Getting around NYC
The subway is often your fastest and most affordable travel option in NYC. Consider buying a subway card when you need to cover an un-walkable distance and/or during peak traffic times (when cabs will be gridlocked). Here are some tips for riding:
- The NYC subway system is operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Their homepage, mta.info, has current information about service status (delays, service changes, etc.).
- You can purchase subway passes in any denomination from machines underground at most subway entrances. A single-ride fare is $2.75.
- Signs above and in each station will give you directions to the platform, the side of the platform, and the train that you need. Some subway entrances only provide access to trains going in one direction or the other, so be careful to choose the right entrance.
- A train’s direction is usually given as either “uptown”/“downtown”. If it's not running north-south through Manhattan, the direction may also be given by the burrough or name of its terminal station (e.g. “8th Ave”, “Jamaica Center”, or “Brooklyn”).
- Some lines have both express and local trains. Express trains make fewer stops, and therefore are quicker, but may skip your intended stop if you’re not careful. Late at night and on weekends, many express trains convert to local service.
- Underground wifi and cell service is getting much more reliable, but it's safest to expect that you won’t have cell or Internet access while you’re in the subway.
- There are subway maps inside every station and train car. It’s also wise to have an offline map on your phone. (Install the Citymapper app below.)
- Don’t be afraid to ask a bystander to confirm that you’re headed in the right direction (e.g. “Is this going uptown?”, "Does this stop at 57th St?").
- At the middle of every train platform there’s a black-and-white striped sign near the ceiling like this. When the arriving train stops, this is where the conductor’s window will be. (They are required to open their window and point at it.) Find & stand in this spot if you want to ask the conductor a question before you get on.
There are a number of ride-sharing apps available in New York. In addition to Uber, Lyft & Via are also quite popular. They work pretty much like anywhere else in the country.
You won't be charged a preemptive surge rate during peak times in yellow & green cabs, but the metered fare can add up to be just as much in poor traffic. Here are some tip for hailing and riding in these taxis:
- An available taxi is designated by its illuminated medallion number on the top of the vehicle.
- In Manhattan, it’s a surer bet to hail cabs on avenues, which run north-south and are spaced further apart than streets.
- Yellow cabs can pick up passengers anywhere in NYC. Green cabs may only pick up in outlying burroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, etc.). Cabs of both colors may drop off anywhere in NYC.
- When hailing a cab, enter the cab first before stating your destination. It's illegal for taxis to refuse service to any destination while on duty, but some drivers will leave you on the curb if given the opportunity.
- It’s often easier to describe your destination as a set of cross streets (e.g. “19th and Park”) than as a street name and number.
- All cabs must accept credit cards as a payment method.
- It's customary to add a tip to the cab fare. Tipping the greater of $2-3 or 15-20% of the total fare is totally acceptable.
New York is an extremely walkable city:
- In most of the city, roads that run North-South (i.e. the length of Manhattan) are called avenues. In Manhattan, there are 15 avenues, ordered from west to east: 11th Ave down to 1st Ave, then Ave A up to Ave D ("Alphabet City").
- Roads that run East-West are usually called streets. They are numbered up from 1st St, starting just above Houston St in the Lower East Side, going all the way up to 220th St at the very north tip of Manhattan.
- When walking in Manhattan, you can estimate distance with these rules of thumb:
- The width of one block between avenues is about the same as the length of three street blocks.
- Twenty street blocks is one linear mile.
- Broadway is a special road that runs diagonal across the otherwise rectangular grid of Manhattan. When it intersects an avenue, you will usually find a notable park or square: Union Square (Park Ave), Madison Square (5th Ave), Herald Square (6th Ave), Times Square (7th Ave), Columbus Circle (8th Ave).
- Central Park occupies an enormous rectangle in upper Manhattan, stretching up from 59th St to 110th St and across from 5th Ave to 8th Ave. It's filled with great, winding walking trails. Using your phone's GPS is the best way not to get lost.
- Below Houston St (which is the street from which neighborhoods like "NoHo" and "SoHo" get their name), streets are named instead of numbered, and the grid is a little less predictably square.
- If you're walking up or down the west side of Manhattan, consider doing so along the greenspace on the Hudson River waterfront, or along the High Line, an elevated park running around the length of 10th Ave between 30th St and 12th S.
Although it can be intimidating, biking in New York is a unique way to experience the city, and a pastime that's near & dear to Janice & Ben. Citi Bike, the city's bike share system, provides a convenient and comfortable way to cycle around the city without your own wheels. A few tips before your first ride:
- Find the Citi Bike stations nearest to your start and end locations using the Citi Bike app (link below).
- Familiarize yourself with the direction and location of bike lanes by turning on Google Maps' biking layer or using an app like CityMapper to get cycling directions.
- Helmets are not required by law, but bells are, and riding on sidewalks is illegal. Obedience to traffic signals (lights, stop signs) is only very loosely enforced.
- The best safety advice is to always go with the flow of traffic and make predictable movements.