Subway, New York City
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.
There are SEVERAL trains in New York. However, most run of the same line. Example: the 4-5-6 train (green). The 4-5 is an EXPRESS train and the 6 is a LOCAL train. This means that the EXPRESS (4-5) stops at only CERTAIN stops...not every single one. The LOCAL trains stop at EVERY stop.
If you're unused to NYC subways, take the LOCAL trains. At least you will be sure that you don't miss your stop, if the Express train does not stop at your particular stop.
When you're in the station looking for which direction you should go in, you need to figure out two things. 1) what line do you need? 2) what direction?
The line you need will be a number or a letter. We don't discern our subway lines by color. You don't need any NAMED direction (ie. what's the last stop on a line?) but rather, you need to know whether you're going UPTOWN or DOWNTOWN, WESTSIDE or EASTSIDE.
With the MetroCard (which is what we call ANY ticket for the subway/bus) you can reuse it for a free transfer (up to 2 hours) to another train or bus as long as it's at the same area/stop (If you get off at 59th St by subway, you can transfer for a bus on 59th Street for free). Unlimited MetroCards also have the free transfer feature, but two riders can't use one unlimited MetroCard to enter the subway at the same time. Eighteen minutes must elapse before the card can be used again.
If you have to stand on the train, move out of the way when the doors open at a stop so that people can get onto the train. Likewise, wait for people to get off the train before boarding. Normally, people waiting to get on a train will wait towards the sides while people getting off the train will alight in the middle of the crowd.
The subway runs 24 hours, but during late hours, you could wait up to an hour. If you choose to ride the subway at night, wait for the train near the station booth and ride in the center car, where the conductor is, so you will have more company.
1. If you're going to take a lot of buses or subways, buy a 7-day unlimited use card from any of the subway stations. It's $21 and can be used for buses and the subway, and it expires at midnight on the 7th day.
2. Take a few minutes to orient yourself with the subway map. You can pretty quickly see which train brings you back to your hotel. I found out that subway workers are a lot nicer to you if you say, "Where can I catch the 6?" than if you say, "How can I get to 575 Broadway from here?"
3. Sometimes you'll run into a swipe mechanism that repeatedly rejects your card. This starts out as mildly embarrassing and then escalates into a seriously maddening situation. This happened to me a couple times, and finally a girl showed me the solution: you have to fold up a piece of paper and run it through the swipe mechanism, to clean it out. The paper comes out black with dirt and presto, magic-o, your metro card works the next time through.
Too many times riding a subway I see these pathetic people that look so touristy, and lost it's sad. I'm here to help you to use a subway like a real New Yorker. Here we go:
1. If you're staying more than a day buy a weekly unlimiyed pass ($21.00). Single fare cost $2.00. You will save money buying unlimited pass.
2. When you're at the platform DO NOT stand near the edge. There's a couple incidents a year when some crazy bastard pushes a person under a train. OUTCH!
3. To find out which way the subway is going just look for the name of the last stop.
4. The're constant route changes look for flier and announcements.
5. There are FREE subway maps for you, just ask for it at the ticket counter. But don't go walking around with your map, you will look touristy.
6. Riding the subway DO NOT (LISEN UP!!!!!) look at people, smile, make contact. THere are weirdos that can attack you, harras you and more. Did you notice how New Yorkers all read or sleep while riding the subway.
7. Do not buy subway cards from strangers, they're FAKE!
8. BE careful and look after your valuables, do not let anyone brush up against you! If this happens, find a cop, or subways security at the stop. Start shouting, if you see something suspiscious!
9. When you get on a subway as a group do no have a loud conversation that will let everyone know you're a tourist, you can get followed, and mugged.
10. The subway is open 24 hours, the trains come more freaquently during the peak hours, and come every 20 minutes after 12am. Watch your back if you're riding a subway late at night. BE safe!
If you follow these tips and have comon sense you will be fine.
The good old NY metro is reliable, cheap, safe and will take you from as far as the Bronx and Queens all the way to Brooklyn and Manhattan. In my opinion, the subway is easy to take but the difficulty is to know which of the 4 exits is the most convenient for you (read: where you walk the least to your final destination), but you're not farther than a short walk if you have to retrace your steps.
A single ride costs 2.25US and can be bought at the machines in the stations and at many kiosks in the city.
If you know that you're gonna use the metro a lot, you can either buy an unlimited pass or charge a certain amount of money to the card, and if you buy more than 8 US you get a 15% bonus on the card - that will translate to more rides and value for your money. The metro card is also good to use on the MTA buses and the PATH train.
As of Jan 2010, the manned subway stations don't sell single tickets and instead they will break your bills so that you can buy the ticket on the machine.
On the back of the card you'll find the card's expiration date (2 years ahead of time, more or less). Up until the date printed on the back, you can transfer the money to another card or use it, so you could save it for a future trip =)
You haven’t really experienced New York until you’ve travelled on the subway, but as well as being a quintessential New York experience it is also the quickest and easiest way of getting around. The map may look confusing at first, but to anyone used to similar systems in other cities it’s easy enough to pick up. The main things you need to know are:
~ lines are distinguished by a number or letter, not their colour (though the latter helps with the map reading)
~ as well as knowing the number or letter you’ll need to know whether you’re going uptown or downtown or east or west
~ some lines are express ones and only stop at a limited number of stations, so check whether you’ll be able to alight at your destination before selecting which line to use
~ some lines don’t run at weekends but these are usually those that are duplicated by another (e.g. express) line so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem – listen for announcements though as you could wait a long while for a train that will never come!
A single fare is $2 for anywhere in the city but if you’re planning to make more than a few journeys you’ll probably find a Metrocard (multi-trip card) to suit you. We bought 7 day unlimited cards, which cost $25 and saved us quite a lot - we were making several journeys a day and by the middle of day four these were all “free”. The card can also be used on buses, making it even better value. Other options include cards for shorter or longer periods, or ones which you can pre-load with cash to use on a journey by journey basis – useful perhaps if you’re staying for a period that doesn’t fit with the standard cards or aren’t expecting to make so many journeys. You can buy your card from the machine at all subway stations (though note that it wouldn’t accept our UK debit card), from ticket booths, in some shops and on buses.
The subway runs 24 hours a day, though with fewer trains at night. We didn’t use it after the early evening – not because we felt unsafe but because we never needed to. However friends living in the city seemed comfortable using it at around 10.00 PM after an evening out together and advice in guide-books suggests the same. During the day we never felt threatened and indeed enjoyed the people-watching opportunities and at times chatting to the local people we met.
Now, I am far from being an expert in how to get around on the New York subway system. I rode the subway plenty in my day (I used to take the Flushing train to Manhattan several times a week as a teenager) but that was decades ago. Even then, I would goof on occasion, ending up in all sorts of places where it was not really safe for a skinny blonde to be walking around on her own. But New Yorkers claim their city is much safer today, thanks to its 107th mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, whose get-tough policies are said to have reduced crime by half.
On visits to New York to visit my siblings, I have had opportunities to get back into a subway car and relive the steamy crush of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers frantically rushing around below ground. Only now I go armed with trusty facts and figures.
The IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit company), which operated New York’s first subway line, recently celebrated its centennial. It opened on October 27, 1904, and ran from City Hall to the Bronx. Today, the subway runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With 722 miles of track and 469 stations, NYC has the most extensive public transit system in the U.S. Trains run every 2-5 minutes during rush hour, every 10-15 minutes on off-hours, and every 20 minutes from midnight to 5 a.m. There are local and express trains. The “El” is the elevated line.
In the span of a century, fares rose 3,900 % – from a nickel in 1904 to $2 in 2004. Subway tokens were phased out by 2003. Now you purchase a MetroCard, which comes in various denominations. Reduced fares are available for students, seniors and disabled. This card is also good for buses. If you are like me, distrustful of vending machines, you might prefer to buy yours from a living, breathing human being - which, luckily, is still possible.
Remember: Once you go through a gate or turnstile, you have to pay again to get back in. So before you get caught up in the mad dash and go where everyone else seems to be going (as I did), make sure you are headed in the right direction…
Update: From July 2009, the fare for a single ride rose to $2.25.
The subway is the quickest way to get around town.
It can be a little confusing at first - there are several different lines and plenty of interchanges..... but once you get the hang of it you never need to have tired feet again!!
Grab a subway map from one of the stations and plan the easiest route to your destination.
Give it a try - you'll like it!!
The best and most economical way to travel around NYC is by subway. NYC has the largest subway sysytem with 24 hr service 7 days a week. The system with its labyrinth of networked connections is quite easy to follow and navigate. Most New Yorkers commute every day to and from work on this vast system, so during the peak commuting times many of the lines that run local during off peak times are express during peak time.
Morning peak time is from 6 am - 10 am afternoon peak time is from 4 pm - 7 pm. During off peak and weekends there is usually many changes on the lines due to constuction work, so be on the lookout for signs posted throughout the subway and on their webiste.
Most commuters use the weekly or monthly METROCARD which can be purchased at any station with cash or credit card. The machines are self explanitory and depending on the station provided instuctions in various languages. If you are in NYC or only a day purchase the ALL DAY Pass for $7.
For further information about the subway system and mapping your route, check out their website. Make sure to grab a free map from the station clerk.
We visited a friend in NYC and stayed there a week and she got us cards for unlimited subway use. You can buy an unlimited number of subway and bus rides for a fixed price.
As of 2009, choose from a 1-Day Fun Pass, a 7-Day, 14-Day, 30-Day, 7-Day Express Bus Plus, 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard accepted on JFK AirTrain only, or a JFK-AirTrain 10-Trip MetroCard.
1-Day Fun Pass
Cost: $8.25, reduced fare not available
Good for unlimited subway and local bus rides from first use until 3 a.m. the following day. Sold at MetroCard Vending Machines and at neighborhood stores. Not available at station booths.
7-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard
Cost: $27, reduced fare $13.50
Good for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight, 7 days from day of first use.
14-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard
Cost: $51.50, reduced fare $25.75
Good for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight, 14 days from day of first use. This card is protected against loss of theft when purchased at a vending machine with a creditor debit/ATM card.
The website for this is at http://www.mta.info/metrocard/mcgtreng.htm#unlimited
ON REDUCED FARES:
You have to qualify for a reduced fare and the website at MTA NYC transit tells the story ( http://www.mta.info/nyct/fare/rfabout.htmm ):
A fare is $2.25. Reduced fare is half fare ($1.10) or less with Reduced-Fare MetroCard discounts. If you are 65 years of age or older or have a disability that qualifies, you are eligible. MTA Reduced-Fare MetroCard is personalized with A NAME and photograph and works the same as a regular MetroCard. You can buy unlimited rides or you can pay-per-ride.
Reduced-fares are also available with any of the following forms of identification:
NYC Department of the Aging ID card
Medicare card (Medicaid card not accepted)
Access-A-Ride ID card
MTA Reduced-Fare ID card (pre-1995)
We used the Metro system to get to the Battery Park to get to the fairies to take us to Liberty Island. We got on the Red number 1 train and took us directly there and back. It is $2.00 one ride, one way and if you want to use it more, they have a fun pass for $7.00 unlimited for one day. The Metro machines were very easy to use too. The police were very helpful in directing you to the right train too!
Travel Information Center 1-718-330-1234
Travel information for non-English-speaking people 1-718-330-4847
Travel information for people with disabilities 1-718-596-8585
Main offices 1-718-330-3000
Customer service 1-718-330-3322
Bus customer relations center 1-888-692-8287
Lost and found 1-212-712-4500
Applications and eligibility
The metrocard day pass is the most effective way of getting around the city. There were days when we felt that maybe we needn't have bought it and buying individual ones at $2 each would have been better, but other days when we really were going all over the city, the metrocard day pass was worth it. I believe it was $7. The is only one hitch though and it seemed to happen to me everytime! IF when you swipe it, it doesnt work, you cant swipe it straightaway again. You must WAIT 18 minutes......yes you read that correctly EIGHTEEN minutes before you're allowed to try again. When I told the woman on duty she said "look miss, Im not going to argue with you...you'll just have to wait!" I couldnt believe it...she could SEE that it hadnt worked...their worry however is that you're letting other people use your card. I found it to be a little silly. What if it DID work, but you realised that you got out at the wrong station...you cant get back in again for another 18 minutes, or as she told me "buy a single ticket"...as IF!!!! Im not spending MORE money for something which isnt even my fault!!!! Arrgghh...very frustrating!
But apart from that..if you dont get a faulty card or machine...its the best way to travel!!!
Taking the subway in New York is quite easy... after a couple of days. The most important thing to know is if you are going uptown or downtown. Once you know that, at least you're in the right direction.
Just be careful about express or local trains. I was already happy that I found the right line, but unfortunately, I was on an express train, so it didn't stop where I had to get off. :-)
There are big wall maps in every subway station, so even if you've taken the wrong line, it's easy to get back on the right track afterwards.
If you stay for quite some time and you're planning on taking the subway often, then it's better to take a day-pass or week-pass. These can be bought inside the subway stations.
Coming from London I found the subway relatively easy to use although be sure to check that that subway goes to the junction of the streets you want to be at (ie the D&F trains take you to 34th street & Ave of the Americas whilst the red line takes you down a block to 34th street & 7th avenue)
The subway map is a mengerie of colour and each subway route is coded with a letter. The disadvantage is there is no subway map inside the train like they have in the tube so it can be a bit confusing to know what subways connect although if you can understand the conductor its usually yelled out before each stop. Be sure to board either for destination uptown or downtown.
Be advised that the subway does run a bit different on the weekends. But unlike London the subways run pretty much all night a real bonus for the city that never sleeps (20min intervals after 12pm).
The actual subway train is air conditioned but the platforms are hot & humid & I spotted the largest rat I've seen for a long time but it scuttled away before its golden photo opportunity.
The NYC subway used to have a really bad reputation but it's much safer than before - the system got upgraded tremendously.
You can't possibly do everything on foot in NYC, your best bet is to always plan your sightseeing / shopping / dining by area and move between areas by subway. It's fast, convenient, reliable and cheap. I recommend getting an 'unlimited ride' Metrocard, see the MTA website. Pass the card through the turnstile and off you go, anywhere in the city.
Most subway lines run north-south. You can get a free map at any station booth.
Prior to your trip, download the .pdf of the subway network from the MTA web site and STUDY the routes. Take note of the lines / stops near the places you want to go.
Downtown and Uptown are directions, not locations. In the pic on this page it says Uptown, meaning this is the platform for the train heading north. Often you'll have subway entrances on opposite sides of the street.
A LOCAL train always stops at the indicated stations, an EXPRESS train is faster since it skips stations.
Safety : if there's a green sphere at street level it means the sation is manned at all times. During off hours wait in the indicated spot in front of the booth so you can be seen by the staff at all times. Board the car in the center where it's busiest.
Don't travel alone when it's late. Avoid contact with down-and-out types or people who ask money or other weird characters. Between 8am and 6pm the subway is busiest. Mind your belongings and stand clear of the doors.
Be polite, don't take up more than one seat with bags, etc. (You can even get a fine for that.)
If you took the wrong train, don't panic. Just get out at the next station and take the train back. If you're lost, go see a guard immediately or walk to the station booth and ask directions, especially if you're not sure in what neighborhood you are.
In a nutshell : relax, know where you're going, and look confident. You'll end up loving this, anyway :)