for payment.
  13. Violations of the above requirements or of any Transit Rule of Conduct may result in the ejection of the violator from the transit system, the issuance of a summons, or the arrest of the violator.