So you are heading into the city from JFK on a weekday afternoon. From the terminal "loop" you've taken the Air Train to Jamaica Station. At Jamaica, you can transfer to Sutphen station and get an E Train directly into Manhattan. With any luck, the train will be fairly empty at Sutphen - it is very close to the end (or the beginning) of the E line. But the train will fill up with passengers as it gets closer to Manhattan.
The New York subway is a wonder of engineering. Not only is it the largest network of its kind in the world, it links together the two islands of Manhattan and Long Island with the mainland state of New York across tunnels under the Harlem and East Rivers. It's also one of the oldest systems in the world, dating back to 1904. Today it runs 24/7 365 days a year with over 5 million passengers a day on weekdays.
It's convenient for getting around, and links up neatly with bus and ferry services, as well as the PATH trains that run to New Jersey. You can use the same tickets for all services. The most convenient system if you are staying more than a few days is the MetroCard which you can use at the electronic turnstyles. It saves you money and time - you can either buy the pay-as-you-go version which you can charge at the station, or unlimted trips for 7 or 30 days.
UPDATE: The New York Subway system was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Be sure to check the MTA website for details on line closures and/or repair activities.
While New York is surprisingly walkable for a big city, you'll usually find the subway is faster. Before you start off, your best bet is to go to a subway station booth and ask for a subway map. It is an extensive listing of the entire subway system, including a list of which trains stop at which stations (bold means the line stops there all the time, while regular text means the line stops there sometimes). The back of the map even includes a schematic of the Metro North and Long Island Railroad commuter rail systems. Best of all, "The Map" (as it's called) is free. NOTE: While it is normally safe to consult the map while on the Subway (in fact, you'll find more than a few locals doing just that), use common sense and don't open the map in a situation where it might be dangerous if someone thinks you don't know exactly where you're going.
Fares as of May 2013
As for fares, a ride on the Subway or local bus normally costs $2.50. While it is possible to purchase a single fare card (Cost: $2.75), it's usually a better value to purchase a "pay-per-ride" Metrocard for $1. This will allow you to make certain transfers you will not be allowed to do with a single-ride farecard. In addition, if you purchase a pay-per-ride Metrocard worth more than $5, you will get a 5% bonus. Up to four people are also allowed to ride on a single pay-per-ride Metrocard; simply slide (or, in the case of local buses, "dip") your card once for each person.
For tourists who wish to make multiple trips over a short period, the Unlimited Ride cards can be a good value. The options are a 7-day card for $30 and a 30-day card for $112. (NOTE: The old 1-day "Fun Pass" and 14-day cards have been discontinued) As a rule, if you plan to stay in New York City for more than 3 days, the 7-day card is the best idea for a stress-free stay; purchase the card, ride the Subway (and local buses) whenever you want, and forget it. Note that, unlike a pay-per-ride card, an Unlimited Ride card is only valid for one person; the same card cannot be used twice at the same station within 18 minutes. Also be aware that these Unlimited Ride Metrocards are not valid on express buses, PATH Trains, or AirTrain JFK, though it is now possible to set up your Metrocard for both "Unlimited Ride" and "Pay Per Ride" simultaneously. See the website for details.
To use a Metrocard in the Subway, with the colored side facing you, quickly slide the card through the turnstile slot back to front in the direction of the arrows on the bottom of the card. To use a Metrocard on a local bus, be sure the colored side of the card is facing you and the clipped corner is pointed up. "Dip" the card into the slot and wait for the beep confirming the card was read properly. Bus drivers are generally reasonably patient helping tourists insert the card correctly.
Best subway app ever is HopStop. If you don't have a smartphone you can go old school like I did. Before we left home, for the trips I knew we would be making, I printed maps that showed which subways to get on and where to get off. You just put your starting and ending location and we didn't get lost once. Also if flying into JFK you can take the air train then the subway to Manhattan. cheap and doesn't take any longer than a cab. Jamaica station is a bit sketchy but no one bothered us.
Having no car nor desire to pay for a taxi, I had to simply grab my pooch and hope for the best at the subway terminal. As it turns out, dogs can be brought onto the subway IF THEY ARE HELD. I saw a woman being reprimanded by a MTA guard for not holding her dog. This is very important, since NYC subway is the best way to get around from park to park. Central Park is a great place to take the dog for a walk, for example.
Correction: In winter, sometimes pet may not be allowed. Right after NYC experienced Hurricane Sandy and then a noreaster soon thereafter, I tried to take my dog onboard. A loudspeaker told me to get off the train. I started to leave the station but the ticket guy waved me back. So, I put the dog under my overcoat and was then successful in boarding the train the rest of the day. This trick would have been hard if the dog were bigger than my 18 pound miniature Schnauzer.
“Scattered in little surprises.”
—Tom Otterness (1952- ), how the artist describes the arrangement of his art installation
At the 14th Street and Eighth Avenue subway station platform (where the A, C, E, & L trains can be caught) some of the most whimsical and entertaining public artwork can be found. “Life Underground” was commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit project in 2001. Created by Tom Otterness (1952- ), an American sculptor, this sight-specific, permanent public artwork cost a tidy $200,000. That was bargain because Otterness delivered more than four times the number of figures that he was originally commissioned to produce. He was thoroughly involoved with the project. The complete installation includes more than 100 individual pieces. The entire project took 10 years from commission to completion.
The installation is made up of whimsical miniature bronze sculptures, rendered in a cartoon-like style. The characters include people and animals in difference scenarios. To add credence to the oft-repeated urban legend, “Life Underground” includes a bronze alligator climbing out of a sewer, swallowing a passer-by.
Otterness acknowledges his debt to the 19th century political cartoonist Thomas Nast and the way he drew New York’s Boss Tweed, along with the corruption of Tammany Hall that was rampant when the subway was first under construction, as his inspiration. This work is very New York! All ages can delight in these charming figures.
“Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts symbolizes an increasing interest in America in cultural matters, as well as a stimulating approach to one of the Nation's pressing problems: urban blight.”
—President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the groundbreaking ceremony for Lincoln Center, NYC, 14.May.1959
Lincoln Center has been at the heart of New York’s performing arts scene for more than 50 years.
The subway station that serves Lincoln Center has its walls decorated with mosaics. The images bring to mind Giuseppe Verdi’s 1871 opera “Aïda”.
Ride the New York City subway. It is safe. It is clean. It is the least costly way to get around the city in the most efficient means possible. It is also entertaining.
The New York Subway is also very convenience means of transportation in the city. Even if you do not really plan to use it too many times, maybe just once for the historical experience is fun. I used it few times for connections to the center as it useful to avoid the traffic. But the Subway system also is very old and not as modern as in most of Europe, you need the gate to be open for you and sometimes it did not and if you had only one time ticket, then you lost it and no one to complain to.
(work in progress)
Most cities with Metro rail systems have developed highly distinctive logos that are clearly visible from a distance: think of the instantly recognisable London Underground logo or the elegant Art Deco 'Metropolitan’ notices in Paris. However, for some reason that escapes me, New York seems to take an almost perverse delight in concealing subway stations from the tourist and finding the entrance to your subway station can be quite a challenge.
Subway station entrances are at best cryptic, and at worst, almost impossible to find, at least until you've 'got your eye in'. The logo is displayed, but it is an undistinguished little blue ’M’ in a small box on a white background. These seem almost designed to blend into the background in a city chockful of lights and distractions, and it is frustratingly possible to walk straight past an entrance without seeing it, even if you’re specifically looking for it.
Once you've found the entrance, you can't get too complacent, as you next need to confirm that it is the correct entrance. Because Manhattan Island and the surrounding areas are essentially flat, the New York subway stations are very shallow and have a very simple ‘cut and fill’ construction. Designs were kept as simple as possible to constrain costs, and at many stations, there are separate entrances to the two platforms, which means that there are no underground connections between the two. So be sure to read the signage carefully so that you don’t use the entrance to the ‘Downtown’ platform when you’re intending to head Uptown: otherwise, you’ll have to schlep back up to surface and cross the road to the correct entrance, which is a particular pain if you’re in a hurry or carrying heavy baggage.
(work in progress)
I am usually wildly enthusiastic about metro train systems, but of all the metros I’ve encountered, the New York subway is my least favourite by a good way.
Access to most subway stations for those with limited mobility – and in this, I include people pushing prams and pushchairs (strollers) and carrying heavy luggage - is challenging at best, and a nightmare at worse. So much so that I seriously considered placing this tip under the 'Warnings and Dangers' category.
Few stations have escalators and access to stations and/or platforms is often via steep flights of stairs that will challenge even the moderately fit carrying a suitcase. Whilst some stations have lifts and/or escalators, these are certainly not the norm and should be considered as an unexpected bonus rather than a given.
In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that if you are someone with limited mobility, then it would be foolhardy to rely on the subway system: if you fall into this category, then rather opt for the buses, for which you can use the same Metrocard as for the subway (USD29 for a week at the time of writing in October 2012).
Based on excellent feedback from VT member 10028, the newer buses are equipped with a flat boarding platform instead of steps, whereas the older buses lower their chassis to street level at stops, making it easier for people with limited mobility to board. Follow this link for the bus map of Manhattan
New York City is a walkable place, with a dense concentration of neighborhoods and sights, and hitting the sidewalks is one of the best ways of exploring. The extensive subway network is cheap ($2.50 for a SingleRide, $2.25 if using a MetroPass, or [if you are going to be there a while] under $30 for an unlimited seven day pass ), efficient and handy for covering larger distances, and it operates round-the-clock. The ubiquitous yellow taxis are useful late at night and relatively cheap compared to those in many international cities. Plus riding in one is all part of the NYC experience.
New York City's subway is America's oldest and largest public transit system. And from my experience, it's the best. No breakdowns or delays. And you just have not experience New York City until you've been on the subway.
New York probably has the most famous, and at the same time most infamous, subway on Earth. What makes it so famous is that New York's subway system is the largest in the world in terms of miles of tunnels and tracks. It stretches to all the five boroughs and is extremely convenient if you are traveling around Manhattan which almost all tourists do. It is also very fast when compared to other methods of transportation available. However there are problems that make New York's subway system infamous. Firstly I will talk about a myth. New York's subway is not crime ridden as it is sometime protrayed in movies and television. I was surprised by how busy it was late at night and I have never felt threatened on the system. There is another problem for those not used to traveling on the subway in New York. It is the fact that many of the various lines travel along the same tracks for a certain number of stations. This may mean you might be intending on hoping on the A train and end up on the D train which might take you to entirely different location that you intended upon going to. Alway pay attention to the name of the train as it approaches the station. You may hope on the wrong train. Another problem is the fact that many trains are express trains. This means that they may skip stations where you wanted to get off. Again pay attention before you get on.
New York has recently introduced a card system which will give you a certain amount rides at cost or for a period of time suggest as a week or 30 days. A single ride is $2.00. A week long pass is quite affordable and recommended for tourists.
I have noticed in my most resent trip to New York that the stations in Midtown and Downtown have been considerable cleaned up and restored. This certainly makes them less threatening. However I also noticed when I visited the Cloister up at the top of Manhattan Island that the stations up there where in very poor shape. Riders might want to take care up here. If I were a robber, this is where I would practice my trade.
Taking the New York subway was much easier than we had hoped. For one thing, get a Metro map when you arrive in NY - the one I printed off the internet was too small to be useful. The subway will get you to (or close to) anywhere you want to go, and can even get you to the train station if you need to go further. :-) Fare is $2.50 each way (no matter how far you go), but the easier way is to get a MetroCard from the machines in the terminal. You decide how much to load onto the card (if you load $20, they add an extra $1.40), then you can just reuse the card until it is empty or you can reload the card.
The subway cars were clean (ish), and very fast. Who needs a car when you have such cheap and reliable public transportation? I wish we had one in Nashville!
“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm.”
— Theodore Roosevelt, (1858-1919) founder of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, his hometown
The 81th Street subway stop serves the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West and West 81th Street.
As an acknowledgment of the location, the walls of the subway station at West 81th and Central Park West feature mosaics in the forms of insects, birds, reptiles and other creatures. My favorite are the parrots perched on the stair rail (see photo #4).
Ride New York’s subway system. It saves money; it saves energy; it is entertaining.