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NYC Subway Basics

January 24, 2017




Instead of walking like an Egyptian, we’re going to teach you how to walk like a New Yorker. New York City is one of the few places where having a car is really unnecessary, and sometimes even more of an inconvenience than a help. Often times, the bumper to bumper traffic makes public transportation the much sexier option for commuting.  The NYC Subway, which opened in 1904, is one of the world's oldest public transportation system.  it is owned by the City of New York, and leased to the NYC Transit authority. 



The Beloved NYC Subway

New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship with the MTA subway system. On one hand, the numerous delays and rerouting that occurs on the subway lines can be incredibly frustrating. On the other hand, the subway system is immensely comprehensive, with a whopping system of 21 train lines (denoted by numerous colors, numbers and letters) and three train shuttles (denoted by a grey circle with the letter “S”) that will get you to almost all the five boroughs (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Bronx; but no loss really for only being able to take the ferry or bus to Staten Island). Here are some key info on the MTA info:

  • The Golden Key To The City, The Metrocard: Entering the train stations is strictly by use of a Metrocard. You get them by going to the machines at the entrance of the station. The big vending machines are for cash and card payments, the miniature vending machines are for debit/credit card only. The yellow Metrocards are reusable, so when you get your first one, keep it with you or flush away $1 for every new card you get. Each ride costs $2.75 (at least, in 2016 they were). Your balance will always be a mess because you get a bonus of 11% in extra value of any payments of $5.50 or more (we’re almost sure that bonus number was chosen from a hat). If you are here for a week or plan to commute a lot, a weekly unlimited Metrocard is $31 and a monthly unlimited Metrocard is $116.50 . A warning to the sneaky, you can’t trick the system as you have to wait 15 minutes in between swipes for unlimited cards, so everyone really should get their own unless you’re paying per ride.

  • Swipe, Swipe and Swipe Again: As for entering the turnstile once you’ve received your key to the city’s subway system, using the card takes practice. Whatever you do, don’t go to another turnstile (unless it specifically tells you so). Keep swiping at the same one until you get it right, because you might have already paid and just needed to swipe one more time at the same turnstile. 

  • How The Heck Do I Get There?: So you’re standing at that pivotal point in your life where you’re deciding between two stairwells that both lead to the N train, with two ambiguous signs that mean nothing to you? Hopefully one with clearly say Uptown or Downton, but sometimes they will say the final destination, such as Inwood.  (i.e. if you’re at Times Square on the N line and you need to go to Herald Square-34th St, you would need to go to the stairwell that states Coney Island). If you want to keep it basic, you can always use a good old subway map, which are typically displayed at all stations, and are free at the train booths (ask the booth operator for one).  

  • Changing Over Trains: Sometimes you have to transfer to a different train to get to your destination (i.e. Union Square flea market to Columbus Circle high-end shops takes two trains). Fear not, it’s really easy. Just find the subway station where the two lines intersect and transfer to your different trains by following the signs carefully upon exiting your train. Major transfer hubs on the subway line are Times Square station (where there are the 1, 2, 3, 7, A, C, E, N, Q, R trains and a shuttle to Grand Central) and Union Square station (where there are the 4, 5, 6, N, Q, R, L trains).


NYC SUBWAY MAP, provided by  MTA, New York City Subway





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